I'm a liar. There, I said it. I lie.
I lie sometimes when I'm in a social situation and my line of work is questioned. If I know I'll never see these folks again, I might just tell them that I'm a painter. "I paint houses" I might say.
Now, I have been in the driver safety/training business for almost 3 decades, I hold pretty much every vehicle related training license available, I have been hired as a consultant to 2 different governments to develop licensing programs including road testing, I have trained hundreds of emergency vehicle operators including police pursuit training and authored numerous training courses, manuals and articles. But, sometimes, when asked what I do, I claim to be a house painter. Not that I think painting houses is a more worthy line of work than mine or that I'm ashamed of my profession, it's just that few people have strong opinions about house painting; how it should be done or not done or wants to start a debate to prove that the YOU paint isn't really right. If I say "I'm a house painter", my conversational partner will reply in a rather disinterested tone with eyes glazed over "oh, how interesting" and look desperately for someone whom they judge to actually BE interesting.
I lie because if I say I'm a driver safety training professional and have to explain just what that is, the next question or comment directed at me is usually about the accident that someone was in or ticket that someone got that 'clearly' was not their fault. They want to tell me the whole story of how the weather that day was particularly nasty, how the road has that strange dip, how the car in front "just stopped" for no reason making them run into the back of him. They want to tell me why the policeman who wrote them a ticket was wrong to do so. I have listened while otherwise seemingly intelligent people argue that they should not have received that speeding ticket because everyone else was speeding too!
What they really want is for me to agree with them.
I have learned to engage in these conversations at my peril. You see, as soon as I offer even the slightest of professional opinion about the apparent circumstances of the crash that they were in, mention the concept of preventability or point out that indeed, if they were speeding, the fact that everyone else was too isn't a very good excuse. (Mom always asked me if everyone else jumped off the bridge would I jump too?)
As soon as I disagree at all with the rightness of their position, or offer a different perspective, any credibility that I may have had with them initially, is gone. I become, in their eyes, an idiot. And I wish that I had said, "I'm a painter".
Funny thing about driving, EVERYONE thinks that they are an expert when in fact most people are woefully uninformed about some of the most basic of rules and regulations, defensive driving principles and tactics. Moreover, most people have an overinflated opinion of their own driving ability. A dangerous combination, I believe.
This condition, I think, points to one of the most fundamental reasons why we continue to have so many crashes. If we all believe that there is nothing wrong with our driving, that we know all that there is to know about driving, that we are all superbly skilled, expert drivers and everyone else is the problem, then we are unlikely to expend any energy to make improvements or to even learn from our mistakes.
So next time when you climb behind the wheel, ask yourself, "How's my driving?". Really analyse how you are doing instead of noting everyone else's mistakes and complaining about how bad everyone else is. Ask yourself if there are any bad habits that have crept in over the years that you could work on. Just don't assume that you couldn't possibility get any better. When life sends you feedback on your driving by way of a close call or a ticket, don't be so fast to blame someone else, there may be a valuable lesson that you are missing?
Who knows, you may just prevent that next ticket or incident.
Me? I'm still banking on never meeting someone who actually needs a house painter at one of those gatherings! So far so good.....
- Written by Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver, Surrey, BC
Thinking Driver will be at the following events!
Association of School Transportation Services BC (ASTSBC) Conference - July 8 - 11, 2013 at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel, Richmond, BC (more information)
Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) Professional Development Conference - September 15 - 18, 2013 at the Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, QC (more information)
Spencer McDonald, President of Thinking Driver - Upcoming Speaking Engagements
Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) Professional Development Conference - '8 Critical Elements of a Successful Driver Safety Program' - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm - Fairmount the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, QC (more information)
NEWS FLASH - Thinking Driver President Caught Red Handed in Flagrant Safety Violation!
It has come to this reporter's attention that in the production of Thinking Driver's Tailgate Topics & Tips Video - Back to School, Spencer McDonald, President of Thinking Driver, was caught on video tape committing a serious safety violation! When questioned about this infraction, McDonald said, "oops!'.
