Posted by: safedriver | February 28, 2015

How to deal with road raging…as the giver and receiver

AngryDriverLet’s face it; we’re not happy all the time. Neither are the people we come across in our daily activities. Sometimes the grumpy, annoyed or angry feelings come with us where ever we go, including when we get into the vehicle. If you take these negative feelings with you while driving, this can often lead to road raging. So let’s take a look at both angles of road raging – the giver and the receiver.

Let’s first address you, the road rage giver. Why do it? In most cases, road ragers are just having a bad moment, bad day or bad few days. The stress seems to build up and when the smallest thing that doesn’t go in their favour happens, then wham! They take most actions from other road users very personal. They often feel those people did those actions to them directly. Well, that’s not really the case. The main difference between an angry driver and a road rager is follow-through. The angry driver may say things aloud in the vehicle to themselves or their passengers. The road rager will act upon their rage.

When I was a judge on Canada’s Worst Driver during their first season, we had a participant who felt other drivers were doing things just to annoy him personally. This tended to get him so angry he often retaliated to these drivers by cutting them off or by hitting the brakes suddenly causing the driver behind to do the same, almost crashing into them. That’s often what road raging really is – retaliation to someone else’s actions. During that season of the show, we used the other participants as examples to him that people make mistakes while driving; quite often not intentionally toward someone else. After we did that he seemed to have a better understanding that people do make mistakes while driving and became less of a road rager. He tried not to take other driver’s mistakes personally.

So what can you do to avoid being the road rage giver? If you’ve had a bad day, put on your favourite music in your vehicle before driving away, close your eyes for a few minutes and take deep breaths. This will slow down your heart rate and put you in a relaxed mood before you head off on your commute. If what’s causing your stress is at home, try to leave it there when you get into your vehicle. The same can be said if the stress you’re feeling is with your job. Leaving your “work problems” at work allows you to stay calm while behind the wheel. Always take a few moments before driving if you’re feeling annoyed, angry or grumpy to relax and clear your mind of those issues. And never take the actions of other drivers personally.

Now, what can you do if someone is the road rager to you? The first thing is never retaliate back to them. Drivers have been seriously injured or even killed through the act of road raging. You’re no better than they are if you act like them. Also, avoid making eye contact with them. That sometimes seems to fuel their rage even more. Another possible solution is to turn off the road you’re currently driving on to get rid of them. If they follow you, keep making smooth turns until they decide it isn’t worth pursuing. If they still persist with the raging, drive to the closest police station or fire station. They’ll tend to back off after they see where you’re going.

Remember driving is a journey, not a race. Take the time to relax and focus on this journey. Personal problems will come and go, for you and other road users. Take a moment and think of the consequences of your actions before you do those actions. You’ll be safer because of it.

Posted by: safedriver | February 21, 2015

Safe Driving Week should last a full year


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

Throughout Canada we generally have two weeks of the year that focus on safe driving; one week in the spring and the other at the end of the year. This is usually brought to the interest of drivers through various organizations and government. The reasoning is to highlight to drivers the importance of safe driving and to remind them of things they may have forgotten or never knew to begin with. I enjoy how the media jumps all over these two weeks, really letting the public know what should happen on our roads. But don’t you think you owe it to yourself to increase those two weeks to… I don’t know… maybe the entire year?

Most people can realize on their own when their driving isn’t as good as it could be. Sometimes their passengers tell them and if different passengers are saying the same thing, chances are that it’s true. When I was a judge on Canada’s Worst Driver, there was a participant who had multiple people nominate her to be on the show. It was obvious to many of her friends she was an unsafe driver and they let her know about it. She still denied she needed to change her driving habits and even though she was on the show, she still said she was a good driver. Some people, huh?

In order to make a new habit you first of all must want to make the change. Changes to your driving habits won’t happen if you have no interest in doing it. I’ve often said to drivers; I can’t teach you how to drive if you don’t want to learn. If you want to change, you need to follow through and practice the new skills each time you drive. If you want the outcome, you have to put in the work.

