Posted by: safedriver | October 30, 2014

Man…if only I had a car-B-Q

carBQ1I really enjoy teaching driver training to just about anyone. Not only do I spend time and energy giving out detailed information, but I also enjoy having fun with it. Recently in one of the classes I was teaching at Young Drivers of Canada, we discussed what can cause your vehicle to lose traction. My students were creative in their answers and at some point, it got interesting.

Besides the typical answers of snow, ice and rain, my students also came up with gravel, leaves and debris. When I asked what kind of debris, I was thinking they would have said flattened boxes or garbage on the road. Nope. They came up with road kill. Of course a creative class like this would come up with this answer, so I went with it.

I continued to play along and asked them, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if you could scoop it up and then cook it on your ‘Car-B-Q’?” I’m not talking about a barbeque that looks like part of a car (although that would be cool) . Imagine a device in your vehicle that can barbeque food while you drive. The heat from your engine can travel through pipes under your vehicle all the way to your trunk and cook food like a slow cooker. What a fantastic idea they thought.

Imagine having a hot breakfast ready for you when you get to work. Or perhaps a hot meat ready after you make that long commute home from work. No more intensive work in the kitchen after you arrive home. You just have to open up that ‘Car-B-Q’, grab a plate and off you go.

With millions of vehicles on the road each day, perhaps I should invent such a thing and see if I can find investors to make this dream a reality. Imagine the smell of beef or pork – or squirrel – wafting through your vehicle as you drive. I can almost taste it now.

Halloween1As written for The Insurance Hunters. Please visit their blog.

Growing up, there are a few times of the year that kids really enjoy. Christmas, birthdays and of course, Halloween makes the list. Let’s not even talk about last day of school! These three favourite times of the year creates excitement galore for kids. Except for the presents associated with Christmas and birthdays, Halloween has to be one of the most exciting times for kids, but what does it do for adults, especially drivers?

As the kids dress up for their yearly trek house to house, they pose huge risks to any driver heading out onto the roadways. The excited child won’t always be looking all ways before crossing the street and rarely will they cross at the corner. What can we, as drivers do to reduce the risk of injury or death to our trick or treater’s?

Perhaps the best advice is to avoid driving that evening completely. If your vehicle is safely parked for the evening, you’ll reduce the risk of potential injury to these kids. However, if you do have to drive, you’ll need to make some changes to your everyday driving techniques.

Remember most kids will be in the residential areas so you’ll need to reduce your speed more than normal. It’s a common practice to drive around 40 km/h in residential areas, but for this night, why not reduce it to roughly 25 – 30 km/h? The reduced speed can give you more response time in case a child suddenly darts out in front of you.

To give yourself a better chance to respond to darting kids glance underneath vehicles you’re approaching to look for feet of pedestrians that may walk in front of you. From a distance, you’ll be able to see if someone is standing in front of a larger vehicle, especially if you can’t see through the windows of the vehicle. This works well in daylight, but what can you do when nightfall hits to help spot these ghosts and goblins?

Moving your eyes from building to building looking for kids helps you spot them well before they reach the roadway. The sooner you can spot the trick or treater’s, the sooner you can reduce speed or honk to warn them. Remember a couple of loud honks will get the attention of excited kids at any time of year.

If you need to go out during Halloween night and since the sidewalks will be full of kids, position your vehicle to avoid backing out of your driveway. Backing into your driveway will give you better visibility when leaving at any time of the year. The blind area behind the vehicle is much larger than the one in the front, so leaving facing forward will give you a better view of those excited kids who may be running across your intended path.

Even though you may not be going out trick or treating this Halloween night, you still have a responsibility to ensure those who do go out can do it safely.

Posted by: safedriver | October 23, 2014

Can you believe 10 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver?

CWD10One of the most common conversation topics many people can relate to is the weather. If we had no weather, many people would just stop making small-talk with others. It’s a common element within our society. Something else millions of people can relate to is bad drivers. We’ve all seen them, been in the same vehicle with them and in some cases, have actually been labeled a ‘bad driver’ by someone else. Well, you’re about to witness a few more during the 10th season of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network.