Check out Thinking Driver's Tailgate Topics & Tips - Back to School (click on the YouTube video) and see if you and your staff can find the safety violation.
Can you Predict the Future?
I'm not clairvoyant, but I can see into the future and so can you!
The second Thinking Driver Fundamental is ANTICIPATE HAZARDS.
A thinking driver first uses their eyes to look ahead to find out what's going on up front and then analyzes that information to ANTICIPATE HAZARDS. Seeing the potential hazard is not enough though. You need to anticipate what might affect you and then do something about it. When you anticipate hazards, you are taking a proactive approach to driving instead of a reactive one where you simply wait until something attracts your attention and demands your immediate action. In essence, you are predicting the future and acting in advance to keep bad things from happening!
Good drivers know what the most common hazards are and what they may dot to challenge you.
I was driving home one night, on a divided highway, and saw an intersection ahead, perhaps half a kilometer away. Suddenly a car turned from the intersecting road into the oncoming lane (my lane) and started up the wrong side of the road, straight at me. His headlights were shining right into my face! Not tough to see him, that was for sure, but what was he going to do? How could I anticipate what he would do?
So I'm slowing down as we get closer to each other but there's still a fair distance to go. As he realizes that he's on the wrong side of the road, he pulls towards the shoulder on my side of the highway, still facing me. I move to the left lane to create some separation between us and have slowed significantly from my original speed of 70 km/h. Surely he must see me, right? WRONG! Just as I was passing him, as he sat on the shoulder facing the wrong way, he decides to U-turn and I clip his driver side front fender, as he doesn't make it all the way around without encroaching on my lane.
So, did anticipation prevent the incident?
Not really, but what it did do was get me out of the right lane and slowed down so that instead of nailing him in the driver's door, it was a minor damage scrape on his front fender.
We all stop in a nearby parking lot to exchange information. He's 16, with a carload of friends and has only had his license for a couple of weeks. Its dad's car and what was his excuse for turning right into my headlight? You guessed it! "I didn't see you coming?"
There is no telling what people will do, but the more you pay attention, and try to figure out how to protect yourself, the better chance that you have to avoid conflicts.
Some tricks that you can use are:
- Watch Other Driver's Eyes! If you can see them looking at you, there is a reasonable (albeit not guaranteed) chance that they see you. If they are not looking at you, be ready for anything. If there is time, attract their attention with a light tap on the horn.
- Check the Front Tires of Oncoming Cars at Intersections. This gives you a clue about what they may do. If the front wheels are pre-turned for a left turn across your path, be ready, cover the brake and slow down. You may not be seen.
- When You See Large Vehicles Taking Up More Than One Lane or driving in the left lane with a right signal on, ask yourself; is this guy just an idiot or is there a good explanation for this vehicle position and signal? Is he going to turn right and needs the space? Heading down the right lane beside him could result in a world of trouble.
- Check In and Under Parked Cars. The easiest way to identify pedestrians moving around or between vehicles is to watch for their feet under the parked vehicle. Checking for people inside the vehicle will help you anticipate it either moving or a door opening. Exhaust steam in winter or tail lights/brake lights are another clue.
There are endless tricks and techniques.
You probably already use many more than I've mentioned here. The key is to THINK while you LOOK AHEAD and imagine what might happen. Pretty soon you will be telling your passengers what those other drivers are about to do before they do it and you will be predicting the future too!
Written by Spencer McDonald, President of Thinking Driver. (Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.)
Thank you to everyone who visited the Thinking Driver booth at the recent BC Municipal Occupational Health & Safety Conference, held in Victoria, BC.
Congratulations to our draw winners who will be receiving a copy of Thinking Driver’s ‘Winter Driving Fundamental’ DVD.
