Category Archives: Safety Messages

MY BIG STICK

MY BIG STICK

By Nick Nicholson

When you look at that title, one conjures up the sense of power, authority and we often relate it to some type of enforcement. We’ve all heard the assertion, “Walk softly and carry a big stick”. As a safety practitioner in the transportation industry, I was well known for using “My Big Stick”. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?

I took an old broom and cut about three feet off the handle, rounded the cut and I carried it as a pointer. That was my big stick. It was much more precise pointing out specific areas on the wall screen with that stick to make my point. I could have used one of those little laser pointers but the stick had a much bigger purpose.

One of the things that happen in a classroom is that people get comfortable. When they do, they can drift off into, at the minimum, a mesmerized state, if not totally asleep. As they sit there, you know that they are taking in roughly ten present of what you are saying and, down the road, will only remember only about ten percent of that.

As an instructor of material designed to keep people alive and safe, there are moments when I wanted to make sure the participants in my class absorbed all the information and didn’t forget. So, I carried a big stick!

There are probably a million things that a driver trainer can say to Nick-2015help keep the trainee safe. When you want to emphasize the most important message the candidate will hear in that class, you want to have something that catches everybody’s attention and ensures that he or she is fully awake. You want them to remember it for the rest of their lives and hope that they remember it when it becomes a hazard to them in real time. Ah! That big stick!

To me, it is generally acceptable for a driver to keep the vehicle between the white lines, drive at a speed enabling you to avoid trouble when it shows up, and be aware of the dangers that other traffic creates. But, there is one major factor that will keep most drivers safer on the road than all others. To me, that one factor is called “space cushion”.

What is “space cushion”? It is the safe following distance you leave between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. The gap that you allow so that you can stop safely without hitting that vehicle ahead. As you have a responsibility to other drivers as well, it is also the distance you build into it so that not only can you stop without hitting that vehicle but, to provide sufficient warning to the vehicle behind to do the same. Human safety is most important. Prevent injury.
So, the big stick! I would ask the class to sit back and relax and “dream along with me” for a few minutes. “Close your eyes if you like and just listen.”

In a monotone voice, I would begin to tell a story where you are on your day off and have decided to enjoy the nice weather by going for a drive with the person you love the most in this world. I would interject that I didn’t care if it was your spouse, or somebody else’s, same sex or different, your child or perhaps your grandchild. It has to be that person you care the very most about sitting beside you, I continued.

Lulling the audience to sleep, I would express to them: “You’ve been following a tractor-trailer down the road for quite some time and you’ve begun to trust the actions of the driver: smooth slow downs, plenty of pre-signal warning, no sudden moves, stable on the road” – a very comfortable ride.

“All of a sudden, the brake lights come on, the trailer starts to go sideways, smoke comes from the tires and WHACK!” With my big stick coming down hard and flat on a table surface, the noise was deafening. The whole room would jump.

“You see the glass shattering in-front-of you I continued, you feel the steering wheel coming into your belly, you smell the steaming anti-freeze escaping, you hear tires screeching behind you and the vehicle comes to a stop. Shaking your head, you look around to see, still sitting beside you, that person you love so much – their eyes are wide open with a fixed stare but, you know that there is nobody in there. You’re looking at eyes that will never look back at you again. They are gone and you know it.”

At about this point, after asking the class how they feel, that I go into my spiel about the “three-second space cushion count” (for cars). “When the back bumper of the vehicle ahead passes a stationary object on the side of the road, begin counting, one-thousand and one, one-thousand and two, and one thousand and three. If your front bumper passes that same stationary object before the word “three”, you are following too close. Back-off and try your count again until you fit within that space.”

Using my big stick, now as an indicator, I now point to the screen and follow along as a visual depicts the spacing required to emphasize my message. Increase that distance for larger vehicles. From feedback, I know that it has worked.
I only wish everybody had learned and practiced it every day. We’d be a lot safer.

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

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

THE PLEASURE OF INSTRUCTING ADULTS

THE PLEASURE OF INSTRUCTING ADULTS

As a child, I was a very poor student – a “dreamer”. As a teenager, I was a belligerent student and I confess that I would not have wanted to be one of my teachers.

Thinking back, I believe this activity was because I didn’t want to be there. Gazing out the window to exciting weather, watching people driving by (always a desire) and just living life had my interest. It didn’t matter, both snowstorms and warm sunny days were appealing and I wanted to be outside in the elements.

I was not able to see the connection between learning and my future potential ability. Algebra, a topic that comes to mind. I haven’t used algebra much in my career, however, I do understand the abstract principle of substituting a symbol to represent huge, vast, and overwhelming things, bringing them down to a size your brain can simplify. “A”, “b”, and “x” have made life so much easier to comprehend at times.

