Posted by: safedriver | August 12, 2016

Things drivers do that make you go… hmmm

books.jpgRaising kids has taught me a lot. When my kids were very young they would often do or say things that made me laugh, made me cry and above all, made me think. Relating this to driving, which is something I always tend to do, there are things I see from drivers that make me laugh, make me cry (almost) and especially make me go…hmmm.

It’s no secret drivers get confused or distracted while driving. The latest “Pokémon Go” craze not only has kids walking around the streets with their eyes glued to their phones, but it’s transferring to drivers too. Recently, after 3 o’clock in the morning, a driver was pulled over by police because they were driving erratically. When the officer approached the driver, they were playing Pokémon Go. Seriously? Here’s the article This just makes you want to say… hmmm.

Reading is very good thing to do (especially these articles). Having a place to put your books can seem troubling at times, but leaving them on the back window ledge of your vehicle, as this driver did isn’t the place. Kind of makes you go hmmm. Those items, which are not secured, can become projectiles if the driver suddenly stops or has to make a quick turn. Those items can easily fly off the ledge and into the head of passengers. If you like to read and find time sitting in your parked vehicle, keep the books secured…such as in the trunk.

Keeping your passengers relaxed as you drive is a good thing. It’s important they have confidence in your abilities as a driver. However, I seem to see more front seat passengers place their feet up on the dashboard as the vehicle travels along the road. Any idea what type of injuries the passenger could receive if an airbag went off? Take a look at this and tell me if it’s okay to do this; Kind of makes you want to go…hmmm.

IMG-20120924-00347Then there was the passenger who left their food on the roof of the vehicle. Hmmm. It was in a take-out container. They were driving behind me so at the red light I quickly got out of my vehicle and told them they left their food on the roof. A little embarrassed, but none-the-less the passenger got out and removed their food. No one really likes tossing their lunch, right? Hmmm.

These are just a few things that made me go…hmmm. I know life keeps us busy and we lose focus from time to time, but driving safely deserves our focus. You owe it to yourself, your family…and to your passengers to stay focused and be a safe driver.

Posted by: safedriver | July 20, 2016

I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not sure

IMG-20111117-00157Life throws us a lot of choices. Too many sometimes. We often can’t decide what to do, where to go, who to be with, etc. Driving itself has so many decisions each and every time we get behind the wheel it’s no wonder people get confused. To many people, multiple choices can lead to anxiety. This anxiety will quite often will lead to poor decision-making. However, there are solutions.

Recently I watched how a driver hesitated many times during their travels. It seemed at first like they were unsure of where they were going, but after that it just seemed as if they were just indecisive. Should they go or should they wait…is it safe to go…which way should they go…and so on. Indecision is often related to lack of self-confidence and a tendency to worry about potential problems. So how can someone who is so indecisive while driving improve? Here are a few ideas.

The first is to plan your route. Know exactly where you’re going. The ability to make decisions means that you must be able to see into the future. You need to see the implications of each of your possible actions. Planning your route means that you have to visualize where there will be the most traffic or how you can possibly avoid the most crowded roads or difficult turns. Planning your route also means where to go if there is a detour. Have an alternate plan.

If you’re going to place you haven’t been to before, know the name of the street just before the street you need to turn at so you know your turn is coming up. Also, if you know you have to make a left turn, ensure you’re in the correct lane well in advance. How many times have you seen drivers attempting a left turn from the right lane because they’re about to miss their turn? Instead of panicking and doing that make the next 3 right turns and go around the block. Once you’ve corrected the error, ignore it and move on.

Looking ahead – well ahead – will also give you more time to make decisions based on the traffic patterns and possible road construction. Those who look just a couple of vehicles ahead have less time to make choices. They often panic and make risky decisions. Looking to where you think you’ll be in at least the next 12 to 15 seconds in the city will often give you more time to see, think and decide what to do next.

Turn off as many of your distractions as possible. Focus on one thing – your driving – and that may help alleviate the anxiety. If a distraction causes a missed turn or lack of focus, pull over and take a break to gather up your thoughts. Once you’ve dealt with that, let it go. Consider that mini problem over and move on.

