Driving is the riskiest thing your employees do.
Whether they’re lineworkers at the electric department, picking up solid waste, or spraying for pests and rodents at a customer location, they face the most risk of accident and injury while behind the wheel. That’s why you need to hire professional, safe drivers.
Professional safe drivers drive defensively. They see and react to risk ahead of time. They stay away from everyone and everything that could cause them problems. Most importantly, they take responsibility for protecting the people on the road with them.
That’s a little about your drivers. Now, what about you? Where do you fit in? As their manager/supervisor, it’s your responsibility to make sure your drivers know what risks they face on the road. And, you need to make sure they’re prepared to deal with them.
The easiest way to prepare your drivers is with an off-the-shelf light-duty defensive driving training program like The Fleet Safety Course. If that’s not an option for you, or if you need something to tide you over in the meantime, you need to educate your drivers on the basics.
There are two things that every light-duty professional driver should know:
With these foundations, they will be more prepared to prevent accidents and potentially save lives.
Your drivers don’t need to be experts, but if they’re going to prevent accidents, they need to have a basic understanding of safety and risk. Understanding what safety is, what risk is, and how they relate to accidents will help them be more defensive drivers.
First, safety is defined as freedom from risk. The less risk we face, the safer we are. However, it’s impossible to be entirely free from risk. Risk is all around us, especially on the road. So what do we do? Give up and accept that we can never be safe? Of course not. We reduce risk as much as we can.
Risk is defined as the possibility of suffering harm or loss. Risk can come from an infinite number of sources, but mainly it comes from unsafe conditions or unsafe behaviors. Unsafe conditions are things like construction zones, inclement weather, and poor road conditions. Unsafe behaviors are things like driving too fast, not maintaining a safe following distance, and not paying attention while you’re behind the wheel. All of these increase the risk of your employees having an accident.
So, safety is freedom from risk. The more we reduce risk, the safer we are. What happens when we don’t reduce risk? We have accidents.
We teach the four part definition to an accident in our lesson “Understanding Safety & Risk” in The Fleet Safety Course. We won’t get into the specifics, but the most important thing to understand about accidents is that they are caused. And they’re caused by people’s unsafe behavior. When people take too much risk, they cause accidents.
Armed with an understanding of safety and risk, your drivers are ready to prevent accidents with safe driving. The easiest, fastest, and most effective way to teach them the specifics of safe driving is with foundation defensive driving principles such as LLLC: The Four Principles to Driving Safely.
LLLC stands for Look Ahead, Look Around, Leave Room, and Communicate. These four powerful principles encompass any and all safe driving techniques, and best of all, they’re easy to memorize and teach. Let’s cover a little bit about each one.
Your drivers need to be prepared for what lies ahead of them. The best way for them to do so is to Look Ahead. They need to Look Ahead with an eye-lead time of 15 seconds. This lets them see traffic slowing down, pedestrians crossing the road, or changes in traffic patterns BEFORE they become a problem.
Teach your drivers to Look Ahead for risk out on the road.
Of course, the information your drivers need to prevent accidents isn’t just happening up ahead of them. It’s happening all around them. That’s why your drivers need to Look Around.
Your drivers should Look Around by changing their point of focus every 2 to 3 seconds and checking their mirrors every 5 to 8. This ensures that they take in their entire driving environment.
Look Ahead and Look Around are all about seeing risk. Leave Room is what you do with that information.
Leave Room gives you the time and space you need to react to risk and avoid collisions. Your drivers need to Leave Room on all six sides of their vehicle:
The Fleet Safety Courses teaches your drivers the specifics of leaving room on all six sides, but for now, we’ll just cover the most important: in front of them. Your drivers own that space in front of them. If they want to prevent accidents, they need to always Leave Room by maintaining a minimum safe following distance. For light duty vehicles such as cars, light trucks, and vans, that’s 3 seconds in normal and dry conditions.
Leaving Room in front of you is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself and others safe.
The last principle to Communicate. Look Ahead and Look Around are all about seeing what other people are doing. Leave Room is how you react to that information. Communicate is how you let other people know what you’re going to do.
Your drivers need to Communicate with their headlights, horn, turn signals, four-way flashes, and tail lights. They need to give at least 3 to 5 flashes of their turn signal before taking any action such as a turn, merge, or lane change. They need to use their brake lights to Communicate to other drivers that they’re stopping. And, they need to use their headlights in low visibility conditions so other drivers see them.
There’s no guarantee that the other drivers are paying attention, but Communicating gives you a chance to avoid any surprises.
Whether you realize it or not, if your employees drive to complete job functions, they’re professional drivers. However, that doesn’t mean they’re safe. When you put your employees out on the road, your company faces liability. More importantly, your employees face risk of injury and have lives in their hands. Start the process of developing your fleet of safe professional drivers today by teaching them the basics of safety and risk and LLLC: The Four Principles to Driving Safely.
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