Posted by: safedriver | November 9, 2015

What can you learn from Canada’s Worst Drivers?

CWDEvery year for the past 11 years, Canadian viewers have viewed, laughed and most likely screamed at various drivers they’ve viewed on a weekly basis. Now, why would anyone laugh each week at drivers they’ve seen make mistakes, crash or break down and cry? It’s because they’re watching Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery. Check their website here;

Ever since the first season which aired in 2005, the show has had quite a following. I spent the first three seasons as an on-air judge for the series, so I do know a little about the drivers on the show. During that time I’ve spoken to many people who say how much they love the show. They continue to ask me the same questions; are they really as bad as the show makes them out to be? Yes and no.

Many of the participants I’ve met over the years are very nice people. They are very talented when it comes to many things, just not when it comes to driving. So, how much can we really learn from watching Canada’s Worst Driver? Maybe more than you may realize. Let me explain a few of the hidden messages.

If you watch the show you’ll notice quite often the passenger gives out poor advice or they yell at the driver when they make a mistake or drive carelessly. Normally, that usually leads to more mistakes. How does this help the driver make proper driving choices? If we’ve learned anything over recent years, distractions really stop drivers from thinking about the driving task. Every now and then during the series we see a different person in the passenger seat while the participant does a challenge. They sometimes perform better, which proves if the driver can remove distractions, they can focus more on their driving task. Maybe this can work for you as well.

Another thing we can learn from watching Canada’s Worst Driver is where they look and how they handle the vehicle. The drivers who crash into things often look at what they’re trying to avoid. This is commonly referred to as target fixation. Instead, look to where you want the vehicle to go. If you have a long passage way to get through, such as during the eye-of-the-needle, look to the exit as you approach the entrance. Your peripheral vision will guide you through it. You’ll have a better chance of getting the vehicle to go there if you do. It’s basically hand-eye, or eye-hand, co-ordination.

Ever notice the drivers who crash their vehicle rarely reposition their vehicle in a tight space? Decision-making is a huge part of driving safely. If you’re coming to a situation you feel is not the best, change it. If the participants are getting too close to another vehicle, stop and reposition the vehicle. If they can’t see how close while driving at low speed, perhaps stop and safely exit the vehicle and take a better look.

As you view the episodes, whether it’s a current season or the former seasons in reruns, (remember seasons 1 through 3 are my personal favourites. That’s me in the middle) I’m sure you’ll be laughing and offering advice to the drivers through your TV set. Maybe next time, ask yourself what you would have done differently to not let those things happen to you. See, you can learn something positive for your own driving from watching Canada’s Worst Driver.


Posted by: safedriver | November 5, 2015

When slowing is worth it

safety blitzFor regular readers of my work you’ll know of my passion for promoting safe driving. After all, the title of this site is ‘The Safe Driver’. Even though I tend to put emphasis towards safely driving a vehicle, I do sometimes put emphasis on cyclists and pedestrian safety. This is one of those times to protect a special kind of pedestrian – the roadside worker.

We see this happen every year during road construction season; the roadside workers having a mere few inches between them and the driver of a passing vehicle who’s getting a little too close for comfort. As drivers, we need to make a change to this to help protect these workers. Since there are often signs indicating to the drivers to reduce speed as workers are present, drivers need to see these signs and respond accordingly. They’re not there for decorations.

While watching one of my current favourite TV shows, Highway Thru Hell on Discovery, it would often show drivers speeding past these crews who are trying to remove damaged or stuck vehicles from the side of the road. During a recovery of crashed or stuck vehicles, there’s often a flagman who stops traffic to assist the crew on the site. If you don’t think they have a dangerous job, think again.

During one specific episode a flagman was almost run down by a driver of a vehicle approaching them. It had shaken them up enough to quit their job. They didn’t want to put their life at risk any longer. I doubt the driver who was heading toward that flagman knows how their careless actions affected them. During the same episode, another driver failed to adjust to the warnings the flagman was providing and almost hit them as well. Luckily the sliding vehicle hit the parked flag truck and not the flagman running away for his safety.

