SAFETY MEETING PLANNER & AGENDA
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- Is there anything that is specific to your company or operation that you can include to personalize the information?
- Review the video for this session.
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START YOUR MEETING!
In order to have an accident, involving you and another vehicle, the two vehicles need to come into contact. It makes sense then, to do whatever is reasonable to reduce the chances of this unfortunate contact. The most obvious way to do this is to keep away from other vehicles! The further away you are from other road users, the less chance that you will have a conflict. Keeping space between yourself and others on the road is called keeping a SPACE CUSHION.
The Question for this Meeting:
Q: Where are the places that vehicles get too close together and risk conflict?
Answers could be:
- At intersections where everyone is waiting for the light or for their turn at the stop sign;
- On the highway where tailgaters may follow too close;
- On multilane roadways where other vehicles (especially large ones) may drive right beside you;
- When merging and other vehicles may not allow enough space;
- Can you think of more?
The safest and most relaxing driving style is to try and drive all by yourself on the road, well away from other drivers. The benefits of this are many. This practise automatically reduces the chance of accidents simply because you are further away from other vehicles but there are many more!
More space gives you:
- More time to react and brake or steer if something unexpected happens;
- Better visibility around the vehicle ahead;
- More room to manoeuvre and lane change if there is a delay or obstruction in your lane;
- A smoother ride because you no longer need to brake abruptly;
- Better fuel economy and reduced vehicle wear because you are now driving more smoothly.
It’s easy to adjust your driving style to develop a space cushion, and it doesn’t cost you anything…In fact, it may save you time because you can plan your moves further in advance to avoid hold-ups.
- On the highway, adjust your speed to minimize the time that you have other vehicles right next to you;
- When all the traffic is moving at the same speed, and is grouped together, keep the same speed but run that speed outside of the pack so that you won’t be part of it if there is a crash (ever hear of chain reaction crashes?);
- Keep a good following distance – at least 2 seconds but 3 or more is better;
- Stop at intersections so that you are far enough back to see the crosswalk if you are in car #1 in line, and far enough back so that you see the tires on the car in front of you where they touch the road if you are not the 1st car in line;
- Hesitate for just 1 second when you move off if you are in a line of cars. This gives you an immediate cushion in front;
- Signal early when lane changing or merging and wait for someone to give you the space rather than forcing the issue…somone almost always will. Next time, return the favour and let someone else in. That is just good defensive tactics, instead of challenging them to force their way in;
- If you are tailgated, add more following distance in front so that you will be able to brake gradually when necessary and reduce the chance of the tailgater running into your rear (sure it’s his fault if he does, but do you really need the hassle?).
Introduce the Video:
Spencer McDonald discusses the importance of leaving space around your vehicle when driving.
Today, when you are on the road, pay attention to how close you may be to other drivers when you may be able to use these techniques to build a space cushion, then try them out and see how easy it is to apply this Thinking Driver Tailgate Tip!
In this month's feature, the 5th of Thinking Driver's Five Fundamentals, Control with Finesse, is discussed.
There is only one fundamental goal in vehicle control for performance and racing, fuel economy and reduced wear and tear or enhanced safety. That goal is: drive with smoothness and finesse.
I was paid what I think is the highest compliment the other day by a friend who was describing my driving to a colleague. He said, "When Spencer is driving, nothing seems to be happening; no excitement, no surprises, nothing abrupt, just smooth flow through traffic." It wasn't always that way though. When I was a young man, I thought that I knew what good driving was; you stomped the gas and cranked the steering wheel. I thought good drivers had the skill and guts to drive close to other vehicles, zip past and fly down the road.
Boy was I wrong!
That style of driving cost me huge fines for speeding. Eventually my license was suspended for 3 months within the first 24 months of getting it. My style of aggressive, sloppy driving cost me multiple brake jobs because I wore out brakes like you can't imagine, and I had 3 crashes in 3 years all before I was 20 years old. The reality is that I was one of the WORST drivers on the road. Even after all those tickets and crashes, I still figured that I was a great driver. I was indeed a legend in my own mind!
I thought that because race car drivers went fast, if I went fast too, I would be like a race car driver and that's good driving right? It wasn't until years later that I understood just why race car drivers are able to go fast and stay in control; Smoothness.
Yes, the best race drivers are the smoothest...they have the most finesse with brakes, accelerators and steering and they apply the principles of good vision, anticipation, space management and risk reduction to ensure that they never have to do anything abruptly and upset the balance of the vehicle.
When it comes down to it, traction, or the grip that your tires have with the road, is dependent on multiple factors, but the one that is most changeable moment to moment and controllable by the driver is the vehicle's balance and loading on each wheel/tire. It's an easy concept: if you have vehicle weight distributed over all tires (balanced), you are pushing the tires into the road with the vehicle weight and creating traction or friction. This is critical even if you are not a race car driver or driving at race car speeds.
What kind of driver are you? You almost certainly believe that you are a great driver, but are you, like I was, a legend in your own mind?
If you strive for smoothness in your daily driving, you will save fuel, reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle (especially brakes) and enhance safety by reducing risk. Practising smoothness also makes smooth control second nature which is critical if a sudden crisis does develop. Smooth balanced control helps ensure that you maintain traction and reduces the likelihood of a skid.
It's not difficult to cultivate a smooth driving style. You start by sitting correctly in your vehicle with you back close to upright and pressed back into the seat. Your left foot braced on the dead pedal and the heel of your right foot on the floor prepares you to control the accelerator and brake precisely by squeezing and easing on the pedal to manage the vehicle weight shift from front to back.
Your arms should be bent slightly at the elbows when you hold the steering wheel at 9 and 3 (yes 9 and 3!), then use the total control or push/pull method to turn the steering wheel.This will smooth out your cornering and manage the lateral weight shift when you turn.
Smooth driving is the hallmark of racing champions but also of professionals like police and other emergency vehicle operators.
Here is the litmus test of smooth and professional driving: are your passengers comfortable? Do they remark on how relaxed your driving makes them feel or are you hearing comments (or jokes) about your driving or gasps and sharp intakes of breath? Perhaps you should cultivate smoothness and become an excellent driver in reality instead of a legend in your own mind.
By Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver (Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.)