It’s hard for me to believe it’s already been almost 10 years since I was first approached to be a judge on the popular Discovery Network’s series. The first year was 2005 and was shot in the winter season. I think winter weather makes many people a ‘bad driver’, but what makes anyone the worst?PANEL

There are a few things to think about. Did these drivers get bad advice over the years and followed it thinking it would make them a good driver? Did their good driving habits just get replaced by poor habits? Did their driving attitude change over time? Do they lack logic? Or did they just squeak through the testing system and get a licence? Whatever their reasons for being a bad driver, things need to change before they or someone else get hurt…or worse.

In this 10th season of Canada’s Worst Driver we find a variety of drivers. It almost seems like it’s the same problems year after year. However, let’s hope this year’s list of participants will improve over time. Participants this year include Chanie who never really learned to drive. She went for her licence after being behind the wheel once. Yes, once. First of all, why would any of her family allow this to happen and secondly, the examiner screwed up big time for signing off on this person’s “ability”. The antics this driver does behind the wheel will make you shake your head. I’d say, grow up and take responsibility or stop driving altogether. Let’s see how she does on the challenges.

The next person is George. He believes he can make up his own rules while driving, including watching TV on his phone while driving. With new legislation most likely coming through in his home province, he won’t last. Either he’ll lose his licence, can’t afford the insurance or crash severely. The choices are his.

Ian comes next. This one seems odd as he drives for a living, yet he is a nervous driver. In one year he had 6 vehicle crashes and managed to write-off 2 vehicles. Refusing to take any responsibility for his actions, he blames his crashes on anything else and everyone else. It’s time for Ian to mature as well.

Jason is another person you have to scratch your head at when you see him drive. Jason is unaware of what he’s actually doing with his vehicle. He lacks focus and has short term memory problems. He’s banged into so many things, including his house! His driving is so bad that he’s been pulled over for impaired driving, even though he was NOT impaired. By the way, he now uses duct tape to keep his car together. Maybe it’s time for a bus pass.

A young, irresponsible person is next; Mariah. Mariah will drive after drinking regularly, according to her and she ignored speed limits and other rules of the road. Her monthly insurance is $500, plus the speeding and parking tickets she receives. I think she needs more help with her lifestyle than with her driving. Let’s hope she either learns how to change her driving ability or stops driving before she or someone else gets hurt.

Santana is the next participant. Although she’s from a small town, in the course of 4 years, she has estimated that she has hit between 200 and 300 things. It’s time to stop driving, change how you drive or take professional training. She was “self-taught” when she first attempted her licence. How can someone teach themselves when they have absolutely no ability? Santana proves that theory. Good luck!

Siham is up next. Roughly 4 years ago she was in a multiple vehicle rear crash. Since then she has lost her nerve to drive, although she still drives. Her driving gets her so upset that she loses her patience regularly and swears so often that it stops her from staying focused whatsoever. Can you say therapy? She’s determined to overcome this fear, but time will tell.

Lastly there’s Tyler. Tyler drives so slowly and takes a long time to make turns. He also drifts in and out of lanes regularly. He’s so timid behind the wheel that he will stop at a green light to see if anyone is coming. His actions get other drivers upset at him so much that it causes Tyler to get stressed out even more. The strange thing is that although Tyler has trouble dealing with the pressure of driving, it’s interesting to note that he’s a licenced pilot. Talk about pressure.

So there you have it. Season 10’s list of participants. Although they do challenges each and every episode, the real challenges happen on public roads. Will they be able to change their ways? Do they want to change their ways? Can they change their ways? Time will tell. Hopefully they’ll make the changes or seek professional help.

Posted by: safedriver | October 22, 2014

Why would I check my mirror? I’ve already been there.

lightsLet’s face it; we tend to look at ourselves in the mirror. It’s not really about being vane. It’s more like wanting to know that you look presentable without having any food still stuck in your teeth. Some people check the mirror to see if their hair is still looking good. I don’t have that problem any longer. But there’s still another reason to look in the mirror, especially while driving.