Standing on the road to warn drivers of impending danger is a tough and dangerous job. Drivers need to realize these workers are not only assisting those who are working at the side of the road, but also helping the drivers who are passing by that scene to get through safely. It’s really time for all drivers to adjust and respect the job these people are doing. It’s not just about standing there holding up a “stop” or “slow” sign. It’s about ensuring the scene is safe for drivers and workers.

The same respect needs to be given to school crossing guards, paramedics, firefighters and police officers directing traffic. They too have a tough job to do. Show respect. Slow down and acknowledge their warnings and adjust to them. Look ahead for warning signs and flashing lights. Typically these warning signs would be orange as they are temporary. Speeding past may only help you save a few seconds of your trip. Slowing down may save lives.

Posted by: safedriver | October 28, 2015

When driving conditions are not ideal…

Hamilton 2-20130613-00364Growing up, my parents had rules for us kids. Sit up straight, clean your room, and eat all your vegetables – just to name a few. There were things we had to figure out ourselves though without having a rule to guide us. For example, don’t wear your sandals in the snow or don’t jump out of a tree with an umbrella as it’s not a parachute. We never did those things more than once, even though they weren’t rules. The same thing can be said about driving. We shouldn’t need to have everything made into a rule to get us to stop doing them. Common sense should also be used.

Each time I see the road and weather conditions in less than ideal conditions, it reminds me to reduce the speed I normally drive. I need friction in order to have traction. When my friction is reduced, my traction is also reduced; simple as that. Although that may seem simple enough to a lot of drivers, many drivers seem to have a problem with this.

A heavy downpour of rain can create large puddles across the road, which can lead your vehicle to hydroplane. Hydroplaning is caused when your tires lose traction with the road surface and begin to “surf” along the top of the water. This causes you to lose steering control. Hydroplaning usually happens if you’re traveling at higher rate of speed for the road conditions and/or if you have tires with low tread. At any point in time you feel a loss of steering control, reduce speed by easing off the gas. Braking may cause additional loss of control.

one way at nightHeavy rain also reduces your visibility. Regardless of having your windshield wiper on high speed, it doesn’t mean you can still drive at posted speed limits. You should be able to see roughly 12 seconds ahead of where you currently are while driving at city speeds and roughly 20 seconds ahead of where you currently are while driving at highway speeds. If it’s raining too hard and it’s difficult to see that far ahead, slow down.

When winter conditions show up, the same things can be said. Snow, ice and slush are not ideal yet many drivers feel they can drive the same speed as if they had clear roads. Not true. Each time I ask a driver if the road conditions are ideal, they always say no. yet for some reason they drive as if the conditions are ideal. Speed limits are set for ideal conditions and if the conditions are not ideal, why drive the speed limit? It’s a maximum, not a minimum.

Increasing your following distance is always a good idea in less than ideal road conditions. This gives you more time to make a controlled stop in case the vehicle ahead stops suddenly or begins to lose control. It also help you control the driver behind you. If you don’t have to brake harsh, they won’t have to brake harsh. This can reduce multiple vehicle crashes at any time.

Driving at night is also something many drivers make errors with. On a dark roadway many drivers tend to drive at the posted speed limit…or faster. Just because it says you can drive that fast doesn’t mean you should while at night. The posted speed limit is set for ideal conditions. Driving at night isn’t ideal. Your visibility is severely reduced while at night. It’s time to reduce speed during those conditions, especially on high speed roads. This will give you more time to see, think and respond to what you may see – such as a fallen tree across your path or debris in your lane.

The bottom line is this; when conditions are not ideal, adjust to drive for those conditions. Give yourself more time to stop and more time to respond to what you see ahead of you. If you can use logic and common sense in less than ideal conditions, that would be ideal.

Posted by: safedriver | October 26, 2015

Learning to drive in the “ready position”

procrastinatingAre you the type of person who likes to prepare for things early? Do you pack for vacation well ahead of time? Do you make your lunch the night before so it will be ready for you in the morning? I tend to do most of those things as well to save time. I try to take that same mentality with me while I’m driving. I’m not just talking about taking the shortest route to save time. I’m also talking about doing things in the vehicle while driving that reduces my response time in case of trouble.

