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Tuesday, 26 February 2013 00:00

logo_Saskatchewan-Safety-Council[1]The Saskatchewan Safety Council's 40th Annual Industrial Safety Seminar took place February 4-6, 2013 in Regina, SK. Thinking Driver was pleased to be in attendance and had a display booth in the tradeshow component.

Training Coordinator, Pam Peterson, spoke with attendees and visitors to the booth about the Thinking Driver courses and products available in Saskatchewan and throughout North America.

Thinking Driver's Chief Instructor and Regina resident, Dan Boyer, was on hand to meet clients and other Saskatchewan based company reps to answer their driver training questions.

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Spencer McDonald, President of Thinking Driver and recognized authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, delivered a session on "8 Critical Fleet Safety Elements".

Published in NEWS
Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00

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Thinking Driver, a leading corporate driver improvement training and consulting firm based in British Columbia and Safety Services Nova Scotia, a not for profit safety services provider recently signed an agreement granting Safety Services Nova Scotia distribution rights to Thinking Driver products and services in Nova Scotia including Thinking Driver training courses, training support materials, eLearning products, DVDs and other Canadian content safety products.

Thinking Driver courses and services are in use by government and industry across western and northern Canada and into the U.S. serving a diverse spectrum of industrial and government sectors from oil and gas, transportation, engineering and environmental as well as heavy industry and construction.

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Thinking Driver President, Spencer McDonald says: "We are delighted to have Safety Services Nova Scotia join our distribution network. We have points of service across Western Canada with instructors as far as Saskatchewan and a U.S. distributor serving numerous states, but have been seeking a professional organization to represent Thinking Driver in Eastern Canada."

To read more of this press release from Safety Services Nova Scotia, click here.

Published in NEWS
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 00:00

Come visit us!TD Logo

Thinking Driver is pleased to be in attendance at the following Safety Conferences across Canada:

  • March 20 - 21 - Safety Services Nova Scotia: 31st Annual Health, Safety & Environment Conference, Halifax, NS (more information)
  • April 5 - BC Trucking AGM, Northview Golf Club, Surrey, BC
  • April 22 - 23 - Western Safety Conference, Vancouver, BC (more information)
  • April 30 - May 1 - Partners In Prevention, Mississauga, ON (more information)

 

Published in NEWS
Friday, 22 March 2013 00:00

Spencer McDonald, President of Thinking Driver will be delivering a presentation on 'When Fleet Driver Training Isn't Enough'.

What happens when your corporate drivers get tickets or have accidents? Are they automatically sent back to re-attend a driver training program where they pass with flying colours, seemingly without effort? Lack of skill is clearly not the problem, so what is happening? Is retraining (again and again) really the answer or are other forces at play? Come hear the 8 critical elements that successful organizations use in their corporate driver safety programs.

Western Safety Conference - April 22 & 23, 2013 - Hyatt Regency Hotel, Vancouver, BC

 

Published in NEWS
Monday, 22 April 2013 00:00

Picture 3Thinking Driver delivers Winter Driving Skills Training to Government of Northwest Territories, Department of Transportation Employees.

When I was asked if I would like to go to the Northwest Territories (NWT) for three weeks to deliver 'Winter Driving: Skid Control and Recovery', I thought what a great opportunity to see the North and at the same time, be in the very best part of Canada to facilitate winter driving courses.

My first stop was Yellowknife, where I was warmly greeted by the NWT employees. They had a large field near the airport that had been snow plowed for this course - which was great - but then they added water. Needless to say, this was an excellent simulation of roads turned to ice and/or their famous 'ice roads'.

We begin training with a classroom theory session in Winter Driving Fundamentals. We cover such things as the 6 conditions of winter driving, fundamentals of traction and control, 3 principal types of skid and how to recover from them. There were a lot of good questions in the class which made for an excellent discussion time prior to going out in the vehicles and putting it all into practical application.

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Getting into the vehicles and out onto the icy surface to put the theory into practice really raises the enthusiasm and excitement of the group. It's about the most fun you can have in winter driving conditions: A safe, closed course, free of obstruction or other traffic, perfect for skidding.

When I took off to the Great White North, I cam prepared and was certainly grateful to have packed well once the temperature hit -40 degrees. The extra hat I picked up was very useful.

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Despite the chillier temperatures, each morning I awoke to the beauty of a northern sunrise in all its glory. Breathtaking to behold and what a way to start my day!

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After a week in Yellowknife, it was time to head to Hay River for a week. This leg of the journey began with a 45 minute flight over "Great Slave Lake" in a DC-3 with Buffalo Air. Not a large plane, but cozy, friendly, and we arrived safe and sound.

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Again I was warmly greeted and welcomed by the NWT staff. Their track was created on an open field with a large snow island in the middle. The track was a combination of packed snow, ice, with some gravel sticking out to create a good example of what is found on local roads. The practical training was challenging, but we only had to shovel snow once to free a truck from the snow piled island. Another winter skill learned - how to get your vehicle unstuck!

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My third week in the North started with another flight aboard Buffalo Air in that DC-3 to Yellowknife, followed by a 1.5 hour flight in a Boeing 737 to Inuvik with a brief stop over at Norman Wells. Inuvik was the smaller of the three locations and again filled with extremely friendly people. Once again the NWT staff greeted me like a Rock Star.

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The practical training location was a large square area on the Mackenzie River, plowed for this course. For safety reasons, there was a wide snow bank separating out training area from an ice road that leads to Tukoyaktuk. This area proved to be challenging and a good simulation of what these NWT employees drive on a daily basis.

