As many of you know, I drove, dispatched, was Operations Manager, and Safety Manager for an airport shuttle service for a number of years. Something I noticed repeatedly over the years was the difference in collisions when the driver was alone as opposed to when passengers were being carried.

If you are aware of today’s enforcement focus on “distracted driving”, you will find many references to the use of cameras, phones, electronic devices, hands-free devices, consuming food or drink, smoking and talking to passengers. Of course, none of these things are “at-fault”. The driver is “at-fault.” This makes reasonable sense as we know that anything that takes your mind off your driving is a distraction.

According to some unknown authority, driving the QEW and the 401 are some of the busiest highways in North America, supposedly beating out California. Our drivers continually drove back and forth on those two highways, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. It didn’t take very long for our drivers to learn the regular traffic patterns of those highways. Many discussions took place among drivers as to the best lanes and routes to take at particular times of the day. Drivers often found streams of cars following behind their marked vehicles. People learned to follow them for the safest drive and to make the best time.

If memory serves me correctly, our passenger counts averaged around 1.5 million per year. That’s a lot of driving.

Yes, unfortunately, we had crashes but, we had very few passenger injuries. I contend that the reason for that was that our drivers drove differently when alone than when they had passengers on board. I believe they paid more attention to their driving, taking fewer chances when somebody was watching and they felt that responsibility.

Of course, freight drivers never get a chance to talk to passengers. Also, freight never talks back, it never gets sick on you, it never pees on your seats and it never fights with you or other passengers. As long as you drive right, the freight stays put. Ever think of that?

Taking what I’ve observed, I think distracted driving is a mental Nick-2015attitude that can be overcome. I believe if your mental attitude is tuned into your driving, you will not be distracted, even when something big and loud happens right beside you. You can train yourself to concentrate on what you are doing so that you don’t look away for any reason, including when something strikes you. Only you can take that kind of control. Sudden moves are the killers. If you can keep your vehicle steady and stable, regardless of what’s happening around you, you’re more likely to stay safe.

This is sometimes a hard lesson for winter drivers to understand. Stay off the brakes and avoid sudden, sharp, steering movements. It doesn’t matter if you are swimming, skydiving or driving, panic moves are killers. Never give up!

So, what can you take from this? When you turn that key, turn your brain on. Light it up and focus on what you are actually doing as if somebody is watching you. You still have a great responsibility to yourself, your passengers, other road users, your customers and those waiting for you at home.

Your job (paid or otherwise) is to get the trip done, the passengers off-loaded, and the load delivered safely. When that vehicle is running, you’re on the job! Pay attention to it as if you were facing the death penalty ……. because you are, every time you turn that key.

Keep your people safe.
The beauty of life is in your hands.

About the Author

Your Old Uncle Nicky’s Opinions

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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