- Dave Cochran, The City of Calgary
- Ken Glubish, The City of Edmonton
- Gail Townsley, City of Richmond
- Alexander Tishenico, City of Vernon
- Scott McMillan, City of Prince George
- Rob Walker, Capital Regional District
If you would like to preview Thinking Driver’s ‘Winter Driving Fundamentals’ DVD or any of the DVDs in our library, please go to www.thinkingdriver.com.
In this month's feature, Spencer McDonald discusses the importance of managing the risks in traffic.
Do you buy lottery tickets? I do. Our chances of winning big are really quite slim and yet every month we still buy those tickets in hope of getting lucky. As they say; if you don't play, you can't win! The more tickets that you buy...the greater your chances, so some of us buy plenty!
Driving risks is in many ways like buying lottery tickets, only it's kind of an anti-lottery...You see, the probability of disaster because you take a chance is also slim, but you might just hit the jackpot that one time and end up in a serious crash. And some of us are heavy players in the risk lottery with much better chances of hitting the jackpot.
The 4th of Thinking Driver's Five Fundamentals is:
MANAGE THE RISK.
In previous installments, we have covered: 'Think and Look Ahead', 'Anticipate Hazards' and 'Keep Your Options Open'. These are basic fundamental defensive driving skills.'Manage the Risk' has much more to do with your attitude or decision making process once you practise the first three fundamentals.
In every driving situation, that we find ourselves in, there will be risks that we face. What we do with these risks and how we make smart decisions about them is what sets a 'Thinking Driver' apart from a reckless player in the risk lottery; the lottery that none of us hope to win.
Some of the chances that we take are calculated and thought through before we take them, like speeding, we feel late, rushed and have an urge to make up time so we choose to speed and take a risk and the risk lottery ticket that, with luck, won't pay off this time. Other times, we allow ourselves to develop habits that are like the automatic purchase option for a lottery ticket pool...we make the purchase without even thinking about it.
A good example of this is yellow lights. While you wouldn't necessarily know it to watch most intersections, the law (and best practice for intersection safety) is to stop on yellow unless you are unable to safely get stopped in which case it is not required. Lately it seems like most drivers treat yellow as a message to 'hurry up it's almost red!'. When this becomes a habit, you are piling up those risk lottery tickets and increasing your chances of hitting the jackpot one day when everyone else doesn't look out for you.
Thinking Drivers drive to minimize risk and prevent incidents in spite of the actions of other drivers and the current conditions including traffic, weather, road conditions, lighting and their own conditions. Minimizing risk requires only that you THINK about what could possibly go wrong in any given situation and act in advance to reduce the risk. In time it just becomes a habit. Generally this practise won't cost you anything in time and in the long run, could keep you out of the winners circle in the driving risk lottery.
You may hope to, but don't really expect to win the 649 or Powerball lottery though do you? But what would your life look like if you did? But it could happen, it's happened to others! Why not you? That's what keeps us buying those tickets.
No more need to work, security for your kids; their education and future, relaxing vacations in the sun, a new house, new car, no bills to worry about...the perfect life...
What is the possible result of hitting the jackpot in the risk lottery though? In North America every year, thousands of drivers, passengers and other road users hit this jackpot with tragic results.
No more ABILITY to work, no way to ensure your kids go to college or university, physical pain or disability, medical bills for expenses not covered by you plan, loss of health and perhaps mobility. Unless you hit the big jackpot: Then no more you, and all of the pain and grief suffered by those that you leave behind.
Play any lottery long enough and eventually it will be your turn. If you don't play, you can't win though.
So which lottery are you playing?
Tailgate Topics & Tips: Safety Meeting Planner & Agenda
Click here to access December's free Safety Meeting Planner.
Preview the Avoid Intersection Incidents video that accompanies December's Safety Meeting Planner, click here.
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In this month's feature, the 5th of Thinking Driver's Five Fundamentals, Control with Finesse, is discussed.
There is only one fundamental goal in vehicle control for performance and racing, fuel economy and reduced wear and tear or enhanced safety. That goal is: drive with smoothness and finesse.
