Posted by: safedriver | August 19, 2014

Be careful, we know who you are

1919630_714766208596804_6969920507047309994_nGrowing up with red hair, I was easily spotted by people I knew. It was a little tough to hide in a crowd. One of my kids also has red hair and it’s fairly long. He too gets recognized by others in a crowd. People would come up to him and say they saw him at a park or at an event, even though he didn’t see them. I think the same can be said with drivers. People who drive the average vehicle with no distinctive markings can blend in with the crowd very easily, but those with unique markings or company logos will stand out. This would mostly be true with commercial vehicles.

For those drivers who drive a vehicle for a living they are in the public spotlight as many people can recognize their vehicle. The signs on the vehicle serve as advertising to help generate business for the company they work for. However, if done incorrectly, it can also stop potential customers from using that company.

A friend of mine happened to witness someone driving a commercial vehicle passing her and her family and as they passed, the driver threw garbage out of the driver’s side window. Now, littering is a very bad habit at any time. Littering from your vehicle is just wrong. Can we assume the person driving this vehicle wasn’t the owner of the vehicle or of the? If they were the company owner would they have acted that way? With a company logo splashed on the door of the vehicle, it was pretty easy to find out who they are.

The friend of mine who had taken this photo emailed the company, along with the licence plate so the owner knew who it was. It’s not good public relations when you do this. It not only hurts your environment and your community, it also hurts the company that you work for. The garbage the driver threw out of their window landed on the vehicles behind them. Could that have caused those drivers to suddenly swerve as they saw objects coming at them and possibly hit other vehicles? Absolutely. If a collision happened, other charges would have been laid.

If you’re driving a company vehicle, think of it as driving a billboard. You’re driving an advertising sign. Everyone knows where you work. If you do something illegal or wrong, people will find out. When word gets out, people stop using those companies because of what they’ve done. Word of mouth is a huge way to advertise; good or bad.

Years ago I had taken a cab ride from the local airport to my home. It was a short drive at roughly 30 minutes. The driver of the cab was driving over 100 km/h on city streets at 1:00 in the morning. I felt completely at risk and immediately asked the driver to slow down. He did, but not by much. The next day I emailed the company from my Young Drivers of Canada email address. The general manager replied back to apologize and attached the discipline letter sent to the driver to show that he was being disciplined. For the most part, I was satisfied.

Unfortunately for my friend, the company she contacted failed to reply to her. Did they discipline in house and forget to reply, or did they just ignore it? In the long run, it will be their loss. Not only did they throw garbage out the window, they also threw money out the window.

Posted by: safedriver | August 12, 2014

How much should we rely on new vehicle technology?

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

We all know how fast our society moves forward with technology. Recently I realized I’ve had a cell phone for 20 years. But boy, have they changed over those years. I was excited when I could text instead of spend the money on a long distance call when I was away from my city and needed to contact my family. Cell phones aren’t the only things that technology has changed. Vehicles are so different that they were just a handful of years ago. How has their technology affected you? Let’s do a before and after we had these new technologies for vehicles.

mirror indicatorA number of new technologies have back up cameras. Before these cameras were made available, you had to either turn around to see what’s behind you while backing or use your rear view mirror. By the way, turning around is better as you get to use your peripheral vision to notice movement before the person gets behind your vehicle. The rear view camera can only show you the rear of the vehicle. Danger from behind doesn’t always originate from the rear; it can also come from the sides. By the time you spot the pedestrian behind you, it could be too late.

Some vehicles have flashing lights on their side mirrors that activate when someone is approaching your blind spot. Before these sensors were made available, you had to check your mirror and blind spot before changing lanes. What happens if the sensor is covered with mud or snow and can’t sense that another vehicle is in your blind spot? Will you take it for granted your blind spot is clear? It’s amazing how we can get used to our conveniences in our vehicle and when it’s broken or when we drive a different vehicle, we feel lost.

For these types of technologies, drivers may develop weak habits and trust the technology and forget how to do those things themselves. Is that the proper direction drivers should go in with all of this new technology? If drivers remember to use their mirrors regularly, you’ll know if another vehicle is entering your blind spot. Keep your short term memory sharp and never drop your guard.

Other technology makes driving a vehicle and servicing a vehicle so much easier for the driver and vehicle owner. Technology has made vehicles smoother to build, drive and maintain. The cost of maintenance has been reduced in many cases because of this advanced technology the automakers have done. However, should drivers also drop their guard because they feel nothing will go wrong with their vehicle?