Now, depending who you ask, it takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to make something into a new habit. If you have a bad habit, it may take a little longer to make those changes because you have to unlearn your bad habit before you can build it into a good habit. If you think about it, having one week to change your driving attitude, skill or belief just isn’t long enough. You need more time. You should think about long term gains by making these changes. Is it safety? Is it financial? Is it regaining respect from family or friends?

To help you solidify these changes, make a conscience effort before entering your vehicle of how you’re going to drive. If you don’t know exactly how to change your driving habits, ask a professional – not your best friend. No offence to your friend, but they may not know exactly how to break down the changes to help you. An expert can help you with that. Once you have the tips, tell yourself what you should do, not what you should not do. Positive advice reinforces positive change. And after time, voila! A new habit!

** A related article… Is it time to make a fresh start can be read here

Posted by: safedriver | February 6, 2015

For some drivers, what would it take…

untitledWhere ever I go I often get asked driving advice. People want the little bits of information that will either prove to them they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, or advice to help them with things they never really knew. Often the purpose of my articles is to inform drivers of both of those things, so I don’t mind. Sometimes, it’s about the driver who never really gave certain things any thought. So with that in mind, here are a few things for you to think about the next time you’re driving.

What would it take for you wave thank you after another driver did something nice for you? Many drivers will often reduce speed to let you change lanes in front of them. Once you get fully into that new lane, use your right hand to give a wave. The right hand can be seen through the rear window as you wave and that will show the driver behind you that you appreciated their kindness. Think about how you feel when another driver doesn’t acknowledge your act of kindness and how satisfied you feel when someone waves thanks to you. Do unto others…

What would it take to signal your lane changes and turns? Communicating is huge within our society, so take that mentality and bring it into the vehicle with you. Letting other road users know why you’re slowing down helps to keep them calm until you make that turn. Signaling before making the lane change actually helps the other drivers know what you’re doing that they could help you make the change by slowing down to give you room. If you don’t signal how would they know you wanted to move over?

cyclistsWhat would it take to move over to allow cyclists a clear path as opposed to trying to squeeze between them and the other lane of traffic? Cyclists are vehicles of the road and they should be treated as such. Giving them a full lane early will allow the driver behind you a better chance to see them before they get too close. This is especially important if there are no bicycle lanes. Just because some cyclists ride carelessly doesn’t mean you should give them a difficult time. Think of each cyclist you come to as a member of your own family and you want to protect them.

What would it take to come to a full stop at stop signs? Most drivers slow down enough so they “won’t get a ticket” but is that good enough? Those drivers aren’t thinking about stopping – they’re thinking about going. If that’s the case, they won’t be looking for pedestrians, cyclists or other drivers approaching the intersection. That’s a recipe for a collision and most certainly injuries or worse. Come to a full stop, look to see if it’s clear to precede. This would make it easier to spot and solve any problems you may see before entering the intersection.

What would it take for you to adjust speed in poor conditions? Those driving conditions are not ideal, so why drive like they are? Speed limits are set for ideal conditions, so if the road has reduced traction or reduced visibility…your speed should also be reduced. This would give you more time to see, think and respond to problems you may encounter. Make sense?

What would it take to have you make these changes to your driving style? Some thought before the action? More respect for other road users? More respect for yourself? It’s never too late to be a safer driver. You just have to want to do it.

Posted by: safedriver | February 4, 2015

Is it time to make a fresh start with your driving?

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

Mmm, fresh! I love the smell of fresh baked foods, fresh air and freshly cut grass. There’s something to be said about starting new. Many people make New Year resolutions at the beginning of the calendar year with the hope of making changes that will be positive in their life. With that being said, I’d thought I would offer some suggestions for drivers who would like to start new skills during this calendar year.

The first suggestion I would like to offer is driving attitude. Many drivers are less patient than they could be while driving. Instead of getting annoyed with other road users, take a deep breath and ask yourself what is it about their actions that goes against what you’re doing. Does it really affect you as much as you think it does? After having this change of attitude over a month or so, you’ll be a much calmer driver, making better driving decisions because you’ll be thinking clearer.