Many drivers check their rear view mirror as they drive but maybe not often enough. A good way to determine if you’re checking your mirror often enough is to count between checks. A good measurement is checking your mirror between 5 and 8 seconds. Some people say 10 seconds is good too. That’d fine, but to judge that time you should count to yourself and make a conscious decision when to check your mirror. This time frame is roughly one city block. And you may be asking; what could go wrong in one city block that makes me need to check my mirror? Good question.

For each block you travel you’re also going through intersections. After checking your mirror, a driver may pull out from that intersection and approach you from behind. Checking your mirror often will keep you up to date with what’s happening behind you. You’ll also be able to tell if the vehicle behind is gaining on you. When I ask my students that I’m teaching at Young Drivers of Canada, they’re pretty good with knowing that the image of the vehicle behind gets larger in the mirror if they are gaining on you.

Other times to check your mirror would be before and after turning. You want to see if a cyclist is coming up on your side before you make a turn. Perhaps another driver is trying to sneak beside your vehicle to make that same turn. Checking the mirror after the turn allows you to see what’s behind you, now that you’re on another road. One of the least times many drivers check their rear view mirror is while stopped. Most drivers tend to look around at most anything… except the mirror. If you need to move out of the way for an emergency vehicle or to avoid a rear crash, you’ll need to check your mirror often while stopped.

IMG_20141009_122953Now that we’ve talked about the rear view mirror, let’s talk briefly about the side mirrors. One reason to use your side mirror is to help you reverse into a parking space. Your side mirror can help you spot how close your vehicle is getting to that smaller parked next to you. Another reason can be seen from this photo. The cyclist approaching from the side is distracted with their cell phone. Checking the side mirror lets me know it’s not safe to pull out. If I don’t check and the cyclist is distracted, a crash could happen.

Checking the side mirror can be beneficial if a larger vehicle is directly behind you and completely fills your rear view mirror. The side mirrors can give you added views to what may be approaching from behind. For example, if you wanted to change lanes and a large transport truck was tailgating you, drifting slightly toward either side of your lane will allow you to see behind you through your side mirror.

Speaking of a large vehicle behind you, let’s say you’re stopped in traffic and a large vehicle is stopped behind you at your bumper. Since it may be difficult to see through that vehicle to know what’s approaching from behind them, you could be involved with the most commonly reported collision in North America – the rear crash.

Once you notice the larger vehicle is approaching from behind, you could begin to creep forward and drift to either side of your lane. Once you’re in that position, you’re now able to see through your side mirror to know if you need to get out of the way of a multiple vehicle collision. In order to be able to creep forward, you should leave extra space in front while stopped. More information of that technique can be found here.

Regardless of why you’re using your mirrors, make sure you are. I once had a licenced driver as a student who wasn’t checking their mirrors at all. When I brought it to their attention, they replied; “Why would I check my mirror? I’ve already been there”.

Posted by: safedriver | October 20, 2014

Preparing your vehicle for winter starts in the fall


As written for The Insurance Hunters. Please visit their blog.

Procrastination; it’s something many people do. I’ve often joked by saying I was going to make a list of reasons why I procrastinate, but figure I’ll do that later. Some things we can get by with putting off, while other things should be done sooner rather than later. Preparing your vehicle for winter is something that should never be put off. When do you prepare your vehicle for winter driving, when the snow flies or before it flies?

One of the guidelines I’ve put into place is to have my winter tires placed on my vehicle well before the snow falls. Winter tires aren’t just for snow. They work better than all-season tires when the temperature drops to 7° Celsius and colder. The rubber of a winter tire is more flexible than all-season tires, which allows your tires to grip the road better. Make it a habit of putting them on in October and taking them off in April when the temperature becomes warm enough for all-season tires. Cold weather drops tire pressure, so ensure you check the tire pressure on a weekly basis.

