Taylor Murray, CSP CHST CET
The year 2016 is turning into the most dangerous driving year since 2008. According to a National Safety Council study, traffic fatalities are up 9% from the same time last year. Giving safe driving the attention it deserves is more important than ever. If the 2016 rate continues, over 40,000 people will die on the roads this year. Some states are seeing even higher numbers than the national average, such as Florida (up 43%) and Georgia (up 34%).
Driver error accounts for over 90% of vehicle deaths. Technology and stress distractions have contributed to this number, with text messages, emails, games, etc. causing us to divert our focus from what is already the most dangerous activity we do.
Here at Danella, we impress upon our employees to utilize the Smith System® (drivedifferent.com) for defensive driving techniques to help avoid not only causing accidents, but also those caused by others. These techniques should not only be used while on the job but also when driving personal vehicles. The Smith System® is based on “5 Keys:” Aim High In Steering®, Get The Big Picture®, Keep Your Eyes Moving®, Leave Yourself An Out®, Make Sure They See You®.
When steering it is important to expand your eye-lead time or how far in advance you are looking. This means aiming high while steering. An average driver has three to six seconds of eye-lead time, while in reality, it should be at least 15 seconds.
To get the full 360-degree circle of awareness you need to check your mirrors every five to eight seconds to be actively aware of your surroundings. An important part of this is to avoid vision barriers, which can block your sight line, including motorcycles, taxis, police, ambulances, and semi-trucks. No matter what, it is also important to keep a safe following distance, not a stopping distance.
To keep information flowing, it is important to keep your eyes moving every two seconds to develop two types of vision central (three degrees) and peripheral (180 degrees), meaning the information keeps flowing and you avoid blank/fixating stares.
As part of driving, it is necessary to have a predetermined way out or space cushion leaving enough room for your vehicle to merge into another lane if something occurs. Anticipating what others may do and what you will do in response will let you have a way out.
As important as it is to practice safe driving yourself, it is also important to communicate with other drivers. Making eye contact and using warning devices will make sure that other drivers see you.
Driving is an activity that impacts more than just us, but also others on the road. We need to continue to do our part to give safe driving the attention it requires. Decisions we make on the road can have lasting effects. Apply safe driving techniques both at work and at home.