This advanced technology was made by humans. Humans make mistakes. The advice to all drivers and vehicle owners is not to drop your guard with maintenance either. New technology for vehicles is amazing and that makes driving these vehicles awesome. However, take the responsibility that something may still go wrong and you’ll need to take over. Your brain is the best technology sometimes.

Posted by: safedriver | August 7, 2014

Turning left on a red light?

IMG_20140807_104856If you think about it, there are a lot of rules to learn when you’re learning how to drive. I’ve had many people ask me if certain rules still applied as they did when they first learned to drive. Sometimes, what they thought was a rule never was. Perhaps they were given wrong advice or what they thought they were told wasn’t exactly what they remembered. However, there are some rules that some drivers were never really taught. Did you know you can turn left on a red light in many jurisdictions?

Most of us already know that turning right on a red light is common practice in many jurisdictions. The rules still apply; come to a legal stop, look for a sign that may prohibit such a turn, yield to pedestrians and other vehicles, proceed when safe to do so. Simple enough, right? The purpose of this is to help keep traffic moving along to help reduce congestion. Visibility is a huge part of whether it’s allowed at certain intersections. For the same reasons, left turns at red lights are also allowed. But there are still some rules which need to be followed.

For those jurisdictions where it’s allowed, it’s usually permitted when you’re turning left from a one way street onto another one way street. If you think about it, it’s like making a right turn on a red light – but in a mirror image. You start from the lane closest to the curb. You begin turning when the curb begins to turn. You enter the first lane around the corner, closest to the curb. Sounds like a right turn, correct? And it also sounds like a left turn from a one way street onto another one way street.

There are some jurisdictions which also allow left turns at a red light from a one way street onto a two way street. Those can be a little trickier, but fully legal. Again, you must stop legally at the red light before proceeding. You must also look for a sign that prohibits the turn, yield right of way to those with a green light and proceed when safe to do so. To find out if it’s legal in your jurisdiction, check with your local authorities.

Knowing the rules of where you drive not only allows you to remain free of violations, but can also help traffic to keep moving along in a safe manner…including yourself.

Posted by: safedriver | August 6, 2014

A discussion regarding e-bikes

ebike 2There seems to be some issue about a road vehicle lately that is causing some discussions in many communities. E-bikes are more and more common for commuters since gas prices have gone higher. The problem seems to be, are they a scooter or a bicycle, or something in between and where should these riders ride these vehicles?

Riders of e-bikes can reach speeds of up to 32 km/h. Many have taken these vehicles onto pedestrian and bike paths, which can make it very risky for pedestrians along the way. Keeping these vehicles on public roads can also make it dangerous for the riders of e-bikes as their speed is often 50% of what the drivers who pass them are doing. Some people wish to have these vehicles off those pedestrian/bike paths as they feel the danger is too high for pedestrians. I fully understand their concerns, but perhaps there are other solutions to consider.

ebike 1Typically, e-bikes can travel on any road that bicycles can travel on. Certain municipalities may prohibit these e-bikes, even though they allow bicycles. Part of the problem with that scenario is there are many bicycle riders who can also reach speeds of 30 km/h and above while they ride on bicycle paths and in bicycle lanes, so why not e-bikes? That’s a good question and not one to ignore.

Why not educate the riders of e-bikes to help them stay safe on the roads and near pedestrians? Learning to share the road with all road users is the responsibility of all road users. They need to constantly use their mirrors, signal their intentions, yield their right of way and take it when safe to do so. The penalties are the same for the riders of bicycles and for the rides of e-bikes, so each rider needs to know, based upon their jurisdiction. (What are e bikes?)

Sometimes the riders of e-bikes are caught in the middle. Their device is often too slow for public roads, but too fast for public walking and biking paths. So where should they go? If they are prohibited on pathways, give them another safe alternative. The key word here is safe.

For safety reasons, e-bikes should be allowed in bicycle lanes. If the rider comes up to another cyclist, they should pass when it is safe to do so. Just like any other road user. If a quicker cyclist comes upon a slower moving one, they pass when safe to do so. Why not the same for riders of an e-bike? One of the purposes of bicycle lanes is to allow those riders a safer place to be and to keep some space between them and motor vehicles. That plan is working, for the most part. Riders of e-bikes should also have the same benefits since they have similar concerns.

Most of these riders are conscious of the pedestrians near them and keep their speeds down, but there are a few that seem to wreck it for everyone else. Do we need a law because of those few instead of rewarding the masses because they are more aware of the risks and adjust their driving accordingly? I see someone who lives in my community travel safely each day in the bicycle lane. They signal turns and yield right of way when required. I’d hate to penalize someone like that because of the few who are careless and reckless.

Posted by: safedriver | July 25, 2014

Technology and distractions – what have we done!