Another good suggestion is to ensure you have a winter driving survival kit in your trunk. You can buy such a kit, but you can also make one up at home and place the items in a duffle bag in your trunk. Items you should include would be a long handle snow brush with scraper, extra  washer fluid, a blanket, booster cables, shovel, flares, candle with lighter and either a mixture of salt/sand or kitty litter for traction. Consider these items part of your vehicle’s essentials for safe winter driving.

A major part of winter preparation for your vehicle is a pre-winter vehicle inspection, with emphasis on pre-winter. Taking your vehicle to visit your mechanic is a good way to ensure you have a lot of peace of mind before the snow and ice hit the roads. Have your vehicle checked for adequate fluid levels since the cold weather can easily affect them. A strong battery is important since the cold weather draws a lot of power from the battery. Once the temperature drops below freezing your battery will reduce its ability to generate power which could lead to your car not starting.

Ensuring all your mechanical components are working properly all year round is import, but with colder temperatures, no one really wants a vehicle break down when the temperatures are freezing. Checking your windshield wipers is something many drivers rarely think of. Old, dry and worn out wipers create streaks and poor visibility. Replacing them annually is a good idea, so why not do it before winter when they are in top shape?

Preparation of your vehicle also means preparation for yourself. Adding a personal survival kit that could include items such as an extra pair of socks, extra gloves, hat, non-perishable food items for energy and, believe it or not, toilet paper. Sometimes when you’re stuck, you’ll still need to go.

Posted by: safedriver | October 14, 2014

When did blocking drivers become a driving skill?

027Ever since I was a kid I was taught manners. I was encouraged to say please and thank you and hold the door open for the next person. It’s something I also have taught my kids. I take pride in that and it’s a great feeling when someone comments to me at how polite and well-mannered my kids are. I’m hoping they take those skills into adulthood. Have you?

As I make the trek to work each morning I constantly see drivers leave their manners at home. Their actions remind me of a two year old with a toy and other child comes toward them. Do the words “mine” mean anything to you? These drivers fail to share the space near them. They begin to tailgate so the driver in the next lane, who needs to make a lane change, can’t squeeze between them and the lead driver. I wonder if they act that selfish in real life.

I wonder how they feel when they’re the driver who needs to make that much needed lane change and the drivers in the next lane begin to tailgate and block them from doing so. When did “blocking” become a driving skill? I must have missed that class when I became a driving instructor in 1988. I must have taken the “cooperative driver” class instead. When did driving to your destination become a race? Driving is a journey, not a race. Enjoy the ride.

If you’re a cooperative driver, you’re helping other drivers do exactly what you want to do – reach your destination safely. Blocking other drivers may lead into road rage or perhaps even a collision. Sharing the road often creates a more positive driving environment. Think how you feel when you do something nice for another driver and they wave ‘thank you’ to you. It makes you feel good. On the other hand, think of how you feel when they don’t wave ‘thank you’ after your good deed. Do you feel annoyed or perhaps even angry?

Becoming a cooperative driver, especially on your way to work in the morning, helps you start your day off in a positive mood. That positive mood can help you become more productive. Being an aggressive driver can often lead you into becoming uncooperative in the workplace.

It’s time to put the driving shoe on the other foot. Be kind to others and they may very well be kind to you and others on the road as well. And, I’m sure as your parents have often said to you, you need to get along with others.

Posted by: safedriver | October 7, 2014

Listen to them…they might actually know something

Burlington-20130619-00370Anytime you share information with someone and they benefit from it, it seems to make it worthwhile. For all of the years I’ve volunteered coaching sports or working with Scouts Canada, it all seems worthwhile. Well, I can honestly say that with all my years as a driving instructor with Young Drivers of Canada, I know I’ve made a difference.

Recently, one of my students that I’m teaching in class came to me with a story of how my training saved him and his fiancé. He was a passenger and, with the techniques I had showed he and his classmates, he was able to predict the future actions of the driver ahead of him in the lane to his left.