Another new tip to offer is to become more of a proactive driver. Some people are chronic late comers. They leave things to the last moment. If this sounds like you, try these tips. Once you know how long your commute will be, leave early enough to give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes for travel. If you get to work 10 or 15 minutes early, you’ll have time to grab a coffee and relax before starting your work day. If you need that extra 10 or 15 minutes during your commute, you won’t be tempted to rush and make poor driving choices because you’ll be late.

Something that many drivers could benefit from making a new start is cleanliness. I’m not talking personal hygiene, I’m talking the vehicle. Securing loose items from inside the vehicle means less distractions. Items stuffed under the driver’s seat can become dislodged and can roll under the brake pedal. That may prohibit the driver from braking firmly in an emergency. Loose items such as wrappers and paper can blow around on a windy day in the spring and summer with the windows down, so put those away before driving so they don’t take your attention away from the driving task.

The last suggestion for a fresh start this year I would have to say should be slowing down sooner when approaching red lights or stopped traffic. Early slowing has many benefits for drivers. It saves fuels, saves brake wear and gives you the feeling that you’re going someplace. That feeling will often help you feeling positive as a driver and become less stressed on your daily commute.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started off in the New Year. Will you use them? Will you keep them longer than a week? I hope so, but don’t limit your fresh start to just these few. Make the entire year your year of safe driving.


Posted by: safedriver | January 29, 2015

Should residential speed limits drop?

017 (2)Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Remember how the tortoise won the race because they were moving slow and steady? As drivers we can learn from that story, plus much more. Not only does a slow and steady speed help you with fuel savings, it also helps you respond more easily to problems. So let’s dig deeper and see what else we can gain.

The Ontario provincial government is looking at reducing the speed limit across the entire province from 50 km/h to 40 km/h, but only in residential areas. The main roads will be the same speed as they are now. Their goal is to reduce injury and death in those high populated areas. There are sections in some communities that already have the reduced speed limit of 40 km/h, but that’s mainly just in school zones. So let’s think through the advantages of driving 10 km/h slower in the quiet residential areas.

Some drivers will be annoyed with this change of speed because they believe the reduced speed will slow them down from reaching their destination. The actual time you lose getting to your destination by reducing your speed by 10 km/h is only a mere seconds – maybe. Those few seconds you may lose from driving at a slower speed would have been eaten up waiting at stop signs anyway, so what’s the real problem? There isn’t one. So why drop the speed limit by 10 km/h if there’s no real difference for drivers? It’s more about pedestrian and cyclist safety. They can gain a lot from this.

We’ve often heard how we should drive according to the conditions. This is usually related to rain, snow or extremely windy conditions, but what about crowded residential areas? Many of these roads become narrow since they often have parked vehicles line up on at least one side of the street; both sides in some areas. Not only do you have a narrower path to travel, you now have many things that can block your view of approaching pedestrians or cyclists. If this is the case, why would you want to drive faster? Driving slower gives you a better chance to see danger before it reaches your path.

By dropping the speed limit from 50 km/h to 40 km/h, it will take the average driver on dry, clear roads with properly maintained tires and brakes approximately 9 less metres to stop after seeing a pedestrian step off the curb compared to driving at 50 km/h. That’s pretty significant if you think about it. Even if a pedestrian or cyclist was struck at a lower speed, the injuries could be less severe. Seems like a winning formula here. The latest stats from 2010 show almost 7000 pedestrians and cyclists combines were either injured or killed, just in Ontario. In order to make those numbers go down, drivers have to play a big part.

As drivers we need to work together with our pedestrian and cycling traffic to help keep them safe. While driving its helpful if you begin predicting their actions. Move your eyes from building to building to spot them before they reach the curb. Remembering that kids won’t always look before crossing the street should always be on our mind while driving. Combining that with a reduced speed and it can become a lot safer for these pedestrians and cyclists, the same people you care about.