Anticipating what drivers, pedestrians or cyclists may do is a big part of responding early. I’ve said for many years that if everyone did what they were supposed to do, there would be no crashes. As true as that statement is, it’s not going to happen any time soon. With that in mind, I expect drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to come out toward my path. Anticipating this will happen allows for a quicker response time. You’re not surprised it may happen so you become mentally ready for it.

To give you that extra edge to respond early enough to avoid a collision, there are a few things you could do. I often relate this to athletes when I’m teaching this to drivers. In sports, if a player is approaching the goalie the goalie gets in the “ready position” to make a stop. As a driver, we too have a “ready position”.

In case you feel you may need to honk at someone to stop them from entering your path at the last second, you could slip your thumb over the horn to be ready to push it. The time you’re saving can allow you to communicate quicker as opposed to moving your hand from the steering wheel to the horn after the risk reared its ugly head.

If you feel someone may step out into your path or suddenly pull out directly in front of you, you can place your right foot over the brake pedal. By doing this you’re cutting down your response time in case you have to brake. This is your “ready position”. You may be surprised how quickly you can stop just by having your foot covering the brake pedal.

An added benefit is to change lanes when you see these risks. It gives you more time to respond because you have a better angle from those risks. You don’t need to wait until the last moment to respond to problems you may see. Being in the “ready position” can make those difficult choices easier to do.

If you like this article, please help support the effort for safe roads. Support HERE

Posted by: safedriver | October 18, 2015

The best safety feature of your vehicle…is you!

246459_10151294133837391_1048474911_nOver the past number of years we’ve seen a growth in safety features placed in passenger vehicles. Starting with seatbelts, we’ve also seen airbags, side impact beams, and crumple zones added as vehicle safety features. One of the best safety features seems to be forgotten when people discuss what makes their vehicle safer than other vehicles; the driver.

To some people, they expect the vehicle to protect them, regardless of what they may do while driving. That’s not always the case. There are just some crashes that injure people enough that they may not survive, despite what safety features the vehicle may have.

Drivers should always be watching for the unexpected and expect it. I guess there’s no unexpected then, is there? In order to spot risks and potential problems, you need to look at least two blocks ahead. That’s approximately 12 to 15 seconds from where you currently are. This will give you time to see problems, time to think of what to do about it and then time to respond. Make sense so far?

Since problems don’t always come from the opposite direction, you should also look to the sides; building to building really. This gives you more time to see drivers, pedestrians and cyclists coming from those areas thus, giving you more time to respond to them.

Finally, drivers need to check their mirrors more regularly. In almost 3 decades that I’ve been involved with road safety, I’ve realized drivers either fail to check their mirrors often enough or do it out of habit without actually realizing if a risk was approaching from behind.

The bottom line is, you’ll never respond to something you never noticed. And if you hadn’t noticed it, you can’t always rely upon your vehicle’s safety features to protect you and your passengers. So what can you do?

Once you’ve learned where to look and have made that into a habit while driving, sitting in the correct seating position gives you a fighting chance. Having two hands on the steering wheel is necessary, not just to steer, but in case of mechanical failure and the vehicle makes a sudden swerve to the side. It also helps you react quicker to a sudden problem.

Remove any distractions you may have in the vehicle. Social media and police have been telling you that for a long time, so why not do it? Put your attention on the driving task and not on anything else, including conversations with passengers. Since you need to use your eyes so much while driving, you need to ensure you aren’t distracted from looking where you should because of a distraction.

The final way to ensure you remain the best safety feature of your vehicle is how you position your vehicle in traffic. Many drivers trust the drivers near them won’t screw up. Sorry to tell you, but they do screw up and you know it. To give yourself room to avoid problems, avoid driving next to other vehicles. Drive beside space. In heavy traffic where that may be more difficult, leave extra space in front. You need to have an escape in case of trouble, so always think about where you could go. This would include a driveway, another lane, up the curb, front lawn, etc.

Despite how many safety features your vehicle may have, you’re the best one for the job of keeping you, your passengers and other road users safe. I hope you’re up for the job because you don’t really have much of a choice.

