Thinking-Driver-Logo
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.

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.

speed

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?

gavel (2)

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

line

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.

If you are not already receiving Tailgate Topics & Tips delivered to your inbox, add your name to the distribution list by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and providing your name, company and email address and you will automatically receive the latest topic.

Upgrade your Tailgate Topics & Tips subscription to PROFESSIONAL and receive the Safety Meeting Planner & Video. Click here to find out more and to sign up.

Published in NEWS
Monday, 03 March 2014 00:00

Feature Article

winter_driving_00

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.

B20-314021

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

M~ Sun1119N-Coqui1

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.

severe_snowflake

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.

winter traffic

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

Through-the-New-Windshield-649

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.

tumblr_mxtbt0FAPQ1shs6b1o1_1280

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.

sleepy-driver

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.

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine)

Tailgate Topics & Tips: Safety Meeting Planner & Agenda

Click here to access this month’s free Safety Meeting Planner.

Preview the Installing & Using Tire Chains Correctly video that accompanies this month’s Safety Meeting Planner, click here.

If you are not already receiving Tailgate Topics and Tips delivered to your inbox, add your name to the distribution list by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and providing your name, company and email address and you will automatically receive the latest topic.

Upgrade your Tailgate Topics & Tips subscription to PROFESSIONAL and receive the Safety Meeting Planner & Video. Click here to find out more and to sign up.

 

SSCWere you at the 41st Annual Saskatchewan Safety Council’s Industrial Safety Seminar?

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”.

To receive a copy of this presentation, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your contact information.

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)

Published in NEWS
Monday, 31 March 2014 00:00

Feature Article

Motorcycle-accident1[1]

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’

motorcycle-tours-highway1-192[1]

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.

motorcycle[1]

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.motorbike in mirror
  • 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.

motorcycle-sign

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

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine)

Published in NEWS
Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00

Feature Article

ChrisHadfield-300x300

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.

spacehadfieldspacewalka

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.

cars driving

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.

Car-Accident-Blog

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.

Waiting-in-Airport

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.

guy in car

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.

Chris Hadfield

That way, like Chris did, we can all come home safely.

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

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

spencer

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.

Published in NEWS
Thursday, 16 October 2014 00:00

I was chatting with a friend and colleague the other day about safety and employees who must drive as part of their duties.  This major retailer operates its own fleet of tractor-trailer delivery vehicles and operates Canada-wide.  We have been providing driver safety products and services to its delivery fleet operation for a decade now.

high-mileage-clocking

We also discussed the other 'non-professional' drivers in their company - employees who drive many kilometres every year to do their job.

When I asked what they were doing to keep these employees safe, the answer shocked me: "We never really thought about that," he said.

This organization is one of the best in terms of customer service, employee morale and relations, and was recognized as one of Canada's Safest Employers.  And yet, for employees who driver personal and company vehicles from time to time in the course of their duties, nothing is being done to ensure their safety on the road - not even checking whether employees are licensed or doing annual checks of their driving records.

-1-resized-600

It was just never considered.

This company is not alone.  Too many employees fail to recognize that if they send their employees out on the road, they are driving as part of the job.  While driving may not be the principle part of their job, they are driving as part of their profession and may be woefully unprepared to safely execute this duty in the environment and vehicles required.

But, you may ask, if these workers have current licenses they must be competent.  Not necessarily.

BC-Services-Card

In order to become licensed, one must pass certain tests, typically a knowledge test followed by at least one driving test (in some jurisdiction, two road test are required).  The road test may have been conducted when the worker was a teenager and upon passing, their driving skills will never be looked at again until they participate in a corporate driver safety program, get flagged in the system for excessive violations or hit their senior years when retesting occurs.

To complicate matters further, road tests are available in even the smallest of communities and may be taken in the smallest of cars, and yet, a passing mark yields a license that permits the holder to drive any size vehicle in that license class in downtown Toronto, Detroit, Montreal, Los Angeles or Vancouver.

6-11-10 078 6x4

Think about: You take your road test in the tiny interior town of Sparwood, BC, in a Smart Car.  Next thing you know, your new job had you driving a service van or full-size car or pick-up in downtown Edmonton.  How on earth can we think this person has been prepared to meet the challenge?  Yet, if they fail to measure up and have an incident or accident, we may blame them for not taking enough care or not being defensive enough.

What other occupational duty that exposes employees to high risk requires no initial or refresher training or recertification?  Even first aid requires regular re-training and qualification.  Furthermore, driving remains to be the most probable activity to result in an injury incident on the job.

Our conversation really got interesting for me when I mentioned that due diligence would be to at least require an annual driver record check, permitting a maximum number of penalty points and provision for some remedial action if this number was exceeded.