And finally, have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Be honest with yourself. Saying you’re confident to others when down deep you know you’re not is only asking for trouble. If you’re having trouble with something which often causes indecision, ask a professional for advice. I often get emails here asking for advice and I’m good with that. It’s what I do. That’s the decision I’ve made and I think it’s a good one.

**If you like this article, please help support the effort of a new website for safer roads. Support HERE

Posted by: safedriver | July 5, 2016

A summer survival kit every driver should have

breakdownResponding early to situations is far better than responding suddenly because if you don’t…well…it doesn’t always turn out so well. I often discuss being prepared for a winter breakdowns and having a winter driving survival kit prepared, but what about having a summer driving survival kit prepared? Is there really a need for one?

When we think of a vehicle survival kit it’s often about being stuck in snow or having your vehicle broken down in bad weather, but there’s more to it than that. Having a few items in your vehicle can help you and your passengers survive, including in the best of weather situations. The first thing perhaps is having a roadside assistance membership. It can become a valuable asset.

Many drivers won’t think of having a vehicle breakdown or being stranded but it does happen. Sitting on the shoulder of the freeway/highway isn’t as safe as you may think. This explains HERE. Many decades ago when I was in my early 20’s while I was returning home from camping, my camper trailer got a flat tire. I didn’t have a spare for the trailer and nothing to help. I ended up leaving the trailer on the side of the highway, driving to the closest service area, getting another tire and returning to change it. All those lost hours would have been avoided if I was ready for it. I’m ready now, are you? Let’s get started.

Just like the winter kit, you need a place to put these items. A medium sized plastic bin with a lid or a good size duffle bag is a good place to start. It won’t take up a lot of room in your vehicle but it’s good to know it will be there if/when you need it. To start with, reflective triangles or flares come in handy if you need to communicate to other traffic to go around your disabled vehicle.

Besides those items, here’s a few things that can be placed in the bin or duffle bag; sunscreen, umbrella/rain jacket, up-to-date first-aid kit, flashlight with batteries outside of the flashlight (so they won’t leak into the flashlight causing the flashlight to be useless), booster cables, tire pressure gauge, tire pump, tire sealant (for those moments when you run over a nail and need to pump up the tire to get to a repair shop), small tool kit (pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches), duct tape, a couple of rags, jug of washer fluid, jug of water or engine coolant, blanket, hat with a brim, extra sunglasses, phone charger, fresh water bottle, snacks (granola bars, nuts, dried fruit) and bug spray.

When our windows are open the risk increases for insects to fly into the vehicle. This would include bees and wasps or anything else within your jurisdiction which may make it inside your vehicle. If you’re stung by a bee or a wasp and you’re allergic, ensure you have the proper medication prescribed to you with you. If you’re not allergic, you may need something to pull the stinger out. You can use a bank card or credit card. A cold compress should come next and apply it every 20 minutes. If it’s still painful you can take something for the pain, but ensure you’re fit to drive before you drive away again.

Preparing to drive in summer takes as much effort as it does to prepare to drive in winter. Our survival kits may look different, but they both serve the same purpose – to help us survive comfortably until help arrives. Oh yeah, one more important item to help us survive if you’re stranded during the summer – toilet paper…because even though you’re stranded, sometimes you still need to go.

**If you like this article, please help support the effort of a new website for safer roads. Support HERE

Posted by: safedriver | June 14, 2016

Being reliable takes effort

truckReliability; we want it in our lives. Whether it’s in a life partner, a job, an employee or a vehicle, we rely on people and things to get us through our days, weeks, months and years. But what happens when they aren’t reliable? Some people get annoyed. Some others look for a replacement. Regardless of what or who you want reliable, it’s a team effort. Let’s talk vehicle.