Posted by: safedriver | January 20, 2015

Is your driving based on opinion or fact?

DSC02396I love life. Just about every day you have the opportunity to learn something. Sometimes what you may learn is very subtle, but there’s still something to take away from your daily experiences. This is all true, provided you’re open-minded enough to want to learn. I can safely say the same thing about drivers. Many drivers are open-mined enough to learn something new, but others seem to be a bit stubborn and stuck in their ways. Which are you?

Shortly after I became a driving instructor for Young Drivers of Canada I began the challenging task of re-training licenced drivers. Many of whom had been driving longer than I had been alive. The reason I knew this? They told me. However, that didn’t discourage me. I began showing them things from our program and when they saw how well it worked, they began listening to me more intently and seemed eager to try other “new” things.

You see, these weren’t really new things. To some, they were different things. Things they never really knew. Some of their knowledge came from their many years of driving experience, but other knowledge came through conversation alone. The dangerous part of the latter was it was never proved to them as a driver. They were only taking someone else’s opinion that it worked, that it was the way it should be. Is that considered stubborn? Naïve? Trusting?

Don’t you think there needs to be some proof? After gathering new information, sit and think about it. Determine if there’s value with what was explained to you. Be open-minded enough to believe it, but skeptical enough to try it before making up your mind that it works or doesn’t work. Where do I get my facts? It’s from being involved in road safety for 27 years. It’s from watching drivers attempt those same skills to either get immediate success or find out they don’t work, time and time again. It’s from practical experience, not just opinion.

I was recently speaking with drivers about the value and myths associated to all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive vehicles. If you give it some thought and understand what each of those vehicles can do, those types of vehicles provide power to each of the wheels instead of just the front. It has a better chance to get the vehicle moving in deep snow or icy roads. That’s about it. Too much power and the wheels will spin. Go ahead and try it. Too much speed around the corner and the vehicle can lose traction. Remember inertia? I wouldn’t want anyone to try that on purpose just to see if it’s true, but I do think it’s worthy of thinking through the process.

These are facts and can be found in each manufacturer’s guidelines. However, one of the drivers I was speaking with said it provides traction. When I asked how they came to this conclusion, he just said “It’s a fact”. Well, not really. Facts are based on research with multiple sources. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but let’s use an educated opinion. After hearing or reading something pertaining to driving skill, either speak with other professionals or experts in that field or try implementing those techniques in a safe manner. Dig deeper into the subject matter to find out what the majority of experts are saying. Opinions are important, but so are facts.

Posted by: safedriver | January 17, 2015

As a driver, do you…

Hamilton 2-20130613-00365Being involved in road safety for almost 27 years has taught me to be specific. Training any driver of any experience level it always came down to explaining what I wanted them to do, not what I didn’t want them to do. Such as the old saying; “we don’t say don’t” when giving instructions. With this in mind, I thought it may be a good time to begin a series of things we should do while driving.

Do you… look well ahead of your vehicle while driving? I’m not talking 2 or 3 vehicles ahead. I’m talking at least 2 blocks in the city or at least 15 seconds from where you currently are. This gives you a better idea of the traffic pattern ahead of you and gives you enough notice to determine if a lane change is needed or if you should begin slowing down.

Do you… anticipate potential problems by moving your eyes from building to building, not just curb to curb? Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians aren’t always on the road to initiate trouble. They often begin their journey away from the road. Finding them before they reach the road gives you more time to respond safely and smoothly.

Do you… check intersections before entering to ensure they’re clear? Just because you have a green light doesn’t mean it’s safe to enter. A red light doesn’t stop the vehicle. A driver stops the vehicle. If you check the intersection before walking across the street, why not check it before driving across the street?

Do you… often get surprised when a vehicle suddenly passes you? If so, you need to check your mirrors more often. Checking them at least every couple of blocks, but also before slowing, while stopped and after turns keeps you up to date with traffic behind. This can help you make better driving choices.

