Posted by: safedriver | November 21, 2014

Take a break – stay awake

one way at nightAs written for The Insurance Hunters. Please visit their blog.

I sometimes wonder what life would be like if we weren’t so busy. Would we be bored or would we learn to become more relaxed? Whether you’re busy with your job, your family or your pastimes, it can take quite a toll on us and cause fatigue. If these activities also cause you to drive, what can you do to combat fatigued driving?

What does fatigued driving or drowsy driving do to us? When our brain is tired it stops us from making proper decisions. It’s late getting messages to our eyes, hands and feet. Think of how you act at home when you’re tired. You may not be thinking clearly and may forget to do things. Now imagine that in the vehicle. Too dangerous to even consider, yet many people ignore the symptoms.

We need to recognize the early signs of fatigue. If you’re having a difficult time keeping your eyes open, extremely low energy, yawning a lot, drifting in your lane or have very little focus it’s time to do something different. Recognizing many of these signs before getting into your vehicle is best, but during some longer drives these symptoms begin to appear while you’re already in motion. So what are the common things drivers do to help stay alert while driving?

Many drivers will drink strong coffee, blow cold air on their face, play loud music and try to have a diverse conversation to help keep them alert. It may work, but only for a very short period of time. The best solution is sleep.  Find a safe place to pull over and rest. Find a parking lot, lock your doors and have that 15 to 20 minute nap. For many people, this little snooze refreshes them enough to become alert once again and become safe to drive. If you need more time than that, take it.

Now that’s all fine and dandy as a reactive solution, but let’s look at a proactive way to avoid fatigued driving altogether. Get plenty of rest before starting that long drive. Schedule breaks every couple of hours to allow you time to get out, stretch and perhaps take a washroom break. The best proactive solution is to share the driving with passengers, but do that before you get too tired. Avoid heavy meals before driving. Light snacks are better than a big meal. Apples are great to keep you alert and awake. And the last tip is to keep the temperature cool inside the vehicle. A very warm interior causes drowsiness.

I’m sure we all know stubborn drivers. They say they can handle while fatigued. Good drivers realize they can’t handle it. Having your eyes closed for just three seconds at 50 km/h (30 mph) means your vehicle travels roughly 40 metres. You’ll most likely pass through an intersection too and perhaps a stop sign or red light. I’m pretty certain you and your passengers deserve better. Take a break – stay awake.

Posted by: safedriver | November 11, 2014

How to save a buck…or a doe

deer crossingAs drivers we always have to be on the lookout for other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. In other words; all other road users. Sometimes we forget about the other road users – wildlife. Thousands and thousands of deer are struck and killed each year on our roads and many people are also killed or seriously injured after their vehicle collides with a deer. There are ways to avoid striking deer, so let’s get right to it.

During the months of October through January is the time of year deer are most active. This is because it’s their mating season. Rarely will you find deer moving alone. They often stay in packs so if you spot one deer, keep looking because you’ll most likely find more following closely behind. Keep an eye out for yellow warning signs indicating deer crossings. These signs are generally placed in areas deer have been known to populate. Even with these signs, deer could be anywhere; before or after that sign. Just because the sign is there, it doesn’t mean deer will line up at the sign and cross the road when it’s clear.

Since deer will often be roaming at dawn and dusk, you’ll need to change your driving habits during those times. Since speed limits are designed to be used under ideal conditions, we must remember that driving at night is not ideal. You’ll need to reduce speed each time your visibility is reduced. This reduced speed will give you more response time if you spot deer, or any other problem ahead of you.

To help spot deer sooner, keep moving your eyes from side to side while you drive. Since most deer will be in rural areas, this would include moving your eyes from treeline to treeline, not just the road surface. The sooner you can spot a deer, the sooner you can do something to avoid it. As soon as you spot a deer, never assume it will be afraid of your vehicle and won’t come in front of you. Immediately check your mirror and brake in a straight line. A swerve will often mean a collision against a tree, the deer itself or another vehicle. There is some belief that honking your horn will scare the deer to run away, but that’s questionable.

While it`s dark outside, use your high beam headlights whenever possible. The spray of your high beams will widen much more than regular low beam headlights. This wider spray will help you spot the deer sooner. Plus, their eyes will often glow when your headlights reach them.

The best thing to do when it comes to deer is be a proactive driver in these situations. Don’t wait for the deer to come out in your path. Find the deer early and respond early. You’re in charge; not the deer. If you do hit a deer, even slightly, never touch the deer. It may injure you or itself as it tries to get away. Safely park your vehicle at the side of the road and call police. So now you know what to do. And just think… this information most likely saved you at least a buck.

Posted by: safedriver | November 5, 2014

The winter driving quiz is here!

