Thank you to everyone who visited the Thinking Driver booth at the recent BC Municipal Occupational Health & Safety Conference, held in Victoria, BC.
Congratulations to our draw winners who will be receiving a copy of Thinking Driver’s ‘Winter Driving Fundamental’ DVD.
- Dave Cochran, The City of Calgary
- Ken Glubish, The City of Edmonton
- Gail Townsley, City of Richmond
- Alexander Tishenico, City of Vernon
- Scott McMillan, City of Prince George
- Rob Walker, Capital Regional District
If you would like to preview Thinking Driver’s ‘Winter Driving Fundamentals’ DVD or any of the DVDs in our library, please go to www.thinkingdriver.com.
In this month's feature, Spencer McDonald discusses the importance of managing the risks in traffic.
Do you buy lottery tickets? I do. Our chances of winning big are really quite slim and yet every month we still buy those tickets in hope of getting lucky. As they say; if you don't play, you can't win! The more tickets that you buy...the greater your chances, so some of us buy plenty!
Driving risks is in many ways like buying lottery tickets, only it's kind of an anti-lottery...You see, the probability of disaster because you take a chance is also slim, but you might just hit the jackpot that one time and end up in a serious crash. And some of us are heavy players in the risk lottery with much better chances of hitting the jackpot.
The 4th of Thinking Driver's Five Fundamentals is:
MANAGE THE RISK.
In previous installments, we have covered: 'Think and Look Ahead', 'Anticipate Hazards' and 'Keep Your Options Open'. These are basic fundamental defensive driving skills.'Manage the Risk' has much more to do with your attitude or decision making process once you practise the first three fundamentals.
In every driving situation, that we find ourselves in, there will be risks that we face. What we do with these risks and how we make smart decisions about them is what sets a 'Thinking Driver' apart from a reckless player in the risk lottery; the lottery that none of us hope to win.
Some of the chances that we take are calculated and thought through before we take them, like speeding, we feel late, rushed and have an urge to make up time so we choose to speed and take a risk and the risk lottery ticket that, with luck, won't pay off this time. Other times, we allow ourselves to develop habits that are like the automatic purchase option for a lottery ticket pool...we make the purchase without even thinking about it.
A good example of this is yellow lights. While you wouldn't necessarily know it to watch most intersections, the law (and best practice for intersection safety) is to stop on yellow unless you are unable to safely get stopped in which case it is not required. Lately it seems like most drivers treat yellow as a message to 'hurry up it's almost red!'. When this becomes a habit, you are piling up those risk lottery tickets and increasing your chances of hitting the jackpot one day when everyone else doesn't look out for you.
Thinking Drivers drive to minimize risk and prevent incidents in spite of the actions of other drivers and the current conditions including traffic, weather, road conditions, lighting and their own conditions. Minimizing risk requires only that you THINK about what could possibly go wrong in any given situation and act in advance to reduce the risk. In time it just becomes a habit. Generally this practise won't cost you anything in time and in the long run, could keep you out of the winners circle in the driving risk lottery.
You may hope to, but don't really expect to win the 649 or Powerball lottery though do you? But what would your life look like if you did? But it could happen, it's happened to others! Why not you? That's what keeps us buying those tickets.
No more need to work, security for your kids; their education and future, relaxing vacations in the sun, a new house, new car, no bills to worry about...the perfect life...
What is the possible result of hitting the jackpot in the risk lottery though? In North America every year, thousands of drivers, passengers and other road users hit this jackpot with tragic results.
No more ABILITY to work, no way to ensure your kids go to college or university, physical pain or disability, medical bills for expenses not covered by you plan, loss of health and perhaps mobility. Unless you hit the big jackpot: Then no more you, and all of the pain and grief suffered by those that you leave behind.
Play any lottery long enough and eventually it will be your turn. If you don't play, you can't win though.
So which lottery are you playing?
Tailgate Topics & Tips: Safety Meeting Planner & Agenda
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The car wasn’t going very fast when it passed us. In fact, it was hardly going any faster than we were which made me wonder why the driver felt the need to go by. As he signalled right and began to move back into our lane, the rear of the car began a graceful, slow motion pirouette to the left and the car rotated a full 180 degrees clockwise as we both continued down the highway. Bill, who was driving our van, braked gently and we stopped just in time to see the car (now facing the wrong way and going backwards in front of us) come to a gentle stop in the snow bank that had been left by the plough. No one was hurt and we helped them get out of the snow bank, turned around and on their way.