This is where it really hit me. My enlightened safety professional colleague asked how we should distinguish between on-the-job tickets and off-the-job tickets.

My response was:  The same way that you distinguish between criminal activity on or off the job, you require responsible and legal behaviour among your employees on or off the job.

Driving infractions off the job are equally relevant.  Would you hire someone convicted of embezzlement, while off the job, to work in your accounting department?

Publication1

Employers can enhance employee safety and demonstrate due diligence with a few simple steps:

  • Check driving records of employees who must drive as part of their duties.  Perform this prior to hiring and regularly after that (annual is recommended).
  • Upon hiring, ensure employees are capable and not simply licensed, by evaluating their driving skills in the vehicle that will be used for work and in the same environment.  Set a baseline and determine if training is required.
  • Do the necessary training, if indicated.
  • Provide regular refresher and/or upgrading as well as specialty training, where indicated (such as winter driving or four-wheel-drive training).

There are some outstanding and progressive companies that are truly showing the way by embracing driver safety issues and addressing them this way in their occupational health and safety programs (you know who you are).

For everyone else, let's make a start today towards reducing the risk in this most risky of work activities.

Written by:  Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

Okay with jacket cropped white bg

(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine)

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.

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 00:00

music notemusic note"Slip sliding away, slip sliding away.  You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip slide away."

Paul Simon sang it in 1977 (there I go dating myself again) and it's still happening every winter.  But with some simple techniques and a bit of practise you can eliminate that 'slip sliding away'.

5101-winter(1)

Traction is the main element to consider when driving in winter conditions and when you have lost traction you are slip sliding.  It doesn't matter what the road surface is or what the conditions are; there is a finite amount of grip or traction between the tires of your vehicle and that road.

Once you exceed the available traction and your vehicle is no longer responding to your commands to steer, brake or accelerate, you are no longer in control. Your final destination is now in the hand of Newton-Sir Isaac Newton, that is. Vehicle control is about physics and we learned all that we really need to know about it in high school (grade 9 physics if I recall that far back).

Learning skills to observe these laws can take a bit of practise, but no amount of skill or luck will let you dodge them. Ignore Newton at your peril.

Newton's first law says that an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by another force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by another force. This law is often call 'the law of inertia'.

In driving, if your vehicle is not moving, it doesn't want to move unless acted on by another force. Once your vehicle is moving, it wants to stay moving in the same direction as it is going unless acted upon by other forces.

You exert force to change the speed or direction by altering the speed or path of the tires and as they grip the road, your direction or speed changes; but only if you have maintained traction and they are not skidding.

Abrupt steering, braking or acceleration exerts excessive forces that may exceed the available traction and initiate a skid or spin.  That's why controlling with finesse is critical to winter safety.  Do everything as smoothly and as gently as you can to keep the vehicle balanced and maintain the tires' grip with the road.

Here are some techniques to try:

  • Leave yourself extra space and begin to brake early when you know that you may have to slow or stop.  The longer distance that you use to slow, the less traction that you need to stay in control.
  • Keep your speed lower than usual on corners and avoid sliding sideways.foot on brake
  • Squeeze and ease the brake and accelerator.  Start gently, and gradually increase pressure to minimize the weight shift of the vehicle on braking or acceleration and reduce the chances of traction loss.
  • Avoid abrupt steering and use 'total control steering'.  Keep your hands at the 9 and 3 o'clock position on the steering wheel and 'shuffle' or 'push and pull' the steering wheel to the left or right.  This will help you make directional changes more progressively and maintain your traction.
  • Traction is improved when you have good winter tires and enough weight in the vehicle.  Drivers with empty rear wheel drive pickup trucks could consider adding weight when conditions are slippery.65__320x240_car_in_snow_skidding[1]
  • Look well ahead in slippery conditions to plan when you may need to slow or stop.  Avoid coming to a complete stop when possible and legal, particularly on hills where more traction is needed to get moving than is needed to keep moving.  If you stop on a hill, it's much more difficult to get going.
  • Read the road surface and try to drive where there is better traction and minimal ice.
  • If you do find yourself sliding away and using your anti-lock brakes, use them correctly.  If you feel or hear your anti-lock brakes activating, remember, the right reaction is to push the brake pedal down hard and look and steer where you want to go.  Don't let up on the pedal until you are either back under control or stopped.  The anti-lock brakes are designed to keep your wheels from locking up and allow you to steer out of danger.

Practise these techniques and you may find yourself singing Randy Bachman instead of Paul Simon and instead of 'Slip Sliding Away', you will be safely 'Rollin' Down the Highway'.

Written By: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

Okay with jacket cropped white bg

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

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.