It wasn’t until I started to work that I began to find learning useful. The secret of learning something and taking it back to work to use was instantly exciting. What I learned was packed into my tool bag, as I practiced, it became experience and lifelong knowledge that I have never forgotten. Even now, if it has not been used for a long time, it comes back. If you were into computers, how about the MS-DOS commands that you once knew well and used every day?
At some point in time, I began to share my knowledge with others. My injury in 1979 was probably my greatest motivator because I began to think about safety after that. My first dealings with the WCB (compensation board) were with my own injury and later, as a Dispatcher, I automatically took over the writing of Form 7” s (initial report) for every injury the company had. Eventually, I fell into the “safety” role, because of that. That’s when I really began to study and I found myself taking as many courses as I could. This was stuff that I could use.

It was an automatic transition, sharing what I had learned and utilizing it to try to prevent people from getting hurt. Helping to prevent damage to vehicles put a smile on the boss’s face, and keeping costs (injury and property damage) down made me feel worthwhile.

That brings me to my instructional career. The delight of my career. Nick-2015Courses that I took enabled me to teach various safety-related subjects. I found that the candidates in my classes actually wanted to be there and therefore made it very easy for me to present and for them to absorb information. The material I was teaching was being used immediately, on the drive home from the class.
These were adults that I was teaching. Like me, they had turned the corner to understand that learning was for their own benefit. They could choose, to some degree, as to what they wanted to learn. They also chose to use it, or not, in their daily living. Those who listened, paid attention, who followed the safety tips provided usually stayed safe and out of trouble. That’s where my knowledge became useful to them which they, in-turn, shared with their families.

Yes, I did a lot of Lesson Planning. Yes, I prepared drawings, gathered and inserted pictures and gobbled up traffic and crash news articles to expose road and safety hazards. Constantly changing as the presentation equipment I used became more sophisticated, the lessons became better and better. They became more and more interesting. I would often hear: “When is the next class?”
Something I found amazing was the amount of new information I accumulated from the students. These folks were all experienced drivers, each had a story to tell. Some were horrendous mishap stories where the individual really learned the hard way, through severe injury to themselves or experiencing extremely scary or destructive circumstances. Each added something to my toolbox. I used it well.

I found that I usually had to extend my planning for class-time by about an hour or more. The reason? Out of a class of around 20 candidates, 15 of them would hang around later to tell me of their own experiences. As long as I was willing to listen, and they had the time, they would ply me with their stories. Often, they would show up in my office at a later time with something they had thought of because of our classroom dialog. Each piece would stimulate my thinking.

Teaching safety to adults was a fascinating and rewarding experience for me. Each of us has experienced some form of safety knowledge with everything we have done all our lives. When you learned to ride a bicycle, you learned safety. When you learned to cook an egg, you learned safety and when you learned to drive, you learned safety, bigtime. The past knowledge that has been growing since childhood is there, in the back of your mind, just ready to be exploited. The more interesting you can make it for others, the better teacher and safety practitioner you become.
Being a safety practitioner may be a career that you might want to consider.

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

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

ARE MY IDEAS PRACTICAL?

When I was a child, (60 years ago, at least) I often dreamt of roads having wires implanted into the pavement that a magnet could follow to keep everybody in their own lane. This made so much sense to me because everywhere I looked, I could see multiple wires cluttering the sky for electricity, telephone and in those days, the telegraph. I knew it could be done, obviously affordable – why wasn’t it?

Since those days, I have often thought of solutions to critical problems that keep killing people on our highways. Little by little, I see those things coming into existence and wonder why I never made any money promoting them. You know what I’m talking about. truck by Bruce OutridgeThings like ABS brakes (initially on aircraft), electronic stability programs, lane stabilizers, vehicles that can sense what’s ahead and stop before impact, etc. Instead of governments changing traffic control by manipulating the roadbeds, they’ve left it up to vehicle manufacturers to react with individual and separate solutions.
Before a fellow by the name of Ralph Nader came along and opened his mouth, none of these things were even considered. He really embarrassed governments and manufacturers into action. Still, things happen that can be avoided. People make mistakes. If there is a means whereby technology can overcome human error, then it should be utilized quickly.

 

Take, for instance, the number of high vehicles that continue to hit low bridges. An electronic eye, suspended some distance ahead, slightly lower than the obstruction could divert higher vehicles avoiding the route altogether using traffic controls. Usually, trucks suffer physical damage but, double-decker buses (more of them travelling on North American roads these days) cost lives.
It’s taken many years but finally, the majority of the population are using seat belts. The “but” here, is that seat belts could be designed a whole lot better. Speak to any race car driver or compare their crash fatality statistics.