Having a reliable vehicle is something many people take for granted. They get into the vehicle, start the engine and expect everything to be working as it should. In real life we know that doesn’t always happen. For many people, if your vehicle doesn’t work well enough to ensure its safe to drive, we can take it in the repair shop and get a ride to work. No problem really. But what happens when you need your vehicle for work? When do you take it in to be repaired? What could possibly go wrong if you continued to drive it when it wasn’t mechanically fit? Lots.

To the average driver, how often do you take your vehicle in for service? Do you wait until there’s a problem or do you take it for regular intervals? Recently I was an observer as commercial vehicles were brought in for a routine inspection. Many of these vehicles passed the surprise inspection, but others did not. Some of the violations the inspectors found were not having an annual vehicle safety done, overweight loads, broken leaf springs and one of the biggies – ruptured brake lines. All of these infractions can lead to a collision and possible injuries… or worse.

Proactive maintenance is always a good thing. Take a look at this vehicle with a broken brake line. Better to have found it now than after it completely leaked out.

While I was there I overheard an employee speaking freely to his employer about other company vehicles in their fleet which may need repairs. If you’re an employer or a fleet manager, it’s a good idea to listen to your employees. No one really wants to spend money they don’t need to spend, but spending a little money now for proactive repairs is far greater than spending a lot of money later…such as fines, major repairs, collisions, lawsuits, etc.

Regardless of whether you drive your vehicle to earn employment, to get to your employment or just for pleasure, you want your vehicle to be reliable. To help it remain reliable make the effort to look after it. It could cost you a lot more… than money.

Posted by: safedriver | June 7, 2016

Reducing distracted driving…that works for me

SHARK 1As many people already know, I promote road safety all the time. Well, maybe not all the time. I do need to sleep a few hours a day, but other than that it really does seem like it’s all the time. Through verbal discussion, print, radio or television – it’s what I love to do. Every now and then I come across an opportunity to test new things to see if they can make a difference in road safety. I was fortunate to try something new recently and I think it may make a difference when it comes to reducing distracted driving.

There are so many things that may distract us while driving; we already know that. However, with the human factor weighing so much pressure on us, we often need help to stop the distractions. For those of us who can self-govern it’s not too much of an issue. I can keep my mind on driving and ignore most distractions, despite what I may be faced with. For those who need some help, luckily there is support out there to help you stay focused while driving and remove the distractions.

I was recently introduced to a product called the SHARK from a company called InCarBite It’s a wireless phone charger that places the phone out of sight to the driver. Remember the old saying of ‘out of sight, out of mind’? This device may fall under that category and may be able to help drivers avoid the distractions of their phones while driving and stay focused on the driving task.

To be honest, I was curious how this product could help reduce distracted driving. After all, it was only a phone charger, right? After using it for a while, I did find the SHARK allowed me to forget about the phone. I forgot about it so much I left it in my vehicle a few times after parking. Although I normally ignore my phone while driving, I could see the benefits of removing the phone from the driver’s view while driving.

To add to this, I also use an app on my phone that stops any notifications I would normally get for emails or text messages. Combined, these two devices can stop the urge to check the phone while driving. And let’s face it; some people need the added help to stop distracted driving. And maybe, just maybe, the SHARK can help them accomplish that goal.

For many drivers, the temptation of constantly checking the phone is always on their mind. The phone will often sit loose on the seat or near the middle console and with it in clear view, will often make its way into the hands of the driver. They see it and want to check messages, despite the fact they know it’s dangerous and illegal in so many jurisdictions. Checking the phone has really turned into an addiction for many people, but that could possibly stop with the SHARK and that works for me.

To those who leave their phone in a backpack, purse or jacket, that’s a good idea and I applaud you. Will I promote the SHARK? Yes, but not just as a phone charger. It’s a step in the right direction to reduce distracted driving…and that works for me.

**If you like this article, please help support the effort of a new website for safer roads. Support HERE

Posted by: safedriver | May 17, 2016

Let the countdown begin

IMG_20160517_081009Think back to when you were a kid. You were taught over and over again how to safely cross the street. As we got older and had kids of our own, we taught them the same things. We wanted to be good pedestrians and for that matter, safe pedestrians. Once we began to drive we used the same knowledge from being a pedestrian to become a driver, but was that really a good idea?

