Preventing accidents on the road starts with understanding safety and risk. The definition of safety is freedom from risk. On the road, it’s impossible to be completely safe because it’s impossible to be completely risk free. Accidents are an unplanned event that always have a cause. It is the humans behind the wheel (including yourself) that pose the risk on the roads. Since nobody wakes up in the morning saying, “you know what, I think I’ll cause an accident this morning and make 10,000 people late for work this morning”, why do we ever have accidents? It’s a simple as ABC: Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence.
Those are big words for me so let’s break them down with a driving example in terms I can understand. You’re running late to deliver a load. So, to make it in time, you start to speed. The antecedent is that you’re late for the meeting, the behavior is speeding, and the consequence (expected result) is to make it in time.
How Accidents Happen
We behave in certain ways because we expect rewards, but not everything goes as planned. That is, sometimes we have accidents. Let’s return to the example. You’re running late, so you start to speed up and tailgate the guy in front of you. You expect this will get you to the meeting on time. Instead, traffic stops suddenly and you end-up in a rear-end collision. Pop quiz: What caused the rear-end collision? Traffic stopping suddenly? Not quite. The unsafe behavior of following a car too closely caused the accident.
How Accidents Can be Prevented
We make unwise and unsafe choices all the time, thinking it will get us what we want. Maybe we speed and follow someone too closely to get to our destination sooner. People text and drive because the conversation seems urgent. Or even just at home, we stand on an unstable chair to reach a spider on the ceiling because we don’t want to take the time to grab the step ladder. Most of the time, we get away with these short-cuts. If we didn’t succeed most of the time, we wouldn’t do it. When we don’t though, we end up much worse off than we would have by taking the less risky behavior. Sometimes, the results can even be tragic.
Accidents are prevented when people recognize their unsafe behaviors and that the risk never outweighs the reward. It’s not stupidity, but rather ignorance. Ignorance can easily be corrected through interventive training and education. Awareness of the ABC’s help bring consciousness to your actions on the road. You’ll catch yourself tailgating, or put the phone in the back seat to prevent the temptation. All professional defensive driving training should start with education on understanding safety, risk, why people have accidents and how to avoid them.