Speaking of race cars, have you ever heard of “roof crush”? So many, many automobiles are designed with roofs that will not withstand the car’s own weight. We’re not talking convertibles, here. People inside die – why? Are you aware that the little “Fortwo” Smart car has a cage built all around it like a race car for the occupant’s protection? So, why isn’t this mandatory for all vehicles?

From my perspective, vehicle occupant safety is a result of a whole lot of things. If you have a vehicle that has been constructed with safety in mind, run it on roads that were constructed with a safety mentality then, taking a trained operator, who is actually paying attention and thinking about what he or she is doing, you still have enormous risk to overcome.

Human error is still the largest factor in road crashes and it takes a fraction of a second to happen. If you are human then, it could be your life changing error.

Fleet Safety Council’s Safe Driver of the Year for 2017 was Mike Lotakow. He tells me that he was initially trained in Poland where the course to drive tractor-trailer is two years long. Are we Canadians, the have-all country of North America, missing something here?

From an engineering standpoint, I see the Ontario Government going backward. Have you noticed the number of onramps that have been removed from secondary roads in this province in recent years? Pretty well all intersections these days must come to a complete stop before turning right. Yesterday’s ease-on ramps, with yield signs, that kept traffic moving have disappeared.

So, are my ideas practical? Over the years, I have written to various government officials (mostly Ontario) with suggestions as to how to minimize danger on our roads. Sometimes I get a response from (usually) my local politician stating that my message will be forwarded to the Minister responsible and that’s it. Nothing ever happens. The only change that has ever been made through my contribution was the addition of the extra lane leading from the EB 403 to the NB 407. They really screwed that one up. There was a lot of carnage before they took action. That was a big push from the public. Have you considered the stupid, convoluted EB Niagara exit at that same interchange?

Governments ignore the findings of their own Inquests. The government orders Inquests, they conduct them, they insist on recommendations and then, they ignore them. It’s like another trial that the victims have to go through without closure. From what I see, it’s mostly governmental fraudulent deception.

From what I can see, it takes huge movements of citizens to get action from the government, something the size of the Humboldt Bronco’s bus crash or the white Ryder van incident in Toronto, otherwise “safety” is just another word.
Keep your people safe.

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

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

TURN YOUR MIND TOWARD PREVENTION

I talk a lot about paying attention to hazards and that everybody should be aware. This is great if you can think of them when you need them, react to them and prevent an injury or other carnage.

Lets consider some things that happen in our daily lives that may seem frivolous at first. What is the most dangerous component of operating any vehicle? You, the operator, of course.  We must be competent, physically able, mentally able, without the effect of alcohol, drugs or any other stimulant. At the moment, I will not drive, not because I can’t, not because I haven’t got a licence but, because some heart doctor who knows a whole lot more than I do said so.  I’m not taking that chance. Can YOU learn anything here?

Now, I realize that all parts and pieces of vehicles need to be operating correctly in order for it to be safe but, have you ever considered what particular part(s) is the most dangerous to use? I would have to say the brakes.

Misused brakes have caused some of the most devastating heartbreaks for thousands of drivers and their families. Many happen because people react by jamming their foot on the brake when they should not be touching them at all.Many of us are capable of getting a vehicle going, winding up the speed, keeping it between the lines, and exceeding every safe driving principle that has ever been discussed.  The trouble arrives when something else comes into play and we need to stop safely.

Your vision is probably most important and then, having enough time to react to what you see. Next comes the slowing or stopping of the vehicle, considering all the facts you have such as things like, tire or other component conditions, weight of the vehicle, road conditions, weather conditions, other traffic and so on.

That’s just one of the many scenarios to living your life safely. Everything we do from getting out of bed to getting back in can have safety hazards that we have to circumvent to avoid damage or injury each day. I’ll avoid talking in-bed injuries!

So where do you begin?  In a previous article I stated: Prevent the kid from tripping over his own shoelace first and, in the worst case scenario circumstances, you may just save a life.”

Think about that for a second. Thousands of kids have run with Transforming into the Future Seminarshoelaces untied and got away with it. For the ones that didn’t, there were probably special circumstances like tripping and falling over a cliff, tripping and falling in front of a car, tripping and falling into a wood chipper. These dreamt up situations can keep getting worse and worse but, they could happen. As we can’t predict what may be coming other than, by tying up the shoelace, we can predict that the kid will not trip over it. One simple solution, if acted upon, may be all that it takes to actually save the life of your own kid. The key word there is “act”, right now.