For years many drivers often relied upon the crosswalk lights to let them as drivers know if the traffic light was about to change. Not really a good idea. The pedestrian crosswalk light is for the pedestrians; not the drivers of vehicles. I would often see drivers I’m training reducing their speed just because the “don’t walk” hand was flashing. Umm, that light is letting pedestrians know they shouldn’t attempt to cross the road if they haven’t already started. Oh, and by the way, while the “don’t walk” light is flashing, the traffic light is still green. So in reality you’re slowing down for a green light. Sounds silly now doesn’t it?

With many jurisdictions now using “countdown lights” to let pedestrians know how much time they have to clear the crosswalk and perhaps even letting pedestrians decide not to enter the crosswalk at all. These countdown lights are helping reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities in many jurisdictions. However, many drivers are using that same technology to help them determine if they have time to clear the intersection. But that may be a whole other wrong.

IMG_20160517_081016To avoid getting a ticket for running a red light, many drivers are hitting the gas to help them clear the intersection before the traffic light changes from green to yellow (amber). However those actions can affect other drivers who may be turning left across their path. It can create a collision or close call to say the least because the gap they thought was large enough to turn through has gotten smaller much quicker. Besides, speeding up to “make the light” is never worth it as the time you would save is never enough. If drivers are accelerating toward an intersection because of what the numbers show them, they will have less time to take corrective action to avoid a pedestrian, and have less control of their vehicle.

The other problem that I’ve seen are when drivers slow down thinking they don’t have enough time to get through the intersection. Again; slowing down for a green light for no apparent reason is never a good idea. It confuses the drivers in the opposite direction who may want to turn across your path. It can also frustrate the drivers behind. Here’s a few other thoughts;

So here’s the plan; let pedestrians use the crosswalk symbols and countdown numbers for their purpose and you as a driver use the traffic lights for your purpose. Look ahead and make the decision whether to stop or proceed if the light changes from green before it changes. If you need a little more help to determine if you should stop or not if the green light changes, this will help you instead of a few numbers in the crosswalk.

Posted by: safedriver | May 11, 2016

If the unexpected is expected is it really unexpected?

procrastinating2Let’s face facts, there are a lot of things we trust in our lives, especially when it comes to driving. We trust drivers will stop at red lights and not blow through the intersection, we expect drivers will check to see if it’s clear before changing lanes and we never expect to get into a collision. However, the reality of life is we can’t really trust too many things…except yourself. Trusting other people while driving can often put you at risk.

For the decades that I’ve been involved with road safety I’ve seen a lot; maybe too much and maybe not enough yet. Time will tell. What I do see every day is trust – blind trust. The trust I’m referring to is trust with the drivers around us. With so much happening in our lives these days it’s very common to lose track of what’s happening around us that serious mistakes tend to happen.

Over these many years I’ve taken out countless licensed drivers to assess their driving ability. Like most people, they get sucked into what’s happening around them that doesn’t pertain to their own driving. This takes their eyes – and thoughts – away from their own driving. They lose track of what may be coming from behind or the sides. Next thing you know their turn is coming up and they aren’t in the proper lane. This happened around me recently.

While I was in the left lane preparing to make a left turn up the road, the driver to my right suddenly turned left, just ahead of me. Was I startled? Nope. Was I annoyed? Not really. I was expecting it. I also know how to judge the movement of vehicles very early; which can be explained here However, many drivers aren’t expecting it and they position their vehicle in the wrong place.

Letting another vehicle stay immediately beside you or slightly ahead of your fender while in traffic can lead to problems. When those drivers suddenly realize they have to make their turn and you just happen to be in their way, it spells trouble. To avoid this type of trouble, adjust speed when another vehicle occupies the space directly beside your vehicle. Either speeding up or slightly dropping speed will create a gap between your vehicle and their vehicle. This will place that vehicle slightly ahead or behind you and give those drivers room to make those unexpected lane changes or turns. Granted, in heavier traffic this means you’re going to have to work harder to keep that space, but I think it’s worth it.

