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WHO’S THERE? By Nick Nicholson

Okay! Enough, with the “knock-knock” jokes, you guys! There are millions of drivers who have billions of thoughts going through their minds as they drive. Hopefully, most of these folks are stable but, we know that that there are many who aren’t.  It has been said that ten percent of the population are alcoholics, that another eighteen percent have diagnosed mental illness, that eighty-six percent are taking prescribed, or not, drugs. These, the jokesters, the lipstick touch-ups, and many other conditions must be considered when we drive.

Have you ever actually watched the majority of people drive? Other Nick-2015than brand new drivers and those who seldom go out on the road, (you know the type – death grip on the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 position, driving so cautiously as to create a menace) the majority of drivers put no thought into their driving. For the most part, drivers have become so accustomed to driving without a problem that they relax thinking they can handle whatever comes along effortlessly. To them, it’s no big deal …. anybody can do it …….. until they can’t!

The highest rate of collisions for you is within 25 miles/40 klms of your home. This is where people do the majority of their driving.  This is the area you are most familiar with and this is the place where your guard is down. It’s easy, right?  You know it like the back of your hand, right? This is the place where other drivers, dogs, kids and distractions take your mind off your driving and put you in peril. It’s also the place where, if you have been on a long trip, you relax thinking you’ve made it safely. You haven’t made it until it is safely parked! You would think this is a “no-brainer” but, actively paying attention to your driving, wearing a properly adjusted seatbelt actually makes you a better driver.

Talking Seatbelts? – the best seatbelts are those designed for race cars and spacecraft. Two shoulders locked down and a restraint spread evenly across the pelvis. In your family car, snugness evenly spread across the pelvis is paramount. The body’s bone structure provides the best protection. I see so many people hop in the car, swing the belt around until it clicks and then drive off with the belt loosely across their belly. Disaster for your “gut” if you get banged.  Another bad one that I often see is, standard seatbelts are not comfortable for the female body. I see so many tuck the shoulder belt under their left armpit to make it more comfortable in the chest area. In a frontal or rear-end crash, the whole upper body will snap to the left often doing long term damage. A belt pulled snugly across the pelvis with the shoulder belt flat across the center of the chest is your best bet. It holds you in place for the airbag impact and for the second impact which you hadn’t even considered.

So who do you have to think about when you’re driving?  We see the evidence every day. The mentally ill trying to commit suicide or worse, aiming at you in retaliation for their thoughts. A joyrider loses control. Of course, the drunk who just can’t decide which of the views available to him/her is the right one. By the way, that person often isn’t the big drinker. It’s the one who momentarily made a poor choice and thought they could get away with it, just this once.

If you look at our population, it’s hard to find someone who is not on some form of medication (legal or not). All drugs can have some side effect. Do you really trust every driver out there to be fully capable, all of the time?  Is the driver coming toward you fatigued? Have they just stopped for a big greasy meal, are now sleepy but, won’t pull over so soon after taking a break?  Are they staring at some point off in the distance in a trance?

Then, there are the idiots. Weaving in and out of traffic, following too close, knowingly driving an unsafe vehicle, pushing the envelope to make it to some destination in a self-imposed hurry (Tim Horton’s). Consider the ones that scare me enormously, the “Donor” cyclists who recklessly scream past us at phenomenal speeds. “Donors” – young with healthy hearts, livers, lungs, etc.

If you were being operated on for “open-heart” surgery by a surgeon who was, drunk, high on drugs, hadn’t washed, is mentally unstable and so on, would you feel confident?  I doubt it but, if he or she makes an error, only one person dies – you!  When an out-of-control driver makes a mistake, any number of people and their combined families, friends and co-workers can be severely broken for years. Lately, we have terrorists. Please consider this when you get behind the wheel.

Before you get in, make sure you are physically and mentally fit for the job ahead. Know the vehicle you are driving and what special equipment is on board (anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programs, etc.).  Make sure your vehicle is the safest it can be including things as seemingly insignificant as clean glass and mirrors. Strap yourself in safely. Pay strict attention to what you are doing until you get there. Be aware of your speed, space-cushion, braking ability, road, weather conditions and long distance vision. Know you are in complete control.

In spite of adverse conditions and the actions of others, your goal is to drive to avoid collisions and those of everybody else around you,

Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.
THINK SAFETY ……… EVERYWHERE ……….. ALL THE TIME

About the Author

Nick Nicholson, is a retired safety practitioner who spent many years researching the human behaviour factors of driver and pedestrian actions. Specifically, he spent 25 of those years devoted to highway crash investigations, regulatory compliance, the design, implementation and presentation of safety programs. Nick enjoyed many hours presenting professional driver enhancement training to adult participants.

As a long time Fleet Safety Council Member (1988) and the Founding Chair (1992-1995) of Council’s Hamilton-Niagara Chapter, he presents his opinions in hopes of improving the safety knowledge of readers. Nick is a firm believer in human advancement through positive attitudes, solution thinking and the understanding that the beauty of life is always in your hands.

Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions are his own and in no way reflect the opinions of Fleet Safety Council

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