Look at every simple thing you can find to pick out the hazards. Once you realize it’s a hazard, think about it, think what you could do to avoid or prepare for it in the future and act upon it. That carries right on up the scale to things you have to spend money on to rectify. New tires are expensive but, funerals far outweigh those costs especially, if there are several people in the crash.

If we want to stay safe and alive, then we have to be prepared to exercise the brain a bit to locate the faults that could damage us. Look at the mistakes of others to learn from them.  Look at crashes and injuries.  See if you can decipher what happened so that you can avoid it when faced with the same situation.

Sometimes, that’s the only good that comes out of horrible experiences – If you learn from it. Police reconstructionists usually respond to terrible crashes for legal purposes. To me, that’s a sick way of making lawyers wealthy. If we all could learn what not to do from these reconstructions and correct the faults for everyone before it happens again then, good may come out of it. Their reports are available but, you pay big bucks to get them.

I believe far more attention should be paid by governments to preventing future disasters than assessing blame. That’s the wrong thought process!

The millions that will be spent on the investigation and blame naming in the Humboldt Bus Crash for the benefit of legal profession could be much better spent on building a bridge over that intersection.  There are so many, cheaper things that could be done there and all other intersections that governments won’t even consider. That, to me, it is sinful. Now, there’s a place for the legal profession to shine.

Turn your mind toward prevention, utilize it and share it throughout your whole life.

Keep your people safe.

 The beauty of life is in your hands.

THINK SAFETY ……… EVERYWHERE ……….. ALL THE TIME

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

REACTIVE SAFETY IS TOO LATE

REACTIVE SAFETY IS TOO LATE

There’s a reactive side and a pro-active side to safety. In so many, many instances we find ourselves on the reactive side which is the wrong place to be. That means that something has happened and now we have to take whatever action we can to mitigate the damage and destruction. My mind goes to a recent bus crash in Saskatchewan, students murdered in Florida or a rental van racing down a sidewalk in Toronto. Some of our responsive actions don’t really mean much, don’t do much and certainly can’t help much.
You hear our world leaders use clichés to try to ease the pain. “Our thoughts and our prayers are with you.” is a common statement. What else can they do? It’s already happened. That can’t bring anyone back.

If, through investigation, your government or that employer is found at fault for something that could have been prevented, then, watch them squirm. Watch them shift the blame onto anybody or everybody they can to evade criticism.

A very famous safety quote by Captain E. J. Smith (Captain of the Titanic – quoted in the press just before sailing) “it will never happen to me.”

I understand that we have to be fiscally responsible when it comes Nick-2015to spending dollars but, I see so many scenarios where, in trying to save a few bucks, deaths, serious injuries and whole families are destroyed because the decision maker places a higher value on currency than life itself. “Oh, we can’t spend that much!” Twenty-six miners killed at the Westray Coal Mine in Nova Scotia come to mind. Finally, it’s become a crime.

From my personal experience as a safety practitioner, my worst experience was my company ordered me to stay out of a building under construction. The words: “You stay out of there, it’s being built to code.” Regrettably, I did as I was ordered.

On a cool spring night, five years later, I got called out of bed because an employee had collapsed in that building. When I arrived, the man was deceased, still on the floor and although I was not allowed inside, I could see through the window that he was “cherry red” in colour. That provided an instant signal to me that carbon monoxide was involved.

Sure enough, following a long investigation with MOL court case where the company paid out a fortune, it was found that a mechanical vehicle exhaust system was installed in the three service bays but, not the wash bay.

We’ll never know why the employee closed the bay doors – when it was not normal for him. We’ll never know why he left the engine running. We’ll never know why the employee took the time to change a headlight while the vehicle was running inside with the doors closed.

What we do know is that the company spent millions having new automatic exhaust systems installed in all company service buildings, bringing staff in for grief counselling, entire staff retrained with what appeared to be, ridiculous (gone overboard) rules, rescheduling of staff and reporting procedures, the entire fleet’s exhaust emissions recalibrated for each vehicle, and massive fines and legal fees. In addition, publicity was not handled well and a poor reputation was developed by the media, fellow business owners and our own employees.

All the tools were available to prevent that tragedy and a lot more as well (community reputation) but, were purposely ignored, avoided and ridiculed to save a buck. My failure? My regret? I didn’t push back hard enough!
So, what’s the alternative?
The pro-active side of safety relies on a positive safety culture. It is a culture, led from the top, followed and promoted by middle management and carried out by the entire workforce to look for every reasonable precaution to save a life, stop an injury or prevent damage of any kind. Everybody has a part to play. Everybody is responsible for the other guy’s safety, no matter where or how small it is.