If you like this article, please help support the effort for safe roads. Support HERE

Posted by: safedriver | October 8, 2015

Parking brakes are more than just for parking

parking-brakeI’m sure there have been times in our lives where we don’t use the muscles we may have used previously. I remember playing baseball, then not throwing the ball around very much for a few years and then trying to get back out there and play again. My arm was sore and my legs were sore. My muscles ached and were weak since I hadn’t used them in a while. Sound familiar?

The same can be said for certain parts of your vehicle. One of the safety features in each vehicle is the parking brake – emergency brake as some call it. If you don’t use it regularly, it stops working. The cables of the parking brake run under the vehicle. If the cable begin to rust due to lack of use, they may seize, causing them to get stuck in that unused position. So if you need to use them, they won’t work. Now you’re stuck with only one form of stopping your vehicle. If the regular brakes fail, there’s nothing left to stop your vehicle.

Sometimes we don’t always think of the big picture. Not only is the parking brake a way to ensure your vehicle won’t roll down the hill while parked, it’s also a secondary form of stopping your vehicle if your regular brakes fail. Think of a skydiver. They have two parachutes. If their first parachute doesn’t come out, they have a backup plan. The same could be said for vehicles. Your best backup plan for regular brake failure is your parking brake. However, if that doesn’t work, now what will you do?

truckI was recently at a commercial vehicle inspection and was given the chance to wander around and talk to drivers who were having their vehicle inspected. Many of the vehicles that failed the inspection were because of a faulty parking brake. To many of the drivers I spoke to, they were a little surprised it failed. I asked if they ever use it and they each said rarely or not at all. I explained to each of them how it may rust and stuck and perhaps seize and they too were surprised by that. Perhaps the most unsettling conversation came from one driver.

After explaining the purpose of the parking brake he proceeded to tell me he wish he turned the opposite way and not have to get his vehicle inspected. I asked him if he wanted to drive a safe vehicle. He shrugged his shoulders. He said he didn’t want to pay a towing bill because he wasn’t allowed to drive the vehicle away. So then I asked him “What if the truck slipped out of parked and began rolling and hit someone?” His reply; “So?”

Since I never give up, I proceeded. I asked him to weigh the options. Pay the towing cost and have the vehicle repaired is a possible $200 or having the vehicle roll down the hill, hit someone, get charged, pay a fine, pay repairs for damages, get sued, or worse; someone dies from it. He at least paused and looked at me. Hopefully it made him think.

No one really wants to pay additional costs to things when don’t have to. Being proactive and ensuring your vehicle is in top shape before something bad happens is the way to go. The inspection may have been the best thing to happen to these drivers. It may have been the least expensive solution.

Posted by: safedriver | October 5, 2015

When your actions ruin the lives of others…

nw-to-vaughan-driver-0929-webLet’s face facts; many of us have tried to get away with things we’ve done wrong over the years. This is especially true when we were kids. But as we grow, don’t you think we need to take ownership of our own actions? This is especially true when our actions affect the lives of other people.

Recently, a driver was charged with the deaths of four people and the injuries to two others after his vehicle apparently ran a stop sign and crashed into the other two vehicles. The driver was charged with impaired driving along with speeding. He was also charged with injuring two people and for the deaths of the above mentioned four people; three young kids and their grandfather. I understand about the “innocent until proven guilty” aspect of our society, but there has to be more to this than that.


Let’s talk about hours before that devastating crash. IF alcohol was indeed present, and a Breathalyzer was used at the scene, was this driver drinking alone? Doubt it. He had allegedly just returned from a bachelor party in Las Vegas. Could a plan have been made before drinking began so he could arrive home safely? Definitely. Was there an alternative to driving after drinking? What about the fact the driver was charged with speeding? Reports indicated they were doing twice the legal limit just before crashing at the intersection. If all these reports can be proven in the courts, perhaps the driver’s vehicle had a black box in it to record data, where does this leave the families of those who died?

I try to “put the shoe on the other foot” as often as I can. I teach my kids this as well. I ask them, “How would you feel if someone else did that to you?” when they make mistakes. The thing in this crash is, it could have been easily prevented. But now that it happened, what will happen to the driver charged? Will their lawyers be successful to reduce the charges? Does money talk? Should they serve the time for their actions?