I was paid what I think is the highest compliment the other day by a friend who was describing my driving to a colleague. He said, "When Spencer is driving, nothing seems to be happening; no excitement, no surprises, nothing abrupt, just smooth flow through traffic." It wasn't always that way though. When I was a young man, I thought that I knew what good driving was; you stomped the gas and cranked the steering wheel. I thought good drivers had the skill and guts to drive close to other vehicles, zip past and fly down the road.
Boy was I wrong!
That style of driving cost me huge fines for speeding. Eventually my license was suspended for 3 months within the first 24 months of getting it. My style of aggressive, sloppy driving cost me multiple brake jobs because I wore out brakes like you can't imagine, and I had 3 crashes in 3 years all before I was 20 years old. The reality is that I was one of the WORST drivers on the road. Even after all those tickets and crashes, I still figured that I was a great driver. I was indeed a legend in my own mind!
I thought that because race car drivers went fast, if I went fast too, I would be like a race car driver and that's good driving right? It wasn't until years later that I understood just why race car drivers are able to go fast and stay in control; Smoothness.
Yes, the best race drivers are the smoothest...they have the most finesse with brakes, accelerators and steering and they apply the principles of good vision, anticipation, space management and risk reduction to ensure that they never have to do anything abruptly and upset the balance of the vehicle.
When it comes down to it, traction, or the grip that your tires have with the road, is dependent on multiple factors, but the one that is most changeable moment to moment and controllable by the driver is the vehicle's balance and loading on each wheel/tire. It's an easy concept: if you have vehicle weight distributed over all tires (balanced), you are pushing the tires into the road with the vehicle weight and creating traction or friction. This is critical even if you are not a race car driver or driving at race car speeds.
What kind of driver are you? You almost certainly believe that you are a great driver, but are you, like I was, a legend in your own mind?
If you strive for smoothness in your daily driving, you will save fuel, reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle (especially brakes) and enhance safety by reducing risk. Practising smoothness also makes smooth control second nature which is critical if a sudden crisis does develop. Smooth balanced control helps ensure that you maintain traction and reduces the likelihood of a skid.
It's not difficult to cultivate a smooth driving style. You start by sitting correctly in your vehicle with you back close to upright and pressed back into the seat. Your left foot braced on the dead pedal and the heel of your right foot on the floor prepares you to control the accelerator and brake precisely by squeezing and easing on the pedal to manage the vehicle weight shift from front to back.
Your arms should be bent slightly at the elbows when you hold the steering wheel at 9 and 3 (yes 9 and 3!), then use the total control or push/pull method to turn the steering wheel.This will smooth out your cornering and manage the lateral weight shift when you turn.
Smooth driving is the hallmark of racing champions but also of professionals like police and other emergency vehicle operators.
Here is the litmus test of smooth and professional driving: are your passengers comfortable? Do they remark on how relaxed your driving makes them feel or are you hearing comments (or jokes) about your driving or gasps and sharp intakes of breath? Perhaps you should cultivate smoothness and become an excellent driver in reality instead of a legend in your own mind.
By Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver (Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.)
The car wasn’t going very fast when it passed us. In fact, it was hardly going any faster than we were which made me wonder why the driver felt the need to go by. As he signalled right and began to move back into our lane, the rear of the car began a graceful, slow motion pirouette to the left and the car rotated a full 180 degrees clockwise as we both continued down the highway. Bill, who was driving our van, braked gently and we stopped just in time to see the car (now facing the wrong way and going backwards in front of us) come to a gentle stop in the snow bank that had been left by the plough. No one was hurt and we helped them get out of the snow bank, turned around and on their way.
We were on British Columbia’s Highway 5 between Hope and Merritt in the middle of winter. This is the stretch of road now made famous by the Discovery Channel program, ‘Highway Through Hell’. We were going skiing. It was snowing, the road was covered in compact snow and the temperature was well below freezing. For this time of year on the Coquihalla: pretty typical conditions.
