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Five dangerous driving habits and how to avoid them

Posted by Jean-Clay Van Heerden on 2017/08/03 12:00 PM
Jean-Clay Van Heerden
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The most advanced technology in the world still can’t control the most dangerous part in every vehicle: the human factor. How do we train ourselves to avoid dangerous habits?

Whether you’re a professional fleet driver, daily commuter, or weekend cruiser, there are universal hazards or distractions that apply to all drivers. There are countless articles listing the top most dangerous driving habits and while there are some differences, these five bad habits make it onto nearly every list:

Talking on the phone / texting

Cellphones are a menace on the road. Some drivers are updating their Facebook status, chatting or texting, and others are using them to google directions – the point is that whilst you’re doing any of those, you’re not paying attention to the road. Another terrifying trend is companies who expect their off-site staff to answer their phones or check in with management whilst on the road – this will rarely be written down and comes across as an unspoken rule.

What you should do:

  • Invest in a handsfree unit. For companies this should not even be on the ‘to do’ list anymore – it should already be done. The reality is that most people who spend a lot of time behind the wheel do need to make and accept calls occasionally. Make sure you set up your car and phone so that you never need to take your eyes off the road when taking a call. That said, drivers should still avoid in-car phone calls whenever possible. Even with handsfree, talking on the phone still distracts you from driving. This infographic shows just how distracting handsfree phone calls really are. So if there’s any way you can wait five minutes to pull over, or return the call once you’ve reached your destination, it is still the best option even if you have the most advanced handsfree kit installed.

Setting GPS devices whilst driving

There’s no arguing that GPS navigation is one of the best inventions of all time, but they can be tricky to operate (even the best ones). Drivers need to make sure they have properly set up their GPS before they set off on their journey. According to the Chicagolawywer Blog, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “has determined that programming a GPS while driving is more likely to cause an accident than texting while driving.” Fleet managers and drivers alike need to ensure that good GPS habits are trained from day one – no driver should ever be adjust their GPS unit whilst driving – this can all be done before you leave the parking lot, or your own driveway.

What you should do:

  • Whether you’re a fleet manager, fleet driver, or a private commuter, make a rule that you’re never allowed to touch the GPS whilst the engine is running.
  • Fleet managers should track GPS inputs (this can be done on most units) this will allow them to identify starting points – if starting points differ from the start location of specific journeys, you know that the GPS was adjusted during the journey. The driver may have done this while the vehicle was stationary, but it is a good idea to track and follow up with drivers.

Eating behind the wheel

Eating behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous distractions at any time. As humans. We’re simply not built to focus on so many different things at one time, and eating tends to dominate our focus, which means we’re not paying any attention to the road.

That said, snacking is often used as a way for long haul drivers and regular commuters to stay alert on boring drives or heavy traffic.

What you should do:

  • The catch here is choosing what you snack on: don’t go for messy food, but rather easy-to-reach small snacks.
  • Keep it organised – don’t add risk by searching for snacks if you drop them. Searching for items around the vehicle is another of the top causes of accidents, so be as organised as possible if you do need to snack in order to stay alert.

Looking into the backseat to engage passengers / children

The whole moral of the story is: never take your eyes off the road, because you never know what’s going to happen in the next second. It therefore goes without saying that drivers who turn around to talk to passengers on the back seat, are putting everyone’s lives at risk. The biggest concern here is children: all parents know it’s nearly impossible to drive for even five minutes without having to somehow intervene with some kind of backseat fiasco.

What you should do:

  • Do your research – there are millions of tips out there for parents who drive with kids. Sift through these and, through a process of trial and error, figure out what works for you.
  • Accept that it’s not going to be easy and that, at the end of the day, your priority is keeping everyone safe – not resolving backseat conflict.

Personal Grooming

This one is often joked about, but the reality is that personal grooming is still one of the leading causes of vehicle accidents worldwide. Whether it’s makeup, shaving, flossing or fixing your tie – none of these should be done whilst you’re in control of a vehicle!

What you should do:

  • Once again, it come down to organising. None of these personal grooming activities require hours of time – even if you’re in a huge rush, there is no excuse for flossing your teeth whilst driving. Ever. There are no alternatives here – drivers simply need to plan their time so there is no need to do any of these whilst behind the wheel.

All five of the top distractions mentioned above are bad habits that drivers can break. Fleet managers need to employ training methods / courses to ensure their drivers don’t succumb to these risky behaviors. And drivers need to set rules for themselves to ensure they break / avoid these dangerous habits.

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Topics: Training