So here’s the thing…as a responsible driver, we need to look beyond the immediate. We all want to enjoy life and have fun, but if your fun could ruin the lives of other people, you need to stop. You need to make other plans before the fun begins. We all make mistakes from time to time, but what happened here was not a mistake. It was a tragedy. Justice may be served, but the lost lives won’t be returned.

Posted by: safedriver | September 24, 2015

Distracted driving is more than using your phone

Distraction resultFor more than a decade we’ve really stepped it up with social media. We can find out what’s happening within our world every second of the day. That is, if you want to. To many people, they can’t let a moment go by without knowing what’s happening. Our phones play a big part of this and we all know how risky using our phones while driving has turned into. Using our smart phones is really turning into an addiction. But our phones are only one part of distracted driving.

We’ve always been distracted at some point throughout our lives. I remember as a kid when I was reading and my mom or dad come into the room and started talking to me. I never heard them because I was so into what I was reading. How many times were you caught daydreaming while you were in school only to miss the information the teacher was sharing? It happens all the time and it won’t really stop.

Even 30 or more years ago we were distracted while driving. But instead of distracted by our phones, we were distracted by our radio, passengers, loose items in our vehicle and a crowded front seat. Remember the bench seat? Oh yeah, we also didn’t have cup holders or water bottles. If you wanted to drink something while driving, you rested it on the seat beside you. If it spilled, you were focused on that and not driving. We were always distracted, even while driving more than 30 years ago. Cell phones have just added to the list of distractions.

Since we can agree being distracted is a common element, why don’t we agree on when we can afford to be distracted? We can afford to be distracted the most when that distraction won’t affect our own safety or the safety of those around us. For example, being distracted while walking along the sidewalk or riding a bicycle can lead to injuries or mistakes. I’ve watched cyclist’s text while riding and go straight through stop signs. Did they care what they just did? Did they know what they just did? Texting while walking across the street can lead into trouble.

Its human nature to be curious, but it takes focus to decide if you should do something about the curiosity or if you should ignore it. The case can be found with this photo. This is the result of the driver becoming distracted with a spider in the vehicle. I know many who don’t like spiders, or bees or any other insects. I think we all know the logical thing to do is to pull over and deal with it, but what if you can’t?

Having your passenger attempt to kill it while you’re driving may be just as distracting or worse. In most cases, you’ll be able to pull over safely and within a few seconds so you can deal with your distraction. It really comes down to prioritizing. If you’re swimming you focus on not drowning. If you’re Bar-B-Qing, you focus on not burning your food. Think of the end result. Driving shouldn’t be any different.

Posted by: safedriver | September 3, 2015

Are you a competitive driver?

IMG-20121021-00372[1]I have something to admit; I’m competitive. Many people are and we need to accept that. I love sports and my two sons loves sports as well. I’ve coached all of my four kids in different sports and activities throughout their early lives and I really enjoy it, and so do they. To many people it’s important to win but I also promote having fun and gaining new skills. The same could be said about driving. Are you competitive while driving?

I often see drivers weaving in and out of traffic trying to get ahead of everyone else. Perhaps they’re late getting to their destination or maybe it’s just how they prefer to drive. Maybe, just maybe, could they be competitive with all the other drivers on the road?

As a driver on public roads I’m only somewhat competitive. I’m competing for the same space on the roads as everyone else. The only difference is I’ll use logic over emotion. For example, if I’m heading along the road and another driver is changing lanes directly in front of me, very close to my vehicle, I’ll reduce speed to let them in. Speeding up to block them may cause a collision, higher blood pressure for myself and just not a good feeling. Since it’s not a race, why should I block them from entering my lane? I’m not that competitive.

Let me ask you these questions and please be honest with yourself. Have you sped up to red lights just to get there sooner? Do you tailgate because you’re running late? Do you yell at other drivers because they aren’t driving as fast as you want them to? Do you speed often just to get to your destination sooner? Do you accelerate quickly from the intersection when the light changes to green? Do you run red lights because you don’t want to wait the 45 seconds for the next green light?

