June 1, 2006
The fundamentals of driving have become so routine and familiar that drivers have a tendency to lose their concentration behind the wheel and their minds begin to wander. They frequently become distracted by things inside and outside the vehicle.
Road hazards can be anything in or on a roadway, and they pose threats for all drivers, but are especially perilous for distracted drivers. They may not become aware of them until the last moment, if at all.
Reminding your drivers to expect the unexpected and to be constantly alert for road hazards can help them avoid safety problems or being involved in an accident.
Obviously, the best way to avoid road hazards is to be aware of them and to steer clear. To do this safely, drivers must be able to spot such hazards from a distance. So they should look farther ahead to allow extra time and space to react. Sudden movements by vehicles ahead of them may often indicate a hazard in the road.
Once spotted, drivers should slow down before reaching the hazard and signal their maneuvering intentions to others. Then, only after making certain they have enough room to safely make the maneuver — changing lanes or swinging wide, by way of example — should the necessary action be taken.
Drivers should always maintain a safe distance from other vehicles and be watchful for any road debris, as well as deteriorating road conditions such as potholes, deep ruts and fissures. Vehicles can sometimes kick debris into the air or bounce them along a roadway, creating additional hazards and safety issues. The most common types of road debris, a recent study found, are pieces of tires, garbage dropped by waste haulers, construction materials, mufflers and exhaust parts.
Furthermore, your drivers should be prepared for other drivers who may not be paying attention and do not spot road hazards until the last minute, then swerve haphazardly to avoid them without considering the surrounding traffic.
There are occasions when it is safer to run over debris in the road rather than try to avoid it. Striking minor pieces of debris can be far less dangerous than veering into oncoming traffic or swerving off the pavement.
Knowing where the vehicles around them are will help drivers make the right decision.
By noticing and avoiding hazards well in advance, a driver also helps other motorists identify potential problems.
Drivers who travel the same route every day have a tendency to become complacent. They should be reminded that road and traffic conditions will not be the same each day.
Oftentimes, drivers attempt to optimize their time in vehicles by using phones and other communications devices. This has safety implications because using such devices negatively affects a person’s ability to properly respond to road hazards, let alone more challenging driving situations.
The likelihood of road hazards is increased at night. Not only is it dark, but a person’s general visual acuity is diminished. Moreover, eyes that are constantly dilating and constricting in changing light conditions become tired quickly.
Driving in inclement weather conditions also demands extra caution. Such conditions not only impair a driver’s vision and may hide road hazards, they affect a vehicle’s traction and braking as well.
Then there is the matter of drivers who do not use their turn signals. Although they are not commonly thought of as a road hazard, they are. A lot of drivers do not use their turn signals. No surprise there. What is alarming are the excuses given for not signaling.
A recent national survey by Response Insurance found that 57 percent of American drivers admit they do not use their turn signals when changing lanes. The number one reason given (42 percent of the drivers) is that they “Don’t have enough time.” Other excuses:
Just plain lazy (23 percent).
Don’t use turn signals because when they do, they forget to turn them off (17 percent).
Change lanes too frequently to bother (12 percent).
Because other drivers don’t (11 percent).
The most disturbing reason, however, given by 7 percent of the drivers, was that they don’t use turn signals because: “It adds excitement to driving.”
The survey also indicated that men are more likely than women to not use their signals when changing lanes (62 percent vs. 53 percent). So are younger drivers (ages 18-24), 71 percent of whom reported they don’t signal, as compared to 49 percent of older adults (ages 55-64).
Having drivers report dangerous road conditions, such as road debris and vehicles that appear ready to lose their loads or are unsafe, not only helps make the roads safer, but it makes your company a better neighbor. BI
David Kolman is a veteran truck communicator, keynote speaker and long-haul trucker. Commissioned as an Honorary Colonel on the Kentucky governor’s staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he actively participates in trade associations and reports news and information about the trucking industry for broadcasting and print media.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of distracted drivers are involved in serious crashes. While a percentage of these drivers were simply not paying attention, many were distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle resulting in no hands on the steering wheel, the driver’s gaze directed away from traffic, an increased incidence of wandering in the travel lane or crossing into another travel lane.
Among the most common driver distractions:
Eating or drinking
Manipulating controls on audio, entertainment, navigation systems, etc.
Using a cell phone/pager
Road rage cities
The cities with the worst road rage (least courtesy) are Miami, Phoenix, New York City, Los Angeles and Boston, according to the first annual In The Driver’s Seat Road Rage Survey.
The most courteous cities (least road rage) were found to be Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, Seattle and Atlanta.
Interestingly, the survey — commissioned by national auto club AutoVantage — found “no real difference between men and women when it comes to road rage.”