These kinds of conditions can be challenging to drive in, but by no means must they be particularly dangerous if handled responsibly and with a modicum of skill and caution.
Approach winter conditions with less than good vehicle handling skills and/or overconfidence and you are in for trouble.
We live in a country where every single city has the potential for and history of, snow. Yes, even Victoria, BC has seen snowy roads! So why are there so many crashes at the first sign of the white stuff?
Too many of us either don’t understand the nature of traction, how to find and maintain traction in winter conditions and the implications of traction loss; or we do understand all of this but overestimate our capabilities. Either way, the results range from simply getting stuck or the harmless spinout described above, to more tragic events like the recent bus crash on a snowy pass in Oregon that killed several passengers.
So, let’s review: There are 6 main driving conditions that may affect your driving during winter months. Being mentally aware of these 6 conditions will assist you in safely negating your way during periods of extreme driving conditions.
The 6 Conditions Are:
1. Weather Conditions
Weather is the most unpredictable of the 6 conditions of winter driving. Winter can bring snow, sleet, ice, rain, winds and extreme temperatures. These conditions can last minutes or days. They can change without notice, making your journey hazardous. Prior to leaving on a trip, it is important to check the weather and road conditions to better prepare yourself. Knowledge is power. Weather reports are available from various locations such as the radio, television, or the internet. Many jurisdictions have dedicated government phone numbers or a web site where you can obtain the latest weather conditions.
2. Vehicle Condition
This is the one condition that you have some control over. Get your vehicle winter-ready with a maintenance check-up. Don’t wait for winter to check your battery, belts, hoses, radiator, oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers and ignition system. A simple winter check-up for your vehicle may alleviate serious problems in the future. Getting stranded on the side of the road, in winter conditions is no picnic. For sure, check that you have good winter tires with the snowflake symbol displayed on the sidewall.
3. Road Conditions
It is not reasonable, nor prudent, to expect roads to be bare and dry during winter months. Snow, ice, slush and compact snow are road conditions that can be expected anytime in winter. Being prepared to meet the challenges that these conditions bring is critical to the safety of you and your passengers. As with weather conditions, there are also government agencies that provide information about road conditions. A simple call or check will give you a heads up on the road conditions before you drive.
4. Traffic Conditions
Sharing the road with others is something you can’t avoid. They may not be as prepared as you are. They may be running on poor tires and perhaps are driving well beyond their abilities and capabilities. A thinking driver will perform a proper assessment of this risk and choose the appropriate action to deal with the situation. Perhaps just changing lanes will do the trick. If they are following you so close that they become a hazard, it may be safer to have them in front of you. Move over and let them pass. Leaving more room or staying away from other drivers during winter driving is the Thinking Driver way.
5. Lighting Conditions
During winter months, depending on where you live, daylight can be from a few hours to non-existent. With later sunrises, earlier sunsets, and the sun lower on the horizon, glare can be a big hazard. Glare is intensified by the cover of white snow on the ground or blowing snow. To minimize these effects, maintain the cleanliness of your windshield on both the outside and the inside. Any debris or dirt film will intensify the glare and reduce your visibility. Wearing sunglasses is a good option to reduce glare. Because of the extended hours of darkness, make sure that all your lights are functioning properly and that they are cleaned off periodically. This is an important step to increase your ability to see and be seen by others. Blowing snow will accumulate on the back of the vehicle, covering tail and brake lights, so check them regularly. Ensuring that your tail lights are clean will increase your visibility and reduce the likelihood of being rear ended.
6. Driver Condition
Winter driving can be stressful and exhausting. With changing conditions, other drivers on the road and wearing cumbersome clothing, winter driving is not the same as summer driving. Vehicle control can be more difficult when you are wearing heavy winter boots along with several layers of clothing. Your winter gear can impede your movements and make vehicle control more difficult than when you are in comfortable shoes and clothing during summer months.