If you’ve answered yes to any of those questions, you’re jeopardizing your safety as a driver and most likely the safety of those in your vehicle and others on the road. If you’ve answered yes to any of those questions let me ask you one more question; what do you think you’re really gaining from doing any of those things?

Remember that if you’re the aggressor, you’ll still have to brake for drivers going slower than you. Speeding will often get you to the red light sooner than others, but you’ll still leave that same intersection at the same time. Getting frustrated with other driver’s and yelling at them means you’re distracted and most likely not thinking about what you’re doing as a driver, which could cause you to get into a collision.

If you really want to be competitive on the roads, try doing these things instead. Leave with enough time to allow you to reach your destination. Even if there’s traffic slowdowns, leaving early should reduce your need to drive aggressively. Drive in the lane that offers you the best view, best flow and least risk so you’re not tempted to swerve throughout traffic. Remember, since you can only go as fast as the traffic in your lane, match the flow of traffic and keep enough space in front to be able to stop if the traffic ahead of you stops abruptly. Look well ahead and if you see stopped vehicles ahead or a red light ahead, gradually slow down early to see if the light will change back to green. Doing so, you may not even have to stop. That keeps you moving and also helps to save fuel.

If you really want to be competitive on the roads, think of the solutions I’ve presented. If you arrive at your destinations safely and haven’t caused problems for other road users, you’ve already won.

Posted by: safedriver | August 28, 2015

Time to re-focus in school zones

crossing 2It’s that time of year that makes parents happy; school starts again! We all seem to enjoy the summer months and the vacations we may take, but we now have to re-focus on the school year. When I say “we” I’m not just talking about the kids at school. I’m also referring to the parents and especially those who are driving in or near school zones. Here’s a few things to consider at any time during the school year.

The first few days after a long break, such as after summer vacation, many of the kids are very excited to see their friends again. They may forget to look before crossing the street, may walk between vehicles and of course, may just dart out at the last second. Because we know this will happen, as drivers we should expect this to happen and prepare for this.

The first thing to do is to keep your speed reduced in those areas. You can respond much quicker to the sudden actions of pedestrians or cyclists if you’re driving much slower. If you’re running late for work, speeding through your community won’t really save you much time. With this in mind, I would suggest you leave for work a few minutes earlier when school is in session. That will give you time to also deal with the higher volume of traffic; including stopping for school buses.

017 (2)To give you more time to respond to the sudden movements of pedestrians and cyclists, you could also drive closer to the middle of the road, especially while passing parked vehicles when there isn’t any oncoming traffic. That added distance from the sidewalk can help you spot those entering your path and allow you to stop sooner. Speaking of parked vehicles, if you take a quick glance under the parked vehicle, you may be able to spot feet or bicycle wheels moving toward your path. That will only work if you’re doing it a couple of car lengths before you reach the vehicle. You could also do a quick scan through the vehicle to see if you can see their upper body walking in front of the vehicle.

To help spot the kids sooner than that, keep your eyes moving from building to building as you drive. Some of the kids may be coming down their driveway, so if you can anticipate them entering the roadway earlier, you’ll have more time to respond to them. And keep in mind, a couple light taps of the horn may also help protect them from being struck. You won’t always have to slow down or stop if you can get them to stop.

Since the kids don’t drive they often won’t think like a driver does. Any time they reach the corner and are about to cross the street, don’t expect they will look your way first. Before school and after school are the busy times in school areas, so you may want to have a good look along the sidewalk before the intersection. They may be cyclists, pedestrians running or skateboarders hurrying to reach the corner.

If you’re a more observant driver, it will help to spot the kids sooner. And remember to be patient. You’ll still reach your destination. Waiting those extra few seconds or dropping your speed slightly won’t make you any later. Since you’ll also have to deal with school buses before and after school, here’s a few reminders that will help keep the kids safe and refresh your memory of what to do when dealing with school buses.

Kids are our future. I’m sure you want to protect your own kids, so let’s protect others as well. Our communities will become much safer for each of them if you make these little changes to your driving pattern.

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