Safety culture is an “all inclusive” way of thinking from the newest employee to the person at the very top. It needs to include each and every hazard possibility and be carried forward to protect all. Thinking has to go into it, your thoughts have to be presented and everyone must listen. The discussion needs to include all viewpoints, evaluate the risk and everyone needs to share and train with the results.

Prevent the kid from tripping over his own shoelace first and, in the worst case scenario circumstances, you just may save a life.
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.

WOMEN ALONE by Nick Nicholson

I often talk out loud to myself. I find that I get the answers that best suit my desires. But seriously, I’m an old man. I really do it so that I can remember what’s going on.

I particularly advise women to talk out loud to themselves, red van By Bruce Outridgeespecially when driving. Women driving alone are at a far greater risk of falling prey to criminals and thugs so make yourself aware of your surroundings constantly. Get in the habit of reading exit, street signs and landmarks out loud to yourself so that you can remember the last sign if you need to describe where you are. Before heading out on any trip, make sure someone knows your intended route and time expectations. Also, let them know when you arrive.

Make sure your cell phone is always charged before heading out alone and that your Bluetooth is working. A dashboard charger is also a good idea. If you think you are being followed, drive at a normal speed and make a couple of unscheduled turns. If you still think you have a tail, get onto 911 and explain who and where you are, your assumed situation and follow their directions. If you can, drive toward a police station or highly populated location like a service center. Never, ever, try to outrun someone in your car. Drive (O.J. Simpson, White Ford Bronco style) at a normal speed.

Some folks have successfully used blow-up dolls on long trips, reclining in the passenger seat with a baseball hat on, they look like a sleeping companion. When you come to a stop, keep your doors locked and keep the vehicle in gear. Be aware that some car doors unlock automatically when the vehicle is placed in “park”. Observe your surroundings very carefully before unlocking the doors.
The same when you approach your vehicle. Look under, around and beside your vehicle. Clench your keys between your knuckles to use as a weapon should you need it. Know what your door lock remote does. Often one click opens just the driver’s door whereas two clicks unlock all doors. Remember that vans or large vehicles parked beside you can provide a hiding place for abductors.

It is always a good idea to carry a survival kit with you. Dry snacks, bottled water, canned heat with a lighter/match or some form of cold protection. Should you break down, phone your road service and do not accept help from anyone until you’re sure they’re legitimate. Crack your window open slightly to speak to anyone. Stay alert and stay in your car. Do not to get involved in your phone to the point of becoming distracted and keep your radio volume down so that you can hear things going on outside.

Lastly, do not assume that an unmarked vehicle with flashing lights is a police car. If you are not sure and a suspicious looking “police vehicle” tries to pull you over, keep on driving until you can pull over in a well-lit area such as a fuel station. Notify 911. Park as close as you can to the entrance of the kiosk or at a fuel pump and blow the horn. This will attract – and annoy – the attendants, but you will be safe. Should the vehicle following you be genuine police, he/she will approach you. With both your hands at the top of the steering wheel so they can be seen, open the window just enough to speak to them and ask to see their police IDs. Don’t just glance, actually study their ID card – not a badge.

If you are traveling alone then you might be staying alone as well. Certain hotel rules apply. Try to pick an upper-grade motel or hotel.
Don’t advertise your room number. Keep your voice down during any discussion that might identify you are alone. Get a room far from the street or facing an inside court if possible. In addition to ensuring that the door lock works, make sure the chain is on. Some people carry a rubber doorstop in their purse to shove under the door’s edge. Remember to kick it out if there is a fire.

Fire is always a concern. Firefighters recommend their families never go above the 3rd floor in any hotel so that ladders will reach. Know where the fire exits are and plan your escape in multiple directions from your room first.

When you arrive, place your bag so that it props open the door. Then check out the entire room; the closets, bathroom, behind curtains and open doors. If you need to run, the exit door is already open.
Sleep with your windows closed and locked unless you are on an upper floor with no balcony. Never open your door unless you know the person behind it. Sleep with a flashlight. One of these tiny pocket lights stuck in your shoe so that it’s the first thing you touch might be good. Always carry a “Fox 40” or similar whistle. When you leave the room, place a note on the dresser to say where you expect to be and pull the drapes so that an empty room is not identifiable from outside.

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

Sources: OPP – London CDT Conference; Suzan Chala, “Driving in Heels”

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.

https://hamiltonniagarafleetsafetycouncil.com/?s=old+uncle+nicky

EYEBALLING YOUR RIDE by Nick Nicholson

There are times during your driving career where you will be required to drive through narrow spaces. They can be unnerving to the novice and sometimes, even the experienced driver. Most common instances usually involve construction barriers and equipment sticking out into the lane on either side ahead of you.