Being well rested will increase your mental alertness and assist you in remaining focused on the driving task at hand. It will help you remain calm during stressful situations. When you are well rested, you are less susceptible to physical aches and pains. You will find yourself feeling more comfortable behind the wheel than if you are tired. Being well rested will ensure that you are in good shape for the trip, not only mentally, by physically as well.
Consider these six conditions every time you venture out in winter (or any time for that matter). A Thinking Driver recognizes that these conditions affect the way he/she must drive to stay safe and uses good driving techniques to negotiate them.
Tailgate Topics & Tips: Safety Meeting Planner & Agenda
Click here to access this month’s free Safety Meeting Planner.
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Thinking Driver was there! The Saskatchewan Safety Council’s 41st Annual Industrial Safety Seminar took place February 3 & 4, 2014 in Saskatoon, SK. Thinking Driver was pleased to be in attendance and had a display in the tradeshow component.
Spencer McDonald, President of Thinking Driver and Chief Instructor, Dan Boyer delivered a session on “Challenging Our Culture of Risky Driving”.
Congratulations to the following people who were our draw box winners of a DVD copy of Thinking Driver’s ‘Winter Driving Fundamentals’.
Les Togunrud – Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways (Regina, SK)
Kylee Lundberg – SaskWater (Moose Jaw, SK)
Albert Hopkins – SaskTel (Saskatoon, SK)
Chris Chuhaniuk – City of Saskatoon (Saskatoon, SK)
Bob Smith – TransGas (Coleville, SK)
Doyle McMorris – The Mosaic Group (Moose Jaw, SK)
Motorcycles are the safest vehicles on the road right up until the point of impact.
I have been a rider since 1972 and enjoyed riding everything from mini bikes with lawnmower engines to 100 plus horsepower sport and touring bikes.
I love my motorcycles: my BMW 1200RT is called ‘Alice (the missile)’, and ‘Hugo’ is a Kawasaki KLR 650 (you name your vehicles too, right?). I love riding off-road and touring on the highway and have been as far north as Whitehorse and south to Arizona.
In 1975, I won a trophy for being the first junior in Canada in the National Observed Trials competition (I ask myself sometimes: That was almost 40 years ago, should I still be bragging about it?).
But old or not, in the coming months, I will be heading off to the Grand Canyon via the Oregon Coast and Las Vegas on ‘Alice, the missile’
I, and thousands of other riders, begin to appear on the highways this time of year. Too many will not see the end of the riding season. Some will crash their bikes due to over-exuberant riding or overconfidence, which is unfortunate; but many more will lose in a collision with anther vehicle.
We riders say that motorcycles are the safest vehicles on the road because they accelerate out of danger, stop quicker and are more maneuverable than pretty much any other vehicle. We like to think that we can ride out of most dangerous situations.
The problem is that, too often, we are just simply not seen and the other driver does something to cause a collision that we can’t avoid. A motorcycle is the safest vehicle on the road, right up until the point of impact.
We are vulnerable road users and when we tangle with a car, the car generally wins.
When a motorcycle and another vehicle collide, it's most often the other driver's fault. The situation that is most common is the other driver turning left in front of the motorcyclist. The car driver typically doesn't see the motorcycle or actually sees the rider but misjudges the approach speed and thinks there is time to turn, because a motorcycle is small when viewed from the front, and this makes speed estimation problematic.
Motorcycles are tough to see and, if you are not looking for them, very easy to miss. They handle much differently than other vehicles and have some special characteristics. If you don't really understand them, they can be difficult to share the road with.
Some easy guidelines for you to apply a you see motorcycle riders this spring and summer will help keep everyone safer.
- When you are waiting at intersections to turn left, remember that you may have more than just cars and trucks approaching and look for motorcycles. If you see a rider approaching, make sure that they are coming at a speed that allows you to turn safely in front of them before starting your turn.