IMG_20140725_095804As written for The Insurance Hunters. Please visit their blog.

I currently have the pleasure of being able to drive two new vehicles; one for work and one for pleasure. Both of them have new technology within the seating compartment that makes driving…shall we say…different than it was a mere ten years ago. Although some of these technologies may seem cool to have, they can add to distracted driving if used at the wrong time.

Remember when we just had the stereo in the vehicle? All you had to do was find the best six FM and best six AM stations, program them into the stereo and you were set. Now, you can program dozens of stations and that doesn’t even mention satellite radio. You can now plug in an mp3 to your vehicle and it will play hundreds of songs you’ve got saved in it over the car’s stereo speakers. Not only can you have more choices to the music, you get to decide which songs to listen to! Although that sounds cool, it’s also a distraction. Having just a few choices made it less distracting for drivers to choose their music. This allowed the driver to stay focused on their driving task.

The touch screen that many vehicles are getting will also allow you in many vehicles to see your text messages while your vehicle is stopped. This is provided you have Bluetooth capabilities. The Bluetooth capabilities also means you can have your GPS on the same screen while you’re driving. What happened to keep your eyes on the road? There are more electronic distractions that seem to be “standard features” with many new vehicles, but will they create a new distraction for drivers? Chances are it will…unless the drivers can control themselves.

When Bluetooth came out it was “sold” to drivers so they could keep their hands on the wheel while driving. That’s great, but you really drive with your mind and your eyes. Some of these technologies lead the driver’s eyes away from the driving task and focus their attention at the distraction. Perhaps we’ve gone backwards with our technology? Perhaps we need to “dumb it down” so drivers have less to distract them while they’re driving.

Until the automakers can make the vehicles less distracting to drive – perhaps make everything unusable while the vehicle is in motion – we as drivers need to control the technological distractions. If it’s the music, pre-program the songs you want to listen to so you can avoid making changes while driving. Turn off your Bluetooth while driving, especially when traffic is congested so you can focus on the driving task.

Even though you may have your hands on the wheel most of the time, with too many distractions already built into the vehicle, it really becomes more mind over matter as whether you can stay focused enough while driving. It’s either that, or go back to driving that 1974 Volkswagen Beetle where all it had was an AM/FM radio and a heater.

Posted by: safedriver | July 24, 2014

Questions for a tailgater…

IMG-20121011-00357When I’m teaching my students at Young Drivers of Canada I will often remind them to ask questions any time they feel confused or aren’t sure what to do next. I promote the asking of questions, including with my kids. What better way to find out an answer to a problem. With this in mind, I have a few questions that I would like answers to. Oh, and my questions are for those drivers who like to tailgate.

Dear tailgater, why do you do it? Do you really think you’ll get to your destination a lot sooner? Following distance isn’t measured by car lengths. Once upon a time many drivers thought so, but it’s no longer the case. There are a lot more factors that need to be included.

Dear tailgater, did you know that most of the time it takes you to stop comes from what your eyes see (perception), the time it takes your brain to get the message and time to get your foot from the gas to the brake (reaction)? The stopping distance itself takes the shortest time of all.

Dear tailgater, did you know that it takes roughly 3/4 of a second before your brain identifies the brake lights of the vehicle ahead of you are on. It then takes roughly another 3/4 of a second to get your foot from the gas pedal and move it to the brake pedal. It then takes another 1/2 second to actually stop your vehicle. This is in ideal conditions of course. This is at city speeds and explains why you need to stay a minimum of two seconds behind the vehicle ahead of you. Add in inclement weather or higher speeds and that stopping distance takes much, much longer.

Dear tailgater, did you know you can block your view up ahead when you follow so closely? If you stayed further back from the vehicle ahead of you, you can see traffic slowdowns earlier and switch lanes to keep traveling to your destination.

Dear tailgater, did you know your selfishness to attempt to reach your destination is putting the occupants of the vehicle ahead of you at risk of injury? If the vehicle ahead of you had to brake remotely hard for a pedestrian about to step in front or of a cyclist attempting to enter their path close to them, you would rear end their vehicle. As a matter of fact, your vehicle would hit their vehicle before you had the chance to take your foot off the gas pedal.

Dear tailgater, did you know you’re also going to severely damage your own vehicle if you tailgate and the driver ahead of you stops suddenly? Why would you want to do that to your own possession? How hard did/do you have to work to pay for your vehicle only to have it damaged by your own actions?