Published in NEWS
Monday, 22 December 2014 00:00

bluetooth_portable_rotary_phone_-_redWhen I was young, we had a rotary telephone on the kitchen counter (for those of you under 40, you may have seen one of these babies in a museum!).  When someone wanted to get in touch, they called and the phone rang.  If no one was home, the caller eventually gave up because there was nothing called an answering machine then.  Those came later with those tiny little cassette tapes.  If no one was home to answer the phone, you were disappointed, but simply called back.  In the intervening years (you can guess how many) we have seen the aforementioned answering machine which morphed into voice mail, fax machines that sent documents over the phone line, email and cell phones and text messaging.  Smart phones with games and web browsers, text messaging and email access are the norm now for most of us and we are addicted.

We are addicted to being connected and as with most other addictions, its killing us.

texting

Few people would argue that they can text and drive safely, and most now accept that handheld cell phones are equally dangerous while many will continue to argue that hands-free calling is safe because it does not involve manipulating the phone while driving.  All the research is contrary to this as the distraction is not principally as a result of using your hands; it's the cognitive distraction that results from processing the conversation while simultaneously attempting to attend to the driving task.

GPS, mobile music players, radios, and any other activity that pulls your attention from driving is a distraction as are the ongoing challenges of children and pets as well as other passengers.

Auto makers are now including technology that will allow drivers to interface with the web, text messaging and email as well into new vehicles which causes me great concern.  While they assure us that they will recommend that this technology is used in a responsible way while not driving, the seductive lure of instant information is, I fear, too great for many to resist.

2012_GMFleet_vehicle_overview_gmtechnology_bluetooth_smpromo_hero_300x160_02

How many of you have heard the tone of a text, email, voicemail or the ringer of your phone while driving and responded with "just a quick peek"?  I'm guilty, and I feel guilty because I'm supposed to be a safety professional.  I know the risks, laws and penalties and I have had that 'quick peek'.

So I guess I'm addicted too.  I recognized my addiction slowly as I came out of denial and at first tried (as many others addicted to alcohol or drugs will) to control my compulsion to use my device constantly, even while driving and I was somewhat successful but the temptation was great; particularly if I was expecting a call or waiting for a text or email.  I tried to be a good boy and pull over to answer my phone and only check text messages at traffic lights.  This created a whole new set of distraction issues as I looked for a quick, easy, safe spot to pull over where often there was none and recognized early that taking my eyes off an intersection while waiting for the green was just as dangerous (and illegal) as texting while moving.

reduza-o-uso-do-celular-slide

Cold turkey was the only real solution.  Now I turn off the phone or switch it too silent when I get in the vehicle.  Problem solved.  I can check when I have reached my destination or plan a stop to deal with business along the way.

Recently, I had the good fortune to travel in Europe where my mobile phone didn't work, and even spent a week on a boat where there was no internet connection either.  The world didn't end, my business continued to operate under the guidance of my staff, and I detoxed from the addiction.  I recognized that I can indeed turn back the clock to when someone called and I didn't answer; they would just have to wait, as would I until I was able to connect safely.  It was kinda nice, totally out of contact.  Weird, but nice.

Okay with jacket cropped white bg

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.

Published in NEWS
Monday, 06 April 2015 00:00

fleet-safety1Good training is a key element, but only part of the puzzle for vehicle safety!

Employers with vehicle fleet or employees who drive are aware (or should be) that the greatest probability of an injury incident is going to be vehicle or driving related.  Many organizations have, therefore, incorporated driver training into their OHS program.  This is as it should be.

Unfortunately, in many cases, this is where vehicle safety stops.

Training is too often expected to become 'the answer' to vehicle reduction.  A driver involved in an incident, for example, is automatically sent back to re-attend the training program where he/she would almost always pass with flying colours, seemingly without effort.  Lack of skill is clearly not the problem here.

In this situation, is retaining really the answer or are there other forces at play?  Could this be a motivational problem, an attitudinal issue, maybe a medical condition?  Was the vehicle appropriate for the work and equipped correctly?  Training alone can't address all these issues.

A driver training program labouring under the expectation that it should solve all of an organization's driver safety or incident problems is destined to fall short.

Training is undertaken for a variety of reasons:

  • to train and qualify new operators,
  • to provide refresher or upgrade training/education,
  • to reinforce previously learned skills,
  • to re-qualify experienced operators.

But there are many more elements to an effective vehicle safety program.

How does yours stack up?  Compare the features of your vehicle/driver safety program with this list of critical key elements:

1. Senior Management Commitment

Is driver safety seen and acted on by senior management as a critical safety issue?  Frequently we see lip service paid to driver safety, with strong statements of corporate commitment but an absence of meaningful action.  In many cases, senior executives are visibly absent in the training courses associated with the program and have a belief that they are somehow exempt from vehicle safety policies, like pre-trip inspection and circle checks.