One of the early secrets about driving that you should make yourself aware of is to look high when operating a motor vehicle. It does several things, the biggest being, it gives you the overall picture of where you are heading. It provides a wide view of your surroundings, the ability to see into the distance, to see traffic actions of those coming towards or on either side of you as well as the surface of the road ahead. Without specifically looking, your eyes will even catch some of the movement in the mirrors available to you.

I have no idea how many of you have ever flown in the cockpit of an aircraft as it approaches a runway for a landing. The feeling can be scary. Running through your mind is, how is this great big plane going to fit on this little, narrow strip of asphalt on the ground?

There is a particular roadway where I have experienced the same sensation. Perhaps some of you have crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel in Virginia. http://www.cbbt.com/about-us/facts/ Over 20 miles long, you drive on an elevated highway over the sea. At a couple of spots it goes up great heights to allow tall ships to travel underneath and at two other spots, the road travels down, actually going under the water in tunnels so the ships can pass over the top. It’s that slope going down that gives you that same feeling. How am I going to fit into that tiny black hole in the ocean at the end of the highway below? It’s numbered Highway #13 if you happen to be superstitious.

Amazingly, you make it and come out on the other side. If you are on vacation and in a car, you swing off at the far end to a little parking lot where you get out and have a look back across at where you’ve been. The parking lots are small.

There is a small trick to overcoming that unease. In that situation, logic tells you that you are going to fit. All the traffic that has gone before you on that highway has fit so therefore it is big enough for you too. All the logic in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how big the hole is in relation to the size of what you are driving.

Here is the answer. If you don’t think you will fit, come to a safe stop Nick-2015before you reach the narrow point. If, however, things are dynamic as they often are when you are driving and you need to squeeze into a rapidly closing space, look up. Whether your vehicle actually fits or it doesn’t, you’ll have the best chance of centering the vehicle into the hole by looking up. If you whack the sides, you’ll whack both equally and have the best chance of staying straight while careening through.

By looking up, your brain automatically figures out where the center of the hole is and you’ll aim for it. Keep your eyes up and never look at either edge because you will likely drive into and hit that edge if you do. If the hole is actually big enough, you will probably squeeze through. If not, you may take the outside edges off the sides of your vehicle but the majority should travel through the center of the hole providing you with the best possible chance of survival. Of course, there are no guarantees!

So many things can be in play here. If the hole has been created by other vehicles, they will also likely still be moving and whatever has the most size, force and weight usually come out the winner. Regardless, always keep steering afterward and stay in your vehicle until everything has come to a complete stop!

Where I began here, was talking about construction barriers, the most common narrow restricted area we come across. Chances are that those barriers will be wide enough to fit your vehicle. As you approach, back-off increasing your space-cushion ahead and while traveling through, keep your eyes up and your vehicle will stay centered. Let nothing else distract you.

Some of those narrow single lane construction areas bounded by concrete barriers can go on for miles. Keep concentrating on your driving and keep your eyes up. You’ll likely be just fine.

Keep your people safe.

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

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.

https://hamiltonniagarafleetsafetycouncil.com/?s=old+uncle+nicky

BOOM – Gasoline / Static Spark

In most cases, the majority of family automobiles today still run on gasoline. Gasoline is a highly flammable substance when it vaporizes. I’m sure you have observed from time to time, particularly in hot weather, visible vapours rising from the area where the filler hose fits into the gas tank spout. Gasoline is a relatively safe product as long as it is kept away from heat or a spark.

Fire requires three things. Fuel, air and a source of ignition, either heat or heat via a spark. As it relates to your local gas station, the most common source of spark comes from static electricity.
Those of you old enough to remember will recall chains hanging down touching the ground from the back of fuel trucks. You would hear the jingle and see them spark all the way down the street. The purpose of the chain? To remove the static charge built up in the truck body from movement and the sloshing of the fuel inside the tank. Around airports, you’ll still see static lines connected between tank trucks and aircraft while fuelling. Today, tires are constructed differently than in yesteryear and these, alone, have enough conductivity to remove the static charge.

I have witnessed two fires at gas stations in my lifetime. Once, when Nick-2015I was a child of ten or so, I spent an overnight at a friend’s house which happened to be located on the side of a very steep hill. Fifty or sixty feet below us was another street with multiple businesses. Among those businesses was a gas station. Awakened from a deep sleep by a loud explosion, we jumped out of bed and ran to the window to see the gas station on fire directly below us. Huge flames would shoot into the air as each successive underground tank caught fire. I remember the local volunteer fire department ignoring the gas station in efforts to save the surrounding buildings. I’m not sure …… there might have been an ulterior motive…… the building next door was the town’s only liquor store. Anyway, the booze was saved but, the gas station was a goner!