Dear tailgater, in every jurisdiction you’ll be charged with following too closely after the crash. That’s a reactive charge, not a proactive charge. In other words, drivers rarely get ticketed for following too closely before a collision happens. It’s usually after they rear ended someone. Not only will you be charged by the police, but you’ll also have the deductible to pay before your insurance kicks in. and as far as your insurance, expect your annual rates to go up. Once they start to go up because of a claim, they rarely drop. It can be a very expensive hobby.

Dear tailgater, I hope this makes sense and I hope you can answer these questions. If not for me, at least for yourself.

Posted by: safedriver | July 21, 2014

Take this moment to learn something

IMG_20140720_202942Spending time with my family is a big part of my life. I love my kids and try to do extra little things with them whenever I can. It was such a nice night recently three of my kids decided to come with me on a bike ride. That too turned into a teaching moment.

We decided to stay is the quiet residential area to which we live. There are quite a few streets with hills and nice things to look at as we travelled through the neighbourhood. It was perfect for my kids and me to wind down after a busy weekend. Or, that’s what we thought.

As we were riding through the area we would often check behind us for vehicles approaching. We kept toward the curb most times to ensure there would be space for passing drivers. Even though we were doing that regularly a number of drivers decided to speed past us in a closer than comfortable position. When I say speed past us, I do mean speed past us. In a quiet neighbourhood, that wasn’t necessary, especially with young kids on their bikes and another on a skateboard.

I do understand that the speed limit is set at the same speed in many residential areas just as it is on major roads – 50 km/h, but since there will be more pedestrian traffic and cyclists, why drive that fast? In school zones, the speed limit is reduced to 40 km/h in Ontario and 30 km/h in other provinces. I know school is currently out for the summer, but those same kids who walk to school in that neighbourhood are now outside enjoying their times on their bikes. With this in mind, why drive so fast?

A couple other times drivers flew around the corner without stopping at the stop sign. They weren’t even close. Let me clarify – they weren’t close to stopping, but were close to my 3 kids and me. I know many drivers tend to do a “slow and go” when approaching a stop sign, but in reality, they still need to look out for pedestrians and cyclists. And even if they did roll through the stop, at least slow down and go wider around the cyclists.

The only thing positive about these moments was the opportunity to teach my kids about road safety. I explained that stop signs don’t stop vehicles. Drivers stop vehicles. If the driver didn’t want to stop, they won’t. They realized that staying close to the curb and riding in single file will help keep them safe. They realized that checking from behind regularly lets them know when vehicles are approaching. They learned that if the rider at the back of the pack yelled “car”, it helps all the other riders ahead of them stay in line. That doesn’t just work while playing road hockey by the way.

Another thing they learned this day was to ensure it was safe before entering intersections. They learned to trust themselves and not to trust drivers. They learned the stop sign was also meant for them and not just for drivers of vehicles. Now if only I could teach those drivers who passed us a few things too.

Posted by: safedriver | July 17, 2014

Surprise inspections should not be a surprise

Burlington-20140617-00954Safety is a big issue within our lives. We do what it takes to ensure our kids are safe, our homes are safe and our valuables are safe. Sometimes however, we forget about the routine things that help keep those things safe – our vehicles. We use our vehicles to get to and from work, to go on vacation and to run our weekly errands. We even use our vehicle for work. We take them for granted so often that when something unexpectedly goes wrong, we get annoyed. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

I was able to recently visit a location where commercial vehicles were pulled over and inspected. Most drivers were unaware of this inspection location and that was probably a good thing. Over a two day blitz recently, some of the results were; 76 inspections with 67 charges were laid for unsafe vehicles and 2 plates were removed from the vehicles. Surprise! I was speaking with one of the staff and to be honest, I was a little surprised with the results. I think some of the drivers may have been surprised too, but they shouldn’t be. Should commercial drivers be more careful with the vehicles they use to earn a living compared to regular passenger vehicles? Not really.

Oakville-20140617-00955Everyday passenger vehicles need to be just as safe as commercial vehicles. I completely support safe vehicles. Commercial drivers need to do a daily inspection of their vehicle and they should take it seriously. With the added weight and heavy loads they move or carry each day, it makes a lot of sense to ensure their vehicle is in top shape every day. But what about passenger vehicles? Shouldn’t they be in good shape too?

I recently got rid of an older vehicle because it was becoming unsafe. Too many mechanical issues were starting to act up. It was safe for my son to drive, but there were some issues that would needed to be addressed soon. The cost associated to these repairs were too high and based on the mileage and the shape of the vehicle, I decided to get another vehicle instead of making those repairs. Before buying the newer vehicle, I had it inspected by my trusted mechanic. Why buy something that is unsafe or needs more work done to it? My thought was this – drive the vehicle and look after it so if a surprise inspection happened, there would be no issues, except for maybe minor ones that may have just developed. Having the confidence of your vehicle is a huge relief.