Do you… mainly drive in the same lane all the time? Learning to choose the lane that gives you the best view, the best flow and the least risk is a good practice. If you’re in the left lane and a driver approaches you from behind, move over to let them pass. This keeps the flow of traffic moving and allows for a cooperative driving culture.

Do you… wait to turn left with your wheels straight or angled? Waiting with your wheels straight will give you the opportunity to escape straight if the driver behind can’t stop in time. Leaving your wheels angled means more time to get out of the way in case of an emergency. The worst case is if your wheels are angled and you get hit from behind you could be pushed into oncoming traffic. Waiting you’re your wheels straight means being pushed into neutral space.

So, how did you do? Are you doing many of these techniques or are they new to you? Having reminders is a way of life. Consider these to be reminders to help you become or remain a safe driver. If you need more information, please use the search function to the right of this page and find your topic of interest.

Posted by: safedriver | January 13, 2015

Is using a cell phone while driving an addiction?

close upIt’s been a few years since our governments have made using a cell phone without a hands-free device illegal while driving. Sitting at a red light in traffic and using your phone is also illegal. Even though it’s been illegal for some time and widely publicized, it still happens every day. The numbers of tickets given out to drivers from police have risen each year even though public awareness of the risks associated to cell phone use while driving is huge. However, I think I have an explanation for this.

Our society has gotten so busy over the past few decades that we want things done immediately. Think about it. Drive-thru’s are available not just at fast food restaurants, but at the bank, some beer stores and I’ve even seen them at a store if you want to buy cigarettes. Let’s face it, we’re in a hurry and we have a problem. We’re far more impatient than we used to be. Having a cell phone means we can immediately act upon our thoughts. The key word here is immediately. When it comes to our cell phones, we can’t seem to control the urge to touch it, look at it or play with it.

For many people, our lives greatly depend upon the social networks. It seems like we can’t go a minute without checking messages, tweeting or checking someone’s status. After all, how can we expect to go on with our day without knowing what are friends are doing at that exact moment? It almost seems like an addiction doesn’t it? I know that sounds harsh, but a standard dictionary definition of addiction is “The fact or condition of being addicted to or having constant need to a particular substance, thing, or activity.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? Isn’t that what millions of people have when it comes to their cell phones – an addiction? Some may call it a habit, but whether you call it an addiction or a habit, you need to have control over it.

This addiction to the cell phone, like any other addiction, controls your brain. Our brains have a sense of reward when we accomplish something. It’s a matter of prioritising the reward though. Is there more mental satisfaction to complete a text message conversation or is there more mental satisfaction to drive the vehicle safely? To many people, driving takes a “backseat”, so to speak, to finding out what’s happening in cyber land.

Like any other addiction, you need to admit you have a problem. Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to controlling it. Once you do acknowledge there is a problem, you can begin the healing process of finding a solution to this problem. You’ll more likely listen to your friends and family once you’ve made this realization. Since I consider myself a friend of yours, I’d like to offer a few suggestions.

Before you get to your vehicle turn your phone off. If you don’t hear it, you may not be tempted to use it. Put your phone out of your reach. I mean really out of your reach. If you put the phone in your coat pocket and place your coat just behind your seat, you may be tempted to reach for it while driving. Secure the phone in a backpack, briefcase or other location that would make it relatively impossible to get to it while driving. Give it to a passenger to use while you’re driving. Let them text, tweet or post messages for you.

Addressing the addiction or habit will take time, a commitment from you and support from family and friends. Trust me, it will be worth it. Take it from a friend.

Another related post is HERE

Posted by: safedriver | January 6, 2015

When you learned to drive, were you really ready?

IMG-20130430-00302Deep down we all do things for a reason. Even as kids we did what we wanted, but when asked by our parents why we did what we did, we often replied “I don’t know”. Perhaps we were embarrassed with our personal reason for our actions, or perhaps we knew the person asking the question would be upset with us. Whatever our reason for doing things, we did what we did. We didn’t always need a good reason. We just needed a reason. So this brings up the question; why did you learn to drive?