The other occasion was a little later in life when I was pumping gas for a living. People my age used to do that, you know, check your oil and clean your windshield too. A customer slid in off the street in fresh snow while applying his brakes. With the front wheels locked up and going too fast for conditions, he ploughed into the first gas dispenser and snapped it off its mounting. A fire erupted and the guy scrambled to get out of his car and run. We had that fire out long before the firefighters arrived. So, neither one of those fires within my own experience originated by static. There have, however, been some bad ones.

Gas stations have come a long way over the years. Today, they build in as many safeguards as is practical. For instance, all gas dispensers are manufactured with non-sparking “break-away” fittings coming from the tanks below. An automatic closing device seals off the exit pipe just below the break-away point. This prevents any fire from entering the underground tank.

In both of these cases, relatively small amounts of gasoline are contained inside either the dispenser piping or the hose. A properly maintained, fully charged and correctly used fire extinguisher should snuff out any resulting fire.

The same applies to dispenser hoses. They have “break-away” fittings, designed to snap off at the base of the pump when somebody drives away with the nozzle still stuck in the tank. It happens quite frequently. Nozzles are made of non-sparking metal and most have automatic shut-off devices built right in. You’ll note that, for years, you haven’t seen one of those little metal clips that once kept your nozzle pumping automatically. These devices are built in, or in this case, removed for your safety.

Getting back to the static charge, friction is usually the source and it can give you anguish. If you get out of your vehicle, be sure to close the metal door with your bare hand while standing on the ground. Once at the dispenser, pump the gas completely replacing the hose and gas cap without getting or reaching back into the car. Those moves, in that order, discharge the static from you or your clothing as you step out and keep the spark away from the vapours.
People can get into trouble when they reach back into the car for something, pick up more static and then return to the nozzle positioned in the tank with the fuel door open. You’ll not likely see them but, fumes are present right at that fuel door. Your first touch transfers the spark. BOOM !!!

Referring to that car door, actually grasp the door snugly with your fingers each time as you step onto the ground so you don’t feel the spark. It is highly unlikely that you will ever be involved in a gas station fire however, it’s smart to remain alert and aware of the hazards while at the gasoline pumps. Life has no guarantees.
Keep your people safe.

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

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.

https://hamiltonniagarafleetsafetycouncil.com/?s=old+uncle+nicky

Thinking Safety by Nick Nicholson

If you follow along with my regular posts you’ll find that my recommendations often use the words “think safety”. What does that mean or, more to the point, how is it done?

Our brains work in similar but often, very different ways. A lot of it comes from the experiences we have dealt with in our lifetime. I think back to playing a parlour game with our grandchildren. The instructions were to draw a tank. After several minutes of Grandpa looking very stupid, unable to come up with the solution, I discovered why.

In my mind, a tank is a heavy tracked vehicle with a gun turret out Nick-2015front used by military forces to fire artillery shells. The kids had this nice simple drawing of a boxy thing with rounded corners. “You know Grandpa, like a toilet tank”. That was within their experience but, I wasn’t thinking on their level.

Usually, I’m talking about the driving of wheeled vehicles and I have an expectation that my audience is also made up of experienced drivers. Unfortunately, everybody’s experience is different. In addition, every vehicle is different. Compare driving a tiny Smart Fortwo car to a tractor-trailer unit hauling forty-five tons of steel coils – “suicide”.

So where should your thinking begin and end. It begins, as we learned in a recent article long before you get into the vehicle. It begins in the planning stages of each trip whether it is going to California or to the corner store. A danger exists in both cases and far more people have died going short, local distances. I’m willing to bet that you would do more planning for a trip to California than you would driving to the mailbox if you did any planning at all for the latter. Would you even put on your shoes or your seatbelt? Would you think to grab your driver’s license or tell your spouse where you were going? Yet, this is where the real bad ones happen ….. on your doorstep. The thinking should never end.

I have been extremely lucky, and I suppose luck’s a good part of it, to have been able to keep the shiny side up and run in between the lines while driving during my lifetime. That’s not to say that I haven’t made mistakes but, for the most part, not serious ones. Mistakes should become a learning experience.

While driving a vehicle, any vehicle, you are making constant judgment calls. In one Defensive Driving Course, there is a statement that an airline pilot makes approximately forty-six judgment calls per minute. You, as a driver, make over two hundred while on the highway. You don’t have an auto-pilot. These are made up of eye movements, slight corrections with hands and feet, decisions, reactions and deeds utilizing the body’s senses. This is where your past experiences come into play. It is definitely no place for a cell phone!

