If you’ve been in the trucking business for as long as we have, we’re sure you’ve also heard your fair share of success stories...and, sad stories. More times than we care to count have we been driving home only to hear a grim news report over the radio telling listeners about an overturned trailer blocking the highway with its load spilled everywhere and the driver being raced to the hospital for unknown injuries. It’s reports like this that remind the industry of the importance of ongoing driver training for even the most seasoned and experienced of drivers.
Statistics indicate that more than 80% of accidents are caused by driver error. And, yes, while it’s true that professional truck drivers are usually some of the safest drivers we have on the road, nobody is truly immune to the complacency that, more often than not, tends to settle in after years or decades on the road.
What Does It Mean To Be A Defensive Driver?
You may already be one of those drivers who’s never been in an accident before and always leaves plenty of space between yourself and the vehicle ahead. You also know to keep your headlights on and your windshield crystal clear. Or, perhaps you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and have found yourself being labeled as a high-risk driver who has to take a special driving course to maintain your employment and insurability. Regardless of one’s skill and history as a driver, we can all benefit from ongoing driver training and a lesson in defensive driving:
Defensive drivers always look ahead -- up to 2 to 3 city blocks ahead, in fact -- to identify potential and real hazards along the way. Scan back and up towards the front of your vehicle and use your side mirrors judiciously. Being constantly aware of your surroundings means you have the upper hand on avoiding potential hazards before it’s too late to avoid them.
Another tip is to avoid focusing on any one object for more than a couple of seconds. Be sure to constantly shift your eyes between the important gauges on your dashboard, the horizon, the sides of the road, your mirrors, and the other vehicles in front of your truck.
Communication Is A Two-Way Street
Effectively communicating with other pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers on the road means being as predictable as possible. Make eye contact with other motorists, use a light tap on the horn to make sure they’re aware of you if they happen to be looking in the opposite direction, and offer a friendly wave in acknowledgement of a right of way pass. If you can communicate with them, they can communicate with you.
Self Discipline and Speed
Truck stopping distance is a factor of reaction time, braking time, and stopping time. As you can see, a lot of time can elapse at each stage of the game, which can make your final stopping distance greater than you anticipated. Exercising self discipline when it comes to speed also means keeping an eye on the speedometer, being aware of speed limits and school zones, and being ready, willing, and able to adjust one’s speed based on current driving conditions.
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