We need to learn to position our vehicle in traffic to avoid being involved in the mistakes of others. We also have to avoid making so many of those same mistakes. Driving is a task that takes concentration and commitment. Put everything else aside and do the job of a driver. This keeps you ready for the unexpected, which makes me ask this question; if the unexpected is expected is it really unexpected?

Posted by: safedriver | April 28, 2016

Head on collisions can be avoided…

head onEvery now and then we’re faced with a surprise; and not a good kind of surprise like a birthday party, or tickets to the big game. Surprises that can put us into a panic are never a good thing. One of the worst kinds of surprises is the potential head on crash. Would you know what to do if you’re faced with someone coming directly at you in your lane?

Head on collisions can be avoided, but the driver has to be prepared. What I mean by that is to be ready at all times and plan ahead. The first thing each driver should do is to constantly keep looking ahead and moving their eyes from side to side. Glancing well ahead toward the oncoming traffic is always a good idea. Never expect the traffic to stay in their own lane. Constant glances toward their wheels and the lane markings will give you advanced notification if they may be drifting across the line and into your lane. This early notification can give you the added time needed to move safely out of their way. (Judging wheel movement is explained more HERE)

Being able to avoid a head on collision starts well before you need to avoid the crash. Constantly planning where you can move to is a good habit to get into. On many highways and rural roads there is a shoulder, mostly gravel, which can be used. In many cases drivers panic and hit the brakes, but braking just delays the oncoming driver from hitting you. Knowing the shoulder is available is a good thing.

Once you realize you need to avoid this crash, look well ahead along the edge of the shoulder, maintain your speed, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and move slightly onto the gravel shoulder. Leaving your left side tires on the pavement will allow you to keep traction while the other two wheels are on a loose surface with less traction. Move over far enough to allow for enough space for the oncoming driver to pass. Making this move early allows for the driver who made the mistake of entering your lane time to see what you’re doing to help the situation so they can pass safely. Moving over later may mean a head on collision on the shoulder. Once it’s safe, look well ahead into the middle of your lane and gently ease back onto the pavement.

Years ago I was teaching one of my students how to avoid a head on collision. We had just practiced the move a couple of times without any traffic near us when up ahead an oncoming driver pulled out from behind a large truck and was coming directly at us. With my hand on the steering wheel for guidance, my student moved the vehicle onto the shoulder to allow the oncoming vehicle to pass.

Everything worked out as it should. However, my student had thought I had “set it up” to have someone come directly at us in our lane. Think about it; we had just practiced the exercise when we had to do it for real. I laughed and explained it was just luck that we had to do it with a real vehicle. I’m still not sure they believed me. However, they now knew head on collisions can be avoided.

Posted by: safedriver | April 12, 2016

Is spring vehicle maintenance really worth it?

repair-1189161_960_720Technically spring is here. I just confirmed with the calendar. In many places I don’t think Mother Nature checks the calendar. However, we do know milder weather will be upon us before we know it. This is a good time for some spring vehicle maintenance after a cold winter has passed through. Proper maintenance now will help your vehicle run at its best during the spring and summer months. Here’s a top five list of basic spring maintenance tips.