They had space beside them on the right, as was taught in class, and as they continued another driver came up on their right and quickly passed them and swerved into their lane just ahead of them. At the same time as that driver did their actions, the other driver to their left decided to switch lanes and come into that same lane. My student’s fiancé quickly moved into the right lane to avoid them both. She took his advice and when all of this was happening, she took action. Impressive, right?

Knowing that we can make a difference in someone’s life is important to many of us. I was thrilled that he has taken driving seriously and I was also thrilled that his fiancé was open-minded enough to follow the advice of a novice driver. Well done to both.

I remember when I first became a driving instructor with Young Drivers of Canada. I was 24 years old and had been driving for just over 7 years. After a couple of years of teaching I began retraining licensed drivers. It was a little intimidating to explain driving techniques that were different to someone that had been driving longer than I was alive. I just remembered that I knew information that they did not and it was my job to share it with them, regardless of much driving experience I had and they had. I just knew things they didn’t.

So, the next time someone with less experience gives you some advice, listen to them. They may actually know more about that particular subject than you.


Posted by: safedriver | September 25, 2014

How patient are you behind the wheel?

mannersWhen I speak with people about my job as a driving instructor with Young Drivers of Canada they often say they aren’t patient enough to teach someone how to drive. I guess my demeanor is regularly calm enough to do this. I am a patient person by nature. I guess you would have to be patient if you teach someone to drive, but I’m also patient enough to coach 6 year olds in soccer, baseball and be a leader in Scouts Canada for the same age group. Part that keeps me patient is knowing what to expect from those I’m with. Are you a patient person by nature?

Many drivers seem to lose their patience while in traffic. What has caused them to act this way? Are they late for their appointment or job? Did they have a bad day and are taking it out on others? Or perhaps they just don’t seem to want to remain patient? I guess only they would know the answers to those questions. Being patient in traffic not only helps you keep your blood pressure down, but also helps you make more logical choices while behind the wheel.

If you want to remain patient while driving, here are some tips. Leave early enough to reach your destination so if something slows you down, you’ll still be on time. Keep the weather in mind when planning and also time of day. Rush hour is never a good time to make a short trip, so if you can, use an alternate route that may be less congested or change the time of day you’re making that trip.

Another thing to remember is the other drivers aren’t doing things to annoy you on purpose. When I was a judge on Canada’s Worst Driver during season one, we had a participant who actually believed drivers were annoying him intentionally. Once he realized the drivers who were also on the show were bad enough on their own without trying to annoy people on purpose, he took a different thought to the actions of other road users. This helped to calm him down while driving. He realized he didn’t need to take their driving ability personally.

To remain calm and patient while driving take a deep breath and relax. You’ll still get there, but you can’t go any faster than the traffic around you. And even if you did get there sooner, it’s only a matter of a couple of minutes. Is that worth the stress you put yourself in? Typically, when we feel stressed we tend to replay what caused that stress in our mind. This only adds to that stress behind the wheel. Let it go. Ranting about what causes your stress just gets you all worked up again.

The best way to remain calm and patient while driving is not to let it build up inside you. Don’t sweat the little stuff. If you let those little things float away, the larger issues won’t seem so big. This way you’ll be able to stay calm while driving and make those logical choices. Each day take a moment when you’re relaxed and calm to think about why those little things shouldn’t bother you and think about ways you can stay relaxed and patient while driving. You have so much to gain while staying patient behind the wheel and so much to lose if you don’t, but it’s up to you to make these changes.

Posted by: safedriver | September 23, 2014

The smart way to safely deal with school buses

school busAs written for The Insurance Hunters. Please visit their blog.

Remember the saying “You can’t see the forest because of the trees”? I think that’s very true for many drivers throughout our community when it comes to school buses. Many drivers know what to do when asked, but many times fail to do it. It’s almost as if they don’t see those big yellow buses. How can drivers improve their safe driving when near school buses? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The stopping distance from a school bus when they have their lights flashing and the stop arm out will vary depending on the jurisdiction you live in. When approaching from behind the bus, you need to stop well back, in some cases anywhere from 6 to 20 metres from the rear of the bus, which will allow the driver of the bus to see you in their mirrors so they can safely let the kids off the bus.