Unlike many teenagers, when I turned 16 I wasn’t chomping at the bit to learn to drive and get my licence. I waited until I was ready. What helped me become ready was a friend wanted to learn to drive and he registered us both for driving lessons just before I turned 17. The more I thought about it leading up to that point, the more I decided I wanted to learn to drive. I was tired of taking the bus, walking, riding my bike or getting rides from people. Bottom line – it was my decision to learn to drive.

I’ve heard for many years from the students I taught to drive they were only learning to drive because they were 16. That’s not a reason, that’s an age. I’ve taught many people who were ready to drive. They had the proper attitude and practiced what was taught to them. They wanted to learn. Some of the best students weren’t 16. They were 18 or older. When I asked them why they waited past 16 before learning to drive, some said they didn’t feel ready. Some said they didn’t need to drive until then and others said their parents said they weren’t ready at 16. Good for the parents to get involved.

Many of these people had a solid reason for learning to drive. They wanted independence and some freedom. They wanted convenience. Some wanted the driver’s licence so they could get a job easier or commute easier for school. It was a time saver by many. Instead of spending 90 minutes taking public transit in some cases, it would be a 30 minute drive. Even after all that, there are times that public transit makes more sense. But that’s another story.

Learning to drive for me meant a time of growing up. If I got a ticket, I paid it. If I got into a collision, I paid it. I even paid for my share of the insurance when I was working a steady part time job. It helped me mature and grow as a person. I’m doing the same with my son. It’s time he grows up a bit more. He was responsible enough to go for his licence, but the question still remains, is he mature enough to keep it?

Learning to drive means more than obtaining freedom or independence. It’s being ready to accept the responsibility of the vehicle, your own life and the lives of your passengers. It also means driving in such a manner as respecting other road users. If you’re ready to accept these, you’re ready to learn to drive.

Posted by: safedriver | January 3, 2015

Clear your vehicle of snow properly…then you can drive away

003 (2)

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

After every snowfall I see the same problem on many vehicles – not enough snow and ice cleared from the vehicle. For many people, their excuse is it’s too cold outside to do the entire vehicle, I only have to do enough to see and the ever popular; it’ll blow off as I drive. Do you use any of these excuses or do you clear off your vehicle properly? It’s time to take a reality check.

If more drivers took a proactive look to preparation, things would become a lot safer on our roads during winter. During the winter season, check the next day’s weather forecast each night. Know if you’ll need to dig out in the morning ahead of time. This allows you to set your alarm to wake up sooner. Even if there’s no snow in the immediate forecast, if it’s very cold that night, your windows will frost up. You’ll need time to clear those as well.

002 (3)If the windows are covered in frost, ensure you clear off the entire portion of each window. How many times have you seen drivers clear off only a small part of the windshield just so they can see ahead but all of their other windows are still frosted or iced over? To make it easier to clear your windshield if there’s a coating of ice on it lift up your windshield wipers each night so they won’t interfere with your ice scraper. If there is ice, the wipers can get stuck to the glass and as you use your scraper, it can damage your wipers and essentially make them useless to you.

As far as snow goes, here’s what you need to do to ensure your vehicle is ready to be driven. Start at the roof of your vehicle and start to clear the snow off. Any snow that ends up on the windows you’ll get later. Start at the front of the vehicle and work to the rear. Once the roof’s done on that side, clear off the side windows, side mirror and the sides of the vehicle. Now work to the rear window and clear that off and then the trunk. Once you get to the rear of the vehicle it’s time to clear off all of the lights and licence plate. You need to ensure the drivers behind know your intentions to stop or change direction.

Now do the same on the other side of the vehicle. Start at the roof and work toward the front on the vehicle. Get it all off. Don’t forget the headlights as well. Many people already know this, but fail to do a proper job. As an added thought, use the squeegee from the service centre to clean the glass of your headlights and tail lights. The slush on the roads often makes the lenses very difficult to shine brightly. This will help drivers see you and for you to see what’s up the road. Ok, now you’re ready to drive.

then**Note** Winter driving is more than driving on snow and ice.

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