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)
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Written by Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver, Surrey, BC
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.)
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
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Being an astronaut is probably one of the most dangerous jobs. Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who flew on the International Space Station in 2013 for 5 months and was its commander most of that time, says that this dangerous mission was the culmination of his career that began in the Canadian military where he was a fighter pilot, then a test pilot, then finally an astronaut.
Hadfield said in an interview after the mission that he isn't a risk taker by nature and in fact he is risk averse and even afraid of heights. He tries to reduce the risk in every activity that he does by being aware, education himself about the risk and preventive ways to migrate or reduce that risk, and as he calls it, by practising 'negative thinking'.
He says that here is a lot of popular psychology these days about the power of positive thinking but he relies more on negative thinking. Thinking that asks, "What could go wrong here?"
Once engineers analyze and identify the risks and dangers in the mission, activity or task, they can plan how to reduce that risk and how to implement a primary plan and a backup plan if the first risk reducing strategy fails. Only after doing everything reasonable to reduce the risks of an incident or accident, does the mission go forward with confidence that everything that can reasonably be done, has been done.
Does that eliminate risk though? Absolutely not.
Space travel is inherently risky, as we have seen from the several tragedies dating back to the Apollo days and through two shuttle missions lost with all crew members, so even after taking every conceivable precaution, something can still go wrong.
Most of us will never become astronauts, but driving is no different than space travel as an inherently risky activity and an activity where things can also go terribly wrong even after taking every defensive precaution. The risks involved with driving are even more difficult to identify and the defences more uncertain than ones involving space travel in some ways. At NASA, everyone is on the same team and working towards the same safe and incident free outcome. We share the roads with strangers who may or may not take the same care we do.
NASA engineers are controlling risks involving generally predictable equipment and machinery failure. We have to deal with the uncertainty of unpredictable human behaviour in people that we don't even know.
Driving is likely the most dangerous thing that you can do. Your chances of being killed or injured while driving or riding in a vehicle are greater than any other activity that most people do. Traveling by automobile is many times more dangerous than any other mode of transportation.
It's funny, most of us have sat in a departure terminal waiting to board an airplane and have had at least the passing thought, "I hope this isn't the time that something goes wrong." Or they have been on the plane when there has been turbulence and the plane started bouncing around and thought, "This is it, now we are all going to die."
But we don't: Except in rare and tragic cases. And the number of these occurrences and the number of fatalities involved pale in comparison to the numbers that are killed every year on the nation's highways.
But have you ever thought before climbing behind the wheel, "What I'm about to do is dangerous. If either myself or any of the hundreds or thousands of people that I will share the road with today, people that I don't know, have never nor will ever meet and know nothing about, screw up, I could end up badly hurt or killed."
We don't think those thoughts, though. Not most of us.
I saw a t-shirt once that said, "I am a bomb disposal technician. If you see me running, try to keep up"
Some activities are just so dangerous that most of us don't even consider engaging in them. But not driving.
Yet driving is the leading cause of unintentional death at 10.9 fatalities per population of 100,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control.
If you drive as part of your job, it's the most likely way that you will be injured on the job, too.
So the next time you slip behind the wheel, think about yourself as a fighter pilot or astronaut. Not the daring and risk taking Buck Rogers, hero of screen and story, but the real thing: A thoughtful and skilled technician and expert at negative thinking, assessing situations and reducing the risk of accident.
That way, like Chris did, we can all come home safely.
Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver
About the Author - Spencer McDonald is a respected authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, and is the founder of Thinking Driver. To learn more about Mr. McDonald, please visit www.thinkingdriver.com.
I recently exited a parking lot in my area into a lane that immediately ended and required me to merge left into the through lane. You know the situation, where people charge up the right side and squeeze in? I signalled and settled in to wait a while as the line of traffic was steady as far back as I could see and I'm not the 'force my way in' type of guy (anymore).
To my surprise and delight, the first car that had the opportunity, braked and waved me in and I joined the line. After completing my lane change, I waved back with my right hand from inside ("Thanks") and the generous driver, who let me in, flashed his lights back ("No problem, you're welcome"). I smiled. Good karma indeed!
Such an easy moment, a light touch on the brakes, a casual gesture and I'm in line without drama or frustration. I'm happy to have been let in and he appreciated my thanks. It got me thinking: I see countless acts of courtesy every day when I drive but I listen to endless diatribes from others about how discourteous everyone is these days on the road. What's going on here?
I believe in karma - You get what you give... you attract to you, events and experiences that are consistent with the behaviour that you practise and your beliefs and expectations. If you expect others to be jerks about their driving, you watch for it and naturally notice it. As a consequence, you may feel justified in driving like a jerk yourself and attract even more jerks and discourteous drivers into your experience as they react to your driving style.
Now, you could choose to drive aggressively and defend your actions by arguing that this is the only way to deal with all the idiots on the road, but this attitude betrays an underlying belief that defensive driving means that the best defense is a strong offense. You may or may not be religious or spiritual, go to church or pray, meditate or practice a faith at all, but fundamentally we all know right from wrong and retaliation or aggression isn't the answer.
Every spiritual leader ever, professed peace and the importance of tolerance, forgiveness and the inherent goodness in all others regardless of their behaviour in the moment. You and I have both behaved badly at some point but has that doomed us to purgatory and forever tarnished us as a bad person?
We recently lost Nelson Mandela who was an inspiration to the entire world and he said that 'resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies'.
In fact, we are all imperfect people struggling to find our way through life, some more skilled in some ways and less in others. Compassion and forgiveness is an appropriate response to poor driving skills seen in others or even intentional aggressive driving.
Karma is Karma. You get what you give. Whatever you believe about driving and other drivers, it's going to be true... for you. And treating others poorly will just come back to you someday.
But what if you chose a different reality? What if you could choose to think differently and try out different driving behaviour. You will certainly get what you give in this case also. Will you stop seeing or experiencing discourteous drivers? Likely not, but you will begin to attract and notice the good guys out there that don't tailgate, and do let you in, that don't block the fast lane, that signal and wait for a gap instead of forcing the issue. You will continue to get what you give, but it will all be different because you will be giving differently.
The reality that we live in is mostly of our own creation. Living in a world where we focus our judgement outward critically and self-righteously assessing everyone else might make us feel superior, but at the expense of our own happiness and joy.
You may have a GPS in your vehicle that guides you to your destination, but each of us has another compass; an internal moral compass that if we listen to before acting or reacting impulsively will guide us to the best outcome for all.
So when you next drive, refer to your internal compass about right and wrong and apply it to yourself first before judging others. Try giving a bit and patiently watching for it to come around as it certainly will, if you just look for it. It's just driving karma.
Written by Spencer McDonald, President , Thinking Driver
About the Author - Spencer McDonald is a respected authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, and is the founder of Thinking Driver. To learn more about Mr. McDonald, please visit www.thinkingdriver.com.