Hamilton 2-20140218-00744When it comes to winter driving most people deny they have any problems handling bad road conditions. Despite what we may think, winter weather comes and goes each year. We can’t do anything about the snow, ice and high winds, but we can learn to be prepared to make the best choices possible while driving.

Below is a short winter quiz to get you thinking positively and proactively about driving in this type of weather. Even if you get some questions incorrect, use the search function to the right of this page to see if you can find the explanations to the answers.


Look to the bottom of the page for answers…but not until you’re done the quiz. Good luck!


1. When should you begin preparing for winter?

a) After the first snowfall
b) Before the first snowfall
c) You don’t have to, just keep doing what you’re doing
d) When the authorities say to do so

2. After it snows, how much of your vehicle should you clear off?
a) Just enough to see out the front
b) Only the windows
c) All of it
d) None of it. The wind will blow off enough

3. If the roads are covered in snow and ice and you begin to slide, you should;
a) Do nothing and wait for the vehicle to stop
b) Steer where you want to go
c) Look and steer where you want to go
d) Adjust your speed, look and steer where you want to go

4. How should you position your vehicle in traffic on snow covered roads?
a) It doesn’t really matter
b) Beside another vehicle so the driver knows I’m there
c) Next to open space
d) Slightly ahead of the driver in the next lane so they can see me

5. What extra items should you keep in your vehicle during the winter season?
a) Bacon
b) Snowbrush, shovel and washer fluid
c) Snowbrush, shovel, washer fluid, extra warm clothes
d) Way too many items to list here

6. Why should you use winter tires in winter weather?
a) Better grip to slow down
b) Better grip to accelerate
c) Better grip to steer
d) All of the above

7. You’re planning to going out but the weather just got worse, should you…
a) Drive slower but keep going
b) Drive with your hazard lights on
c) Stay home until the road conditions are better
d) Just drive on the main roads behind the snow plow

8. When should you put on your winter tires?
a) After the first snowfall
b) When the temperature drops to 7 degrees Celsius (44 Fahrenheit) or below
c) When you find a sale on tires
d) During the first snowfall

9. Where does ice form the most in winter weather?
a) On any road when it’s cold
b) In your kitchen freezer
c) Shaded areas such as bridges and tunnels
d) Intersections

10. Four-wheel drive vehicles give you…
a) Traction to go
b) Traction to stop
c) No need to install winter tires
d) More power to go


How do you think you did? Check below for your answers and if you need further explanations, use the search function on the right side of this screen and search the topic. This is all about educating ourselves and becoming a safe driver. Hope you had fun!
1. b   2. c   3. d   4. c   5. d   6. d   7. c   8. b   9. c   10. d

Posted by: safedriver | November 3, 2014

How distracted driving really affects your abilities


As written for The Insurance Bureau of Canada. Please visit their blog;

Remember as a kid you kept hearing the same things from your parents over and over again? The interesting thing is after some time, we tended to ignore what our parents said until what they were warning us about actually happened. This also seems to be the trend when it comes to distracted driving.

We know talking and texting is dangerous while driving. Every Canadian province has some form of ban for using hand-held electronic devices while driving. Although these laws are common knowledge, most people don’t take them seriously. Perhaps they feel they won’t get caught or it isn’t really that serious a law. Whatever their reasoning, education is required.

Having two hands on the wheel will help a driver steer more effectively, but it’s more than that. In order to drive safely you need to think about driving. If your mind is elsewhere, you’re not concentrating enough. Remember when someone was speaking with you and you began daydreaming for a few seconds? You actually stopped paying attention to the conversation. Being mentally distracted is often ignored but that needs to change if you want to drive safely.

There are many things that can take your thoughts away from driving. Drinking coffee or water or eating takes very little thought. You rarely have to look away from the driving scene. However, if you spill on yourself, that’s another story. You’ll look down and think about what to do next. Now your thoughts have changed. Suggestion: Wait until you’re stopped before you drink or eat. It can wait.

New vehicle technologies are also distracting drivers. The touch screens in most new vehicles take the driver’s attention away from driving while the vehicle is in motion. As a suggestion, pre-set your music so you know you won’t have to while driving or let your passenger work those controls. Speaking of passengers, they can be a huge distraction for the driver.

Set up rules with your passengers to keep them from distracting you. Give kids things to do, such as books and games. Books on tape are also great, but provide earphones so the noise won’t distract you. For longer trips, plan where to stop for breaks. This helps everyone re-focus before getting back in the vehicle.

As you can see, distracted driving is more than just electronic devices. It’s about keeping your thoughts on driving and nothing else. Decide what distracts you from focusing on driving and make the necessary changes. You’ll appreciate it and so will your passengers.



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.

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