We were on British Columbia’s Highway 5 between Hope and Merritt in the middle of winter. This is the stretch of road now made famous by the Discovery Channel program, ‘Highway Through Hell’. We were going skiing. It was snowing, the road was covered in compact snow and the temperature was well below freezing. For this time of year on the Coquihalla: pretty typical conditions.
These kinds of conditions can be challenging to drive in, but by no means must they be particularly dangerous if handled responsibly and with a modicum of skill and caution.
Approach winter conditions with less than good vehicle handling skills and/or overconfidence and you are in for trouble.
We live in a country where every single city has the potential for and history of, snow. Yes, even Victoria, BC has seen snowy roads! So why are there so many crashes at the first sign of the white stuff?
Too many of us either don’t understand the nature of traction, how to find and maintain traction in winter conditions and the implications of traction loss; or we do understand all of this but overestimate our capabilities. Either way, the results range from simply getting stuck or the harmless spinout described above, to more tragic events like the recent bus crash on a snowy pass in Oregon that killed several passengers.
So, let’s review: There are 6 main driving conditions that may affect your driving during winter months. Being mentally aware of these 6 conditions will assist you in safely negating your way during periods of extreme driving conditions.
The 6 Conditions Are:
1. Weather Conditions
Weather is the most unpredictable of the 6 conditions of winter driving. Winter can bring snow, sleet, ice, rain, winds and extreme temperatures. These conditions can last minutes or days. They can change without notice, making your journey hazardous. Prior to leaving on a trip, it is important to check the weather and road conditions to better prepare yourself. Knowledge is power. Weather reports are available from various locations such as the radio, television, or the internet. Many jurisdictions have dedicated government phone numbers or a web site where you can obtain the latest weather conditions.
2. Vehicle Condition
This is the one condition that you have some control over. Get your vehicle winter-ready with a maintenance check-up. Don’t wait for winter to check your battery, belts, hoses, radiator, oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers and ignition system. A simple winter check-up for your vehicle may alleviate serious problems in the future. Getting stranded on the side of the road, in winter conditions is no picnic. For sure, check that you have good winter tires with the snowflake symbol displayed on the sidewall.
3. Road Conditions
It is not reasonable, nor prudent, to expect roads to be bare and dry during winter months. Snow, ice, slush and compact snow are road conditions that can be expected anytime in winter. Being prepared to meet the challenges that these conditions bring is critical to the safety of you and your passengers. As with weather conditions, there are also government agencies that provide information about road conditions. A simple call or check will give you a heads up on the road conditions before you drive.
4. Traffic Conditions
Sharing the road with others is something you can’t avoid. They may not be as prepared as you are. They may be running on poor tires and perhaps are driving well beyond their abilities and capabilities. A thinking driver will perform a proper assessment of this risk and choose the appropriate action to deal with the situation. Perhaps just changing lanes will do the trick. If they are following you so close that they become a hazard, it may be safer to have them in front of you. Move over and let them pass. Leaving more room or staying away from other drivers during winter driving is the Thinking Driver way.
5. Lighting Conditions
During winter months, depending on where you live, daylight can be from a few hours to non-existent. With later sunrises, earlier sunsets, and the sun lower on the horizon, glare can be a big hazard. Glare is intensified by the cover of white snow on the ground or blowing snow. To minimize these effects, maintain the cleanliness of your windshield on both the outside and the inside. Any debris or dirt film will intensify the glare and reduce your visibility. Wearing sunglasses is a good option to reduce glare. Because of the extended hours of darkness, make sure that all your lights are functioning properly and that they are cleaned off periodically. This is an important step to increase your ability to see and be seen by others. Blowing snow will accumulate on the back of the vehicle, covering tail and brake lights, so check them regularly. Ensuring that your tail lights are clean will increase your visibility and reduce the likelihood of being rear ended.
6. Driver Condition
Winter driving can be stressful and exhausting. With changing conditions, other drivers on the road and wearing cumbersome clothing, winter driving is not the same as summer driving. Vehicle control can be more difficult when you are wearing heavy winter boots along with several layers of clothing. Your winter gear can impede your movements and make vehicle control more difficult than when you are in comfortable shoes and clothing during summer months.