Each and every move that you make, or do not make, has a consequence. Your thinking, while driving, must consider how things work, what actions are going to produce specific results and how they are going to fit the dynamics of your particular vehicle. If you are already sliding (locked wheels) and you don’t take your foot off the brake allowing the front wheels to steer, you know you’re heading in the same direction until you hit something. That’s thinking, utilizing past experience.

Preventative thinking is another aspect. What makes sense to you? I once heard of a smart aleck telling a lady to drive her motorhome as fast and as hard as she could coming down the Alaska Highway. Apparently, she did as she was instructed and the rough roads wrecked the motorhome. Literally, shook it apart.

There are certain circumstances where thinking needs to be part of our driving. We ponder intersections, curves, hills, snow, wet leaves, the slope of the road and so on with thought to some planning. The crunch comes when things unexpected happen. As drivers, we must think about and plan for escape routes. You have fractions of a second to decide and the faster you are going, the smaller those fractions become.

I would love to be able to advise you on safety techniques for every situation but we know that would fill a book. You know the thousands of circumstances that can apply each mile that you drive. Road conditions, kids, animals, falling parts and pieces, insecure loads, pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and the list goes on forever. Your thinking must include all these possibilities and you should be doing the thinking long before you run into the situation. Have multiple plans, learn avoidance techniques and be ready to act in a fraction of a second.
Follow the basic Smith System accepted principles of safe driving; 1 – Aim high; 2 – See the big picture; 3 – Keep your eyes moving; 4 – Leave yourself an out, and 5 – Make sure they see you.

Keep your people safe.

About the Author

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

https://hamiltonniagarafleetsafetycouncil.com/?s=old+uncle+nicky

GETTING UP TO SPEED by Nick Nicholson

How good a driver are you?

In this series, we finally have our vehicle moving. One of the many things you need to consider on the road is a safe speed. Speed limit signs are the maximum allowable speed to travel under IDEAL CONDITIONS. Anything less than ideal is a reason for your brain to consider what YOU are really capable of and adjust your speed to an acceptable pace.

If ideal conditions exist, you should be able to drive safely at the posted speed limit. Remember, these conditions revert back to our previously discussed beginnings in this sequence including your physical, mental condition, the condition of the vehicle and so on right through to the road and weather conditions around you at the time. (sun, sun position, wind, moisture, temperature, visibility, and so on.)

Just to let you know, my biggest weather fear on the highway is fog. Nick-2015Nothing I have experienced scares me as much as fog. Are you aware that most people speed up in the fog? Unable to see the passing scenery, they lose the perception of speed and tend to accelerate. The problem arises when somebody is creeping along ahead of you, scared to death …………. bang, chain reaction rear-ender. The daytime glare in fog can also be somewhat blinding. It may sound silly but, sunglasses work to reduce that glare. One more thing in fog. If somebody is right up your tail, let them (make it easy for them to) pass.

There is another factor with speed that I strongly believe in and that occurs when you are driving in traffic. You may hear it called many things. I have termed it “Space Cushion”. What it refers to is the following distance you create as a safety zone when following a vehicle ahead of you. The speed itself doesn’t matter. This works at ANY speed. Matter of fact, you continue to travel at the exact same speed as the vehicle ahead.

When you are following another vehicle in a car or light truck under ideal conditions (we talked about them) you look ahead and pick out a stationary object that you’ll have to pass. (bridge abutment, shadow on the road, road sign, a particular clump of shrubbery, you get the idea).

• When the back bumper of the vehicle ahead passes that stationary object, start counting to your self “One thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three”. Saying those words at a standard speaking rate will equal approximately three seconds.
• By the time you have completed saying “one thousand and three”, your front bumper should be just reaching that same stationary object on the side of the road.
• If you have already passed it, your “space cushion” is too short. BACK-OFF, find another reference point and do it again. Slow your speed down slightly until you can match the desired timing.

This is my recommended (car) “space cushion” and it has served me and drivers working with me extremely well for many years. I didn’t say it is easy to do in all circumstances but, if you follow this principle on a regular basis you’ll have a better chance of arriving at your destination safely. Practice this for thirty-three days in a row. After that length of time, it becomes a habit. Larger and heavier vehicles must increase this space significantly.

One point I should make. When you follow this suggestion, be aware that someday, something will happen right in-front-of you where you have to jam on your brakes. Be ready for it because you seldom have to brake hard using this method. Avoid becoming too relaxed.
Your mind, as well as your body, have many parts that come into play in safe driving. Again, have you been lucky, so far?
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