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At the beginning of these three weeks, I felt a bit intimidated with the thought of attempting to teach winter driving skills to people who live their entire lives in the North and grew up in this driving environment. What could I teach that they didn't already know? As it turned out, the Thinking Driver program had many things to offer: How to drive in winter with new vehicle technology such as ABS brakes or electronic stabilizers; One of the main things that I was able to pass on to these students, is how to handle an 'under-steer' situation. Most were experts when their vehicle went into 'over-steer', but were unfamiliar with how to get out of an 'under-steer'. 90% of those who attended indicated they learned new things as well as having obtained an excellent review and reminder in other areas that could be improved upon.

I believe that if I can pass on even one good tip to enhance a driver's skill and competence and make driving a safer part of their day, then I've done my job and can go home happy and with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. After three weeks in the Northwest Territories, I am a happy man indeed.

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– Michael Glas, Chief Instructor, Thinking Driver, March 2013

Published in NEWS
Friday, 24 May 2013 00:00

1957_Chevrolet_Bel_Air_Sport_Sedan_01[1]When I was 7 years old we came home one day from the grocery store and unloaded everything into the house while the car sate in the driveway. I stayed in the house with Mom and my sister while Dad put the car away. It was a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport sedan. Back then it was just a nice car; a couple more decades would pass before it became a classic.

So Dad backed the car into the garage and in the process tore off the back door that I had left open in my rush to get in the house. Clearly my fault - at least according to Dad.

Now in 1965, what do you think happened to children that left car doors open to be torn off by garages? Today it would draw attention from child services but back then I was just being taught a lesson.

But I digress. Whose fault was this really? Or is fault even worth discussing? Whose fault was it when Mom backed over my sister's bicycle with the Rambler?

Things just seemed to go wrong in our family when vehicles backed up. Or perhaps I'm a backing up jinx?

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As a teenager, I cut the front end of my 1970 Dodge Super Bee into a power pole backing out of a service station and once even backed up in a left turn lane (don't ask) with Dad's pick up truck right into the grille of the compact car hiding behind the tailgate. I was real close when my buddy, Terry, backed his Toyota into a stump at Long Beach (he spent quite a while convincing us that it had been his wife's fault...somehow) and I was home when my former wife Rhonda backed her Acura out of the garage (or tried to) with the door still closed and another co-worker once connected with a tree while backing up in a company truck.

Is it just me or does this backing up stuff seem to be just a little more complicated than we all think?

In most vehicle fleets, backing incidents account for over 40% of all reportable vehicle incidents even though we drive in reverse only a fraction of the distances that we go forward. Backing incidents are a big deal. They absorb huge dollars in property damage and not infrequently result in serious injury.

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Not surprisingly, backing incidents are almost always PREVENTABLE. In our courses, we highlight 7 fundamental ideas to prevent backing incidents. Maybe they will help you avoid some problems that I have seen (and on occasion caused).

1. Avoid Backing! - Let's face it, if you don't back up, you won't have a backing up incident. It's easier than you might think. Before you park your vehicle or get into any tight area, think about how you will get out. Can this be done without backing up? Most of us already scope out the spots, in the mall parking lots, that let us drive though an unoccupied spot to the next one, leaving us facing out for a quick getaway. That's thinking! Now apply that same logic at work. If you have to go somewhere to park or for other reasons, back up first, when you can see that the area is clear, and make your first move forward when you leave.

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2. Circle Check - If you are moving your vehicle from a place where it has been parked or has not moved for a long enough that things may have changed, walk around and make sure that it's safe before you move it.

3. Look Back - In a pick up or utility vehicle, set up your mirrors properly and use them! If you can't see what's back there, stop and get out to look! In a passenger car, look out the centre of the rear window, over the back seat. (If you twist around and hike yourself up on your right butt cheek, it's easier). Looking out the driver window, over your left should doesn't tell you much and creates a huge blind spot everywhere except the narrow view down the driver's side.

4. Use a Guide - If someone else is around to help of if you have a passenger, have them get out and direct you.

5. Back Slowly - Your vehicle handles differently in reverse and can get difficult to control with too much speed. A walking pace is all the speed you will likely ever need.

6. Avoid Distractions- Don't try to multitask and use your cell phone or other hand-held device. If you are distracted by strong emotions or in a conversation, stop for a second before you back up and focus on your driving.

7. Practise - We back up so little that most of us never really get very good at it. So get out and practise backing up into parking spots in a deserted parking lot. Take a couple of traffic cones, if you have them, or small cardboard boxes and make up a little course for yourself. As you get better, your confidence will increase and you will soon be backing up safely, like a pro.

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All of the backing incidents that I described above were off the job, and this is where I want to take extra care. Every year hundreds (yes hundreds) of young children are injured or killed when one of their parents, relatives or friends backs over them in the driveway at home. The 7 principles that you just read can save the life of a child. Go back now and read them again.

How can you apply them at home and at work?

Maybe as a kid, my family was pretty lucky after all. We only lost a bicycle or two - and that stupid Chevy door.

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- Written by Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver, Surrey, BC

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 00:00

I'm a liar. There, I said it. I lie.

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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.

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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".

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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.

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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

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Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 00:00

TD LogoThinking 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)

 

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 00:00

spencerSpencer 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)

 

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 00:00

Feature Article

In this month's feature, Spencer McDonald discusses the importance of managing the risks in traffic.

lottery ticket

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.

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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.

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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?

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(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.)

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Published in NEWS
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