- Remember that a motorcycle can stop in a fraction of the distance that your car or SUV can so leave a good following distance. If the rider brakes suddenly for some reason and you are too close, you will not be able to slow quickly enough to avoid her. Normally, under ideal conditions we suggest a following distance of at least 3 seconds behind a motorcycle. Add more distance if conditions deteriorate.
- When you change lanes, check your mirror and should check to make sure there is no motorcycle in your blind spot. Most of us riders work hard to stay out of blind spots, but if you don't shoulder check before changing lanes, you will never be sure the lane change is safe.
- When you are stopped behind a motorcycle, leave a good space. It feels very intimidating to have a large vehicle stopped really close behind you.
This spring, take a moment to think about and practise these tips to help you stay out of conflict with us riders and share the road.
Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver
Ah Mexico; sun, sand, surf and tequila. Dancing in the Drunken Duck Bar...
Oh yes, and Mexican public transportation. YIKES!
After twenty-something years of teaching from the passenger seat of everything from heavy trucks and fire apparatus to police cars and pick-up trucks, I have developed a pretty good sense of where any vehicle I’m riding in is on the road; that is, where the corners are and where the tires are contacting the pavement. So when I rode into town from our little condo on the north side of Bucerias, just north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in a mini bus/van, it was clear to me long before the accident that we were going to hit the curb.
Yet, I wondered as we came barreling up the shoulder passing the traffic in an attempt to get to the bus stop 3 seconds sooner if perhaps the bus driver actually did know where the passenger side tires were and we would miss that sharp, broken, 6-inch curb-end that looked to me like the destination of our right front passenger wheel, which was right under my butt!
I got my answer when I heard the BANG as we hit the curb at around 60 km/h. We bounced about a foot or so up and landed back on the road (and not down the small embankment to the right) which was fortunate as my guess is that no-one including the driver (or me) was wearing a seat belt (yes I looked for them, no they were not accessible). If there were shocks on that wheel before the launch, they certainly weren’t going to work well after that bump!
In Canada, for every 100,000 people we see about 9.2 traffic fatalities every year. In the U.S. there are just over 12. In Mexico, there are over 20; more than twice the rate of Canada. For every 100,000 registered vehicles, we see a Canadian fatality rate of 13/year but in Mexico, the rate is almost 80!
Having said that...worldwide, Mexico is still a bit better than average.
Our driver stopped the van and cursed briefly (and apparently skillfully) in Spanish while pounding the steering wheel then limped the van to the bus stop which was our original destination. He got out without a word of explanation and began to change the wheel. The one coming off had a ‘V’ shaped bend about 5-inches deep from the curb edge and was completely ruined. The tire had come off completely by then and was lying back on the highway while everyone else on the highway just drove around, past or over it.
The rest of us piled off the bus and waited about 90 seconds for the next one, got on like there was nothing wrong and we were on our way again. “That was interesting”, I said to a fellow traveller who looked like he had been in Bucerias for a while (like…since 1978). He shrugged and said, “TMO; Typical Mexican Operation”.
I love Mexico. I love the people, the culture, the food, the pace of life and while there is much in the press about the violence generated in the drug trade, I never saw any evidence of that, nor did I worry too much about getting caught in the cross fire. What I did worry about was getting from one place to another on the highway!
This incident in the mini bus got me thinking though; thinking about how many people really don’t know the dimensions of their vehicle, like where the tires are on the roadway or where the corners of the bumpers are. When I trained police, one of the exercises was accuracy in tire placement. We required the candidate to accurately drive over a moderately sized marker to prove that she knew where the tires actually were on the road. This type of practise if you have never done it will help you get better sense of your vehicle size and ‘footprint’. You can do it in your driveway at home with anything small enough to drive over yet high enough to feel, like a small stone. Try it some time. It will help with parking and slow speed manoeuvres and give you a greater sense of control.
And it may also prepare you to see it coming if you have a similar experience as me in a foreign land!
Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver