Managing Driving HazardsSafety
By Safety Manager Bill Spencer
I’d venture to say the most dangerous activity each of us perform every day is operating a motor vehicle. Driving, as it’s more commonly known, has been one of America’s favorite pastimes for over a century. It’s something that’s a part of our lives from the time we’re placed into a child seat as a baby, to when we anxiously walk into the Department of Motor Vehicles as a teenager to take the driving test. Because driving has become such a regular part of everyday life, sometimes even the dangers associated with it have become normalized.
According to the United States Department of Labor, every five seconds a motor vehicle crash occurs and every 12 minutes someone dies as a result of a crash. Can you think of another day-to-day activity that causes death and injury so frequently? Driving a vehicle is a complex task that involves dynamic situations, changing environments and conditions, and hazards of every kind. Whether you drive for work, convenience, or leisure, it’s crucial to know how to manage risk when you’re out on the open road.
Accepting the risk associated with this essential activity is inevitable, yet, we as responsible drivers should take full consideration of the risk and not lull ourselves into a false sense of security while behind the wheel.
Reduce Your Speed
This may seem obvious, but reducing speed is perhaps the most effective way to lower risk. Not only does traveling at a slower speed provide more reaction time, it often eliminates the need for such reaction time in the first place. Even if a collision is unavoidable— less speed always means less damage done. In the long run, driving at a slower speed reduces maintenance costs, improves fuel efficiency and extends the life of the vehicle.
On the flip side, not only is the act of speeding illegal and unsafe, it isn’t the time saving measure we think it is due to the very structure of the rules of the road. We’ve all witnessed someone speed past us in a hurry, only to be delayed by traffic a few minutes later (usually to our delight). The risk of even just a little bit of speed simply isn’t worth the reward.
Whether it’s your cell phone, discussion with passengers or the general desire to multitask, distracted driving is a serious safety hazard in the modern age. With so many ways to break our focus, it’s critical to keep distractions to a minimum and give your full attention to the task of driving. With respect to cell phones, the best advice here is to avoid looking at your phone and taking calls while driving altogether. Keep your phone silent and out of sight until you arrive at your destination.
Take every opportunity to eliminate distractions inside your vehicle, because many distractions will still occur outside your vehicle that are seldom within your control.
Backing incidents account for more than one-fourth of all vehicle-related incidents, even though backing occupies less than 1% of a driver’s time behind the wheel. Driving in reverse should be avoided whenever possible. That said, backing is inevitable and practice is the only way to get better at it.
When backing is unavoidable, perform a 360° walkaround the vehicle to identify any potential hazards. Use a passenger as a spotter when available. Make full use of mirrors and rear-vision camera systems to ensure the task is performed safely.
Keep a Healthy Driving Mindset
Maintaining a positive headspace while driving is a key component to minimizing exposure to hazards that often gets overlooked. Operating a motor vehicle requires coordination with fellow drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. It’s important to be alert, clear-headed and empathetic with others while out on the road. As we all know, this is much easier said than done. Yes, it can be easy to get irritated when someone else commits an error in traffic, but most of us have made a mistake or two behind the wheel ourselves and tend to expect forgiveness when the shoe is on the other foot. Do your best to be polite and charitable towards others and always remember driving is a cooperative activity, not a competitive one.
The next time you get behind the wheel, keep in mind that you’re not just going for a drive, you are operating a piece of heavy machinery that has the power to cause very serious harm if misused. Driving a vehicle has become ingrained in our day-to-day lives, but this doesn’t mean that it’s inherently free of risk. Driving is a task that can only be done safely by a commitment from everyone on the road to take the job seriously each and every time they step into a vehicle.