  1. Check all of the fluids, not just the oil. When you change the oil and oil filter during regularly scheduled maintenance, you should also check the power steering, brake, and transmission fluids; your windshield washer fluid; and your engine coolant. If these fluid levels are low, you should top them up. You may need to flush these systems or replace them as recommended in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. In some cases, the power steering, brake and coolant systems are closed, so low fluid levels may indicate a leak.
  1. Freezing rain, snow and ice can really do a number on our wiper blades. Scraping the snow and ice from the windshield may have left tears in the rubber which really won’t help your visibility while it rains. Spring is a good time to replace them. Typically windshield wiper blades may last anywhere from 6 months to a year as it is. There’s no better time to replace them than early spring; before those spring showers begin to fall.
  1. Spring is also a good time to have the vehicle’s charging system tested. Cold temperatures can put a strain on the vehicle battery. It’s also a good time to ensure the battery is properly mounted and the connections are clean, tight, and free of corrosion. A wire brush can help clean those terminals and posts. If the battery is older than five years, you want to consider replacing it. If not, check it monthly to ensure it can keep up to the charging system demands.
  1. Driving through deep snow and ice can do some damage to the exhaust system. Ensure you have the exhaust system checked for any leaks, damage and any possible broken supports or hangers. Catching these issues early can save you a bunch of cash.
  1. If you live in a cold weather climate, you’re no stranger to winter and spring potholes. Driving through these potholes can do a number to your tires and rims but also the shocks and struts on the vehicle. During your spring maintenance check, look for cracks, leaks, uneven wear and sidewall bruising on the tires and also bent rims. Bent rims can affect vehicle control plus it may also lead to tire leaks. Damaged shocks and struts can really make a difference for vehicle control during emergency braking. These issues need to be addressed immediately.

These are just the basics of a spring maintenance check which should be done once you know spring has finally arrived. It really is worth it. Not only will a properly maintained vehicle add life to your vehicle, it can allow you to do your job effectively as the driver.

If you like this article, please help support the effort of a new website for safer roads. Support HERE

Posted by: safedriver | April 6, 2016

Do you promote open dialogue?

IMG-20111117-00157I’m a communicator. It’s what I do for a living. I get paid to talk, whether it’s verbally or in print. It’s kind of a nice gig, but I often wonder who is really listening. Are you? As parents we know our kids listen…sometimes. I prompt open dialogue with my kids, especially as they get older and begin driving. It’s important to ensure they know there are rules associated to driving the family vehicle.

When my son wants to borrow the vehicle we ask where he’s going and who he’s going with. It’s not that we’re prying, it’s because we care. Although he’s licenced to drive alone, we always ensure he knows there are times he doesn’t have to drive or need to drive. We’ve often let our kids know if there are any times they feel either they aren’t suitable to drive or they feel the person who IS driving them isn’t suitable to drive they should call us. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night, we’ll come and get them. No questions asked. We just want them home safe. This was tested a few months ago.

Just before 3 a.m. my cell phone rang. My son had locked the car keys in the car and noticed after he was finished work in the early morning. Instead of trying to break into the vehicle trying to get the keys or to use up one of his road safety club opportunities, he called me instead. I was there within 15 minutes with the spare key, unlocked the car and went right back home to continue to get my beauty sleep, to which I still need a lot of it. I wasn’t angry or upset. He did what we wanted him to do. He knew to do this because we have open dialogue. He now knows we mean what we said.

We also have open dialogue about driving conditions and responsibility. We discuss the powers of nature such as when the road conditions aren’t ideal and when to drive, how to drive and why. Ensuring they know ‘why’ they must change their driving habits and techniques is important. They’re still young and inexperienced as drivers, but these discussions are a good refresher for them. We also talk about the future with regards to driving decisions made. The questions we want them to ask themselves is “What would happen…?”

What would happen to their insurance if they were caught speeding? What would happen if they had alcohol in their system while driving? What would happen if they crashed? We discussed things that would greatly affect their future and the safety of themselves and other road users. It wasn’t a lecture. It was a discussion. I’m hoping more parents have open dialogue with their kids, especially when it comes to driving. I wonder if open dialogue happened in this family and if not, will it happen now.

My kids and I have open dialogue many times on a variety of topics. Driving just happens to be very close to my heart. I would suggest all parents have these open discussions with their kids. Let them know what appropriate driving conduct is and isn’t for driving the vehicle and what rules you’re imposing on using the family vehicle. Remind them it’s still a privilege and not a right. There should be consequences if the rules get broken. Remember, it’s better to get an early more call from your kid saying they need your help to unlock the vehicle as opposed to an early morning call from the police saying your kid is injured, killed or has been arrested.

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