Visiting the police officers and staff who were inspecting commercial vehicles was a good experience for me. Knowing this can happen at any time and any place should be a warning to all drivers, not just commercial drivers. Every driver should ensure their vehicle is safe and ready for the road. Your life, the life of your passengers and the life of other road users could be at stake. Putting off repairs only puts off the higher expenses later on…like deductibles after a collision, fines or perhaps even lawsuits. Although these drivers wouldn’t like the fines they received this day, it’s a lot better than injuring themselves or someone else because of an unsafe vehicle.

Posted by: safedriver | June 30, 2014

Learning to deal with “Are we there yet?”

driving-tips-car-games-2009-01-711x260

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

Staying focused on driving is something every driver has to do, but with so many distractions, it seems to become more and more difficult. The biggest discussion about driver distraction over the past few years has been cell phone use, but there’s one big distraction that seems to be overlooked; having our kids in the car during holiday travels.

Raising kids is fun but also challenging, especially while driving. It would often seem like an eternity for them when they last asked “Are we there yet?” even though it may have only been ten minutes. After experiencing this after a couple of drives I realized we needed a new plan to keep my kids occupied and away from distracting me while I drove.

Use the early travel time to talk about the trip and to look outside the windows at the scenery. Involve your kids with the trip and the time will fly by. Go deep inside your memory bank and pull out those driving songs you did when you were a kid. It may also help if you learn some of the kid’s songs before you leave on your trip.

If the kids are young, give them a variety of things to occupy their time. Give them books with bright pictures, a few toys that wouldn’t fall to the ground and could be attached to their car seat and games. As the kids got older, we would bring books to read, books on tape, hand held video games and music. And when I say music, I mean their music, not yours. If you give them ear buds or headphones, they can hear it and not you. Keep the items a surprise for them until you need them. In other words, don’t let them know what you’ve brought to keep them busy. The added surprise of the items will help keep them occupied for a while.

One of the things kids would often say is that they need to use the washroom. Plan those stops within your trip. Know where a rest stop would be that falls upon your route. Taking those few minutes to make a planned stop helps relieve the pressure, so to speak. This allows you, the driver, to let them know when they will be stopping when they ask. Those few minutes of stopping will also allow your kids to move around and burn off some more energy before they head back into the vehicle.

For those of us with kids, you know they always get hungry. Prepare some snacks that they enjoy and bring those along. Bringing some drinks for them will also help because you know they’ll get thirsty. Just remember, after that drink they may have to use the washroom, so plan when to give out those snacks. The job of the driver is to stay focused on driving and to remove the distractions. With this in mind, it’s partially the driver’s decision as to when the kids should begin to get these items

Posted by: safedriver | June 27, 2014

Go ahead, be an athletic supporter….but do it safely

flag carI’d like to say that I’m a very supportive person. If anyone in my family wants to do something a little different but safe, I support them. I know how important it is for them, even if I wouldn’t do it myself, so I know supporting them is the proper thing to do, again, provided its safe. I also support my favourite sports team, regardless of how poorly they’re doing at the time. I wear their logos whenever I can and cheer when they do well. Let’s just say I’m a team player. But when is showing your support dangerous?

We often see the small flags of sports teams in the windows of vehicles. I had one for my favourite hockey team once and did place it in the window of the family vehicle, until it was stolen. Oh well. I’ve also seen drivers with smaller flags or pennants hanging from their rear view mirror http://bit.ly/mTYawk . Those can also hinder the view of pedestrians from the driver when they make a right turn. But how many other ways of support can lead to poor driving decisions or distractions?

My son and I witnessed a driver with a huge flag over the rear window of his vehicle. Was it a little distracting? Absolutely. I’m sure it was distracting for both the driver and the other road users. I appreciate supporting your favourite team, but doing it safely should be on every driver’s mind. Using the small flags which are placed on the side windows works well. We see many people with those on their vehicle that they go almost unnoticed. During the recent World Cup of soccer, we now have seen flags that are designed to fit over the hood of your vehicle. They are a little more secure and less distracting. Would that work for more drivers? Perhaps, but that’s their choice.

Think about the issue for the driver. The rear window is completely covered up. They can only rely on their side mirrors and like most drivers; they most likely aren’t using those side mirrors as often as they would need to. Also, the side mirrors don’t give you the same view as the rear view mirror, so their supportiveness is also hurting their safety while driving.

Think of other ways to support your team without putting you or others at risk. Give yourself some time to decide if it’s a safe way to do it before acting on your thoughts. Be supportive of your team and become an athletic supporter. Well… you know what I mean.

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