Enlightened organizations implement driver safety programs by starting with attendance and qualification on course from executives very early in the process.  These managers lead by example, by committing to the program and adhering to policy (like cell phone prohibition, backing in to park, circle checks).  Workers need to both hear about safety from management and also see management participating and in compliance.

2. Written Policies and Procedures

Vehicle safety policy and practise should be identified and detailed in its own section in your health and safety manual.

circle_check_sticker_final%20copy[1]

The policy should state the company's expectation of employees who drive, as well as specific policy related to job tasks involving vehicle use or movement - on or off-road.  In addition, the policy should state qualifications for use of various vehicle types or classes and the training testing required to achieve these qualifications.

Consequences for non-compliance (if different from the corporate disciplinary system) should be stated clearly.

3. Driver Abstract / Record Checks

Check the driver records of all prospective employees who will be driving for work purposes. Screen out applicants who have poor driving records since they are most likely to cause problems in the future. The driving record should be reviewed annually to ensure that the employee maintains a good driving record, and action should be taken if the record deteriorates.

Clearly define the number of violations an employee/driver can have before losing the privilege of driving for work, and provide training where needed.

4. Incident Reporting and Investigation

truck-backed-into-pole[1]

All vehicle incidents should be reported and investigated.  Acquire the services of an experienced trainer or vehicle operation expert if one is not available in-house.

Root causes should be identified and action items (if applicable) developed to help prevent future incidents.

5. Vehicle Selection, Maintenance and Inspection

Selecting, properly maintaining and routinely inspecting company vehicles is an important part of preventing crashes related losses.  Ensure the vehicle selected for a particular application is suited and properly equipped to permit safe use in that application and environment.

A pre-trip/shift inspection routine should be incorporated into the vehicle safety policy, and vehicles should be inspected daily by the driver.

automotiive[1]

Regular maintenance should be done at specific mileage intervals consistent with the manufacturer's recommendations.  A mechanic should do a thorough inspection of each vehicle at least annually.

 

6. Disciplinary System

Develop a strategy to determine the course of action after the occurrence of a moving violation, policy breach, complaint and/or preventable incident.

There are a variety of corrective action programs available; the majority of these are based on a system that assigns points for infraction and/or incidents.  The system should provide for progressive discipline if an employee begins to develop a pattern of repeated problems.

7. Reward / Incentive Program

slide-17-728[1]

Safe driving behaviours contribute directly to the bottom-line and should be recognized as such.  Positive results are realized when driving performance is incorporated into the overall evaluation of job performance.

Reward and incentive programs typically involve recognition, monetary rewards, special privileges or the use of other incentives.

8. Driver Training / Communications

Publication1

The training program should be an integral part of the OHS program and be ongoing.

Conduct initial training and qualification for new hires; even those with clean driving records may have never experienced professional training and only passed a basic government driving exam (perhaps many years ago).  To set a baseline for driver performance and to document competence in case of future problems, employees should be trained, evaluated and qualified on the vehicle type(s) they will be assigned to, in the environment they will be operating in.

Regular refresher/requalification should be an integral part of the program.

The best programs incorporate a driver safety related course, seminar or event annually to keep vehicle safety at the forefront of employees' minds and demonstrate the corporate commitment to safety.

Every two to three years, requalification by on-road evaluation should be conducted.

Keeping vehicle incident rated low goes beyond just providing training, it includes a comprehensive system of the key elements discussed in this article.

How does your organization measure up?

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

Published in NEWS
Page 2 of 2

Would it kill you to train your drivers?

It could kill them if you don't

Vehicle Incidents are the most probable way that your employee will get hurt on the job. Protect your investment today with driver training.

ELEARNING COURSES

Bottom-Tailgate-Topics-and-Tips
 
right-arrow-50px 

Fleet Driver Safety Training Online Courses for Companies and Enterprises.

Driver Training

Fleet Driver Training Programs
 
up-arrow-50px

Fleet Safety Driving Programs. Packages and Individual Courses. Online and in-person.

SAFE DRIVING PRODUCTS, DVDs & MORE

Fleet Safety Online Store
 
up-arrow-50px

Defensive Driving & Fleet Safety Products, DVDs, Books, & More. Get Your Safe Driving Materials Here.

Safety Professional Resource Centre

Bottom-Safety-Professional-Resource-Centre
 
left-arrow-50px

Join the Thinking Driver community, help us create better drivers, and learn the knowledge and skills, including years of developmental training.

Thinking-Driver-Logo

The Thinking Driver Program was created by Spencer McDonald, driver psychology and counseling specialist to improve driver attitudes and reduce aggressive driving and fleet incident rates.

About Us

free driver training course online

TD 540x237 Color

Inquire Here

Ask us a question using the form below.

Please let us know your name.

Please let us know your email address.

Please write a subject for your message.

Please let us know your message.

Invalid Input