Being well rested will increase your mental alertness and assist you in remaining focused on the driving task at hand. It will help you remain calm during stressful situations. When you are well rested, you are less susceptible to physical aches and pains. You will find yourself feeling more comfortable behind the wheel than if you are tired. Being well rested will ensure that you are in good shape for the trip, not only mentally, by physically as well.
Consider these six conditions every time you venture out in winter (or any time for that matter). A Thinking Driver recognizes that these conditions affect the way he/she must drive to stay safe and uses good driving techniques to negotiate them.
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Thinking Driver was there! The Saskatchewan Safety Council’s 41st Annual Industrial Safety Seminar took place February 3 & 4, 2014 in Saskatoon, SK. Thinking Driver was pleased to be in attendance and had a display in the tradeshow component.
Spencer McDonald, President of Thinking Driver and Chief Instructor, Dan Boyer delivered a session on “Challenging Our Culture of Risky Driving”.
Congratulations to the following people who were our draw box winners of a DVD copy of Thinking Driver’s ‘Winter Driving Fundamentals’.
Les Togunrud – Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways (Regina, SK)
Kylee Lundberg – SaskWater (Moose Jaw, SK)
Albert Hopkins – SaskTel (Saskatoon, SK)
Chris Chuhaniuk – City of Saskatoon (Saskatoon, SK)
Bob Smith – TransGas (Coleville, SK)
Doyle McMorris – The Mosaic Group (Moose Jaw, SK)
Motorcycles are the safest vehicles on the road right up until the point of impact.
I have been a rider since 1972 and enjoyed riding everything from mini bikes with lawnmower engines to 100 plus horsepower sport and touring bikes.
I love my motorcycles: my BMW 1200RT is called ‘Alice (the missile)’, and ‘Hugo’ is a Kawasaki KLR 650 (you name your vehicles too, right?). I love riding off-road and touring on the highway and have been as far north as Whitehorse and south to Arizona.
In 1975, I won a trophy for being the first junior in Canada in the National Observed Trials competition (I ask myself sometimes: That was almost 40 years ago, should I still be bragging about it?).
But old or not, in the coming months, I will be heading off to the Grand Canyon via the Oregon Coast and Las Vegas on ‘Alice, the missile’
I, and thousands of other riders, begin to appear on the highways this time of year. Too many will not see the end of the riding season. Some will crash their bikes due to over-exuberant riding or overconfidence, which is unfortunate; but many more will lose in a collision with anther vehicle.
We riders say that motorcycles are the safest vehicles on the road because they accelerate out of danger, stop quicker and are more maneuverable than pretty much any other vehicle. We like to think that we can ride out of most dangerous situations.
The problem is that, too often, we are just simply not seen and the other driver does something to cause a collision that we can’t avoid. A motorcycle is the safest vehicle on the road, right up until the point of impact.
We are vulnerable road users and when we tangle with a car, the car generally wins.
When a motorcycle and another vehicle collide, it's most often the other driver's fault. The situation that is most common is the other driver turning left in front of the motorcyclist. The car driver typically doesn't see the motorcycle or actually sees the rider but misjudges the approach speed and thinks there is time to turn, because a motorcycle is small when viewed from the front, and this makes speed estimation problematic.
Motorcycles are tough to see and, if you are not looking for them, very easy to miss. They handle much differently than other vehicles and have some special characteristics. If you don't really understand them, they can be difficult to share the road with.
Some easy guidelines for you to apply a you see motorcycle riders this spring and summer will help keep everyone safer.
- When you are waiting at intersections to turn left, remember that you may have more than just cars and trucks approaching and look for motorcycles. If you see a rider approaching, make sure that they are coming at a speed that allows you to turn safely in front of them before starting your turn.
- Remember that a motorcycle can stop in a fraction of the distance that your car or SUV can so leave a good following distance. If the rider brakes suddenly for some reason and you are too close, you will not be able to slow quickly enough to avoid her. Normally, under ideal conditions we suggest a following distance of at least 3 seconds behind a motorcycle. Add more distance if conditions deteriorate.
- When you change lanes, check your mirror and should check to make sure there is no motorcycle in your blind spot. Most of us riders work hard to stay out of blind spots, but if you don't shoulder check before changing lanes, you will never be sure the lane change is safe.
- When you are stopped behind a motorcycle, leave a good space. It feels very intimidating to have a large vehicle stopped really close behind you.
This spring, take a moment to think about and practise these tips to help you stay out of conflict with us riders and share the road.
Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver
"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'.
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.
- 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.
- 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
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.