In this video, we’re going to review some simple defensive driving techniques that you can easily apply to your everyday responsibilities. By following these techniques, you can ensure your safety, as well as the safety of other drivers on the road.
What is Defensive Driving?
So, what is defensive driving? The National Safety Council defines defensive driving as, driving to save lives, to save time, and to save money, in spite of the conditions and actions of those around you. It also means being prepared for changing road conditions. Whether it’s construction, rain, snow, or even an animal crossing, defensive driving techniques can help you avoid dangerous collisions.
There are currently six defensive driving techniques that are important to follow every time you get behind the wheel. These techniques include wearing a seatbelt, pre-trip inspections, driving the speed limit, avoiding fatigue, cutting out distractions, and observing while you drive.
DD Technique #1: Wear Your Seat Belt
We’ve all heard it a million times before; ‘wear your seatbelt’. It’s true though, wearing a seatbelt can save your life in the event of an accident. According to the CDC, it was found that, “Non-use of seat belts by truck-drivers continues to be the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the United States. In fact, one out of every three truck drivers who died in a crash were not wearing their seat belts. For many of these drivers, simply buckling up would have saved their lives.”
In addition to it being the law, Service Sanitation enforces a strict seat belt policy for all employees who operate or ride in a company vehicle when it’s in motion. Any team member in violation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
DD Technique #2: Pre-Trip Inspections
One of the best ways to prevent unnecessary accidents or mishaps on the road is to complete a pre-trip inspection at the beginning of each day, or when entering a new vehicle for the day.
When completing a Vehicle Condition Report, otherwise known as a VCR, you’ll need to verify that you’ve physically inspected the functionality of your truck. This includes looking over parts such as the tires, brakes, lights, mirrors, wipers, and more. It’s your responsibility to locate any obvious functionality issues during this inspection. When you sign off on your VCR, you are verifying that you are satisfied with the condition of the truck and deem it safe to operate.
Similarly, when returning from a route at the end of the day, it’s important that you recheck all of the same areas on your truck by completing a post-trip inspection report. If anything were damaged on your truck throughout the day, such as a broken windshield wiper or cracked mirror, it’s important to note that on your post-trip inspection paperwork so that our mechanics can get your truck up and running again.
DD Technique #3: Driving the Speed Limit
We’ve all felt the effects of life’s everyday frustrations such as running late, traffic, or even road construction. These everyday frustrations can often take a toll on our psyche, causing us to speed with rage or to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, speeding can often lead to consequences such as a greater potential for loss of vehicle control; reduced effectiveness of your braking and protection equipment, increased stopping distances, and increased degree of crash severity.
All roads today have a posted speed limit, but on occasion those limits may be too high, especially for a commercial vehicle. When driving in poor weather conditions, on a damaged road, or when operating a on a poor lit area at night it’s recommend that speeds be reduced below the posted limits. For example, when driving on wet roads, speed should be reduced by 1/3 of the posted speed limit and reduced by 1/2 or more on snow packe fd roads. Remember, if the road conditions become unsafe to drive, pull off the side in a safe location until you can resume driving.
DD Technique #4: Fatigue
Feeling fatigued from life? Whether it’s waking up with a new baby throughout the night, a night out with friends, or working the night shift, being fatigued at the wheel is all too common and can be extremely dangerous.
Early warning signs of fatigue include, but are not limited to, constant yawning, involuntarily closing of the eyes, not remembering how you arrived at your location, blurred vision, or seeing objects on the roadway that are not actually there.
To avoid fatigue driving, it’s important that you get adequate sleep on a daily basis, stay hydrated, and eat nutrient dense foods. Some examples include: fruits and vegetables, non-caffeinated beverages, lean proteins, whole grains and complex carbs, and nuts.
Consider taking short breaks throughout the day as this will allow your brain to refocus and give your body a moment of rest on high activity workdays. A short break also provides a great opportunity to walk around your vehicle to ensure its still operating in a safe condition. If you’re driving and feelings of fatigue start to creep up on you, pull off the road in a safe location, stop driving, and contact dispatch for instruction. Remember, there is no substitute for quality sleep.
DD Technique #5: Cut Out Distractions
Distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off your primary task of driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash. Most distracted driving accidents today arise from behaviors such as talking or texting on the phone, eating or drinking, attempting to do company paperwork while in motion, or fiddling with the stereo. When driving, it’s important that you try to minimize all distractions so you can focus on safe driving and follow safe driving procedures.
DD Technique #6: Observing as You Drive
Have you ever arrived at a destination and realized you had no idea how you got there? This often occurs when we’re not paying attention to our surroundings as we drive. Observing while driving means you’re not only consciously paying attention to the roadway in front of you, but you’re also scanning for brake lights, potential obstacles or hazards, checking your mirrors, and being aware of your surroundings. Observing as you drive, provides your brain with the information you need to make a safe, planned response should a hazard occur. Remember, when encountering a hazard we must perceive what the risks are, analyze the risk, formulate a response, and initiate that response all within a split second. When actively observing, you’ll be more aware of those surroundings and be in a better position to make the right call.