If you’re approaching the bus from the opposite direction, you must stop far enough away that will allow the kids to safely cross the street to get on or off the bus. Avoid stopping so close the kids become reluctant to cross in front of your vehicle. This is the general rule in most jurisdictions, but check your jurisdiction to ensure you’re making the correct choices. The only time you wouldn’t have to stop when approaching a stopped school bus from the opposite direction is if there is a concrete or grass median down the centre of the road.

So now that we’ve all been refreshed with the rules, let’s improve our ability to spot these school buses. To some, that may sound kind of strange. How could you not spot a big, yellow bus? Easy; drivers get distracted in thought as they head to work each day and also when they come home. Keep looking well ahead while driving and from building to building to help you spot the buses. Expect they will stop so you’re prepared to stop as well. Be aware of what’s happening behind you at all times to know if you can make a safe stop if the bus does.

If you’re dropping your kids off at school, find a place that won’t interfere with school buses. They have specific drop off areas at each school, so clogging up those areas just isn’t a good idea for anyone. Perhaps dropping your kids off down the street from the school or around the corner from school will work better for them. And besides, why would you want to drive near a school bus that is letting off 40 or 50 kids at one time? That would slow you down as well.

The fines and demerit points alone for passing a stopped school bus with their lights flashing and stop arm out are severe enough to annoy any driver, but the thought of hitting a child as they walked out from in front of the bus send shivers down my spine, as I’m sure it does with you.

Posted by: safedriver | September 12, 2014

Missing your turn doesn’t have to happen…

procrastinating2Planning your route No one is perfect. We all make mistakes from time to time. However, after making a mistake do you learn from it? Can you think rationally after the mistake to pull it all together and complete what you wanted to do? Some people panic after making – in their mind – a major mistake. But it doesn’t have to be that way…especially while driving.

Many drivers each day miss their turn. For whatever reason, they drive straight instead of make the left turn. So now what? Do they panic and stop and then back up into the intersection? Some have done that and that just creates a bigger problem for them and those around them. So what can you do if you do miss your turn?

If you’re in the left lane and saw the street sign you were looking for as you passed through the intersection, you could go around the block to your left and rejoin up with the road you were looking for. If you’re in the right lane, you can also go around the block. By doing three right turns, it will bring you back to your intended street. Other options is to go further up the road and just turn around with the help of a parking lot or gas station. If you’re able, you could do a 3 point turn if it’s required and safe to do so.

The above mentioned solutions are really based on making the mistake to begin with, but what can you do to help you ensure you’re always on track? The best thing is to plan your route ahead of time. On a regular daily commute it’s pretty easy to get to your destination. Early lane changes allow you to be in the proper lane well in advance so you won’t miss your turn. This is especially important if there’s heavy traffic.

If you’re going to a destination you haven’t been to before, it’s important to plan your route ahead of time. Use the old fashioned paper map to help you figure out where you’re going. They toughest part may be trying to fold the map back up the way you found it. Once you’ve laid out your route with the map, write down the key points of the route you’ll take. That’s less distracting than having a map open while driving. Keep the notes brief with large writing. This helps you glance at it without having to take your eyes off the road very long. Also write the name of the street that is just before your turn. This way, once you pass that street you know the next one is yours.

Other things to consider when planning your route would be the time of day. If you’re traveling during rush hour ensure you do early lane changes. Don’t rush yourself if this is the case. If you can plan your trip so you can avoid rush hour, go for it. It will reduce your travel time and also help reduce the stress you may have. Also, see if you can find the local radio station that has the traffic reports. Most will give updated traffic reports every ten minutes or so.

If you’re not alone, involve your passenger and let them become your navigator. Ask them to give you the directions ahead of time to allow you time to focus on driving. So as you can see, planning your route doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. You just have to plan your planning.

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