Tuesday, June 30, 2009

safe driving 101, part 1

I recently completed my annual driver safety refresher training.

Seeing as traffic will be at an all-year high this holiday weekend, as people around the United States take to traveling far and wide in celebration of Independence Day, I thought this would be a perfect time to share the knowledge that I learned ... with all of you ... in an effort to keep you safe.

Because I care about you that way.

And since you may be on the same road with me or my precious family, I believe it is important to impart whatever knowledge I have about driving safely to those who read this little blog.

This Driver Safety post has taken me several days to write. I will be publishing it in segments throughout the day, as opposed to one huge post at once, because I fear anyone who tries to read it all at once would lose consciousness. But I will be taking roll and I fully expect you to read it in all of it's entirety.

There will be a quiz at the end.

Now before I dive in to this critically important post - I think it's important to note that I work for a company that takes safe operations very seriously.

In all of the training seminars that we take in order to insure that our activities are executed flawlessly, it is stressed that our behavior dictates our safety. As such, we subscribe to a philosophy that in industry, is commonly referred to as "Behavior-Based Loss Prevention."

The driving safety program that our company subscribes to is from the Smith-System Driver Improvement Institute, and it falls under this Behavior-Based Loss Prevention category. Almost everything included in this post series, has been taken directly from the Smith-System Driver program.

The five keys that I'll be referencing in these posts are registered by Smith-System and are noted, accordingly. Although I've done my absolute best to include an overview of the program here, if you ever have the opportunity to attend a Smith-System Driver Safety program, I would highly (highly, highly) recommend it. There is absolutely NO comparison to reading about how to drive safely and taking a real class, where you are required to get behind the wheel while a Smith-System Trained Instructor analyzes your driving.

Just ask Charlie.

I'm not even a Trained Instructor but since I've had the training at least five times, I critique him constantly when we're on the road. It's awesome and a great marriage builder. (Or not.)

OK. Pour yourself a cup of tea and let's get started.

Every year, thousands and thousands of people die in pointless traffic accidents.


There are many answers to this question. But the most important answer is that precautions were rarely taken to prevent these tragic accidents. True, some accidents are inescapable. But of the MILLIONS of accidents happening every year, only a small percentage are truly non-preventable.

Yet, the right precautions do prevent accidents. And seeing as we spend a large portion of our lives driving, we need to be cognizant of what those precautions are. Especially considering many of us are transporting life's most precious cargo.

These pictures below were sent to me, today, by a colleague at work.

Do you see the motorcycle?

How about now?

The driver and the passenger in the car were talking on a cell phone. The driver of the car didn't see the motorcycle and the motorcyclist, who was driving at 85 miles per hour, didn't notice the bright red car - edging out at the intersection. When the paramedics arrived, they extracted three victims from the red car. The motorcycle driver - the driver - and the passenger.

They were all killed instantly.

The Smith-System is a series of interlocking techniques for preventing accidents. They help drivers to see, think and act their way through the multitude of driving environments, challenges and changes that exist no matter where they travel or what types of vehicles they operate.

Total awareness, perceptive anticipation, accurate forecasting, early detection and deliberate reaction are the primary features of these techniques.

Behind the variety of unique reasons for every accident are common contributing factors that repeatedly come in to play. But most of these factors include human error. They include:

Inattention: It might surprise you that most of the drivers on the road don't pay enough attention to the serious business of driving. Yet change is the most constant thing on the road. There are an endless variety of things that must be identified and analyzed, at every moment.

Too Much Attention to Too Little:
Some drivers concentrate too much attention for too long one item, while missing others of equal or greater importance.

Not Enough Time: Drivers often do not allow themselves adequate time to make important decisions and act upon them. This is usually caused by not seeing enough, soon enough.

Not Enough Space: Drivers frequently accompany each other in close-knit packs, leaving themselves no maneuvering room if they need to steer clear of a sudden problem. They tailgate both inside and outside of packs.

Not Allowing for the Mistakes of Others: Drivers often fail to see or anticipate the mistakes of others in time to avoid conflict.

Not Enough Training:
Fundamental training is often very inadequate. Many drivers are turned loose in the traffic world after gaining only limited knowledge of local laws and the basics of vehicle handling.

Failure to Adjust to Conditions:
Changing road and weather conditions require drivers to adapt and to modify driving techniques. Many drivers don't adapt to circumstances, or are slow to recognize their importance.

Driver Impairment: The influences of alcohol, drugs, fatigue and illness can lead to accidents.

Vehicle Failure: This causes a very small percentage of accidents. Many of them can be avoided if drivers take the proper precautions.

Up next ... the first of Five Keys to Driving Safely.

Go grab yourself a donut.


  1. Be sure never to say "yes" to an assignment in Eastern Europe.
    It is anxiety attack central.
    My husband's company (probably in the same field as your's, oil right?) is also big on safety but even with all the training that they have received, it has taken a backseat here...
    Thanks for posting these, I need a refresher before we head back to the U.S. after what they call "driving" on the roads here....

  2. We watched a video during our training class of a time lapsed tape from wtihin a tunnel in ... I believe ... Russia.

    It was unbelievable.

    Cars were skidding out of control, flipping over, and other cars - were just DODGING around them, like they were obstacles in some video game. It was like the worst case of teenager-out-of-control driving I'd ever seen. AND, there were TRUCKS driving that way, too!!

    If I was ever relocated, I'd definitely request a Mack truck for my commuting purposes. Or, a helicopter...

  3. Wow. Those pictures are so sad.

    I'm looking forward to your driving posts!

  4. Sounds like this training should be mandatory for receiving a license. There's no reason they can't require better driver training.

  5. Since MY Driving Session w/YOU during our visit; I have really tried to be conscience. Thanks to YOU now my kids are in the act. "Mom do you see the bumper touch the road on that car?" (Which can be a bit annoying at times; but since they were in the car during much of my instruction...I gratefully live with it.)

    Perhaps, when Governor Sanford of South Carolina gets back from the "Appalachian Trails" I think it may be good for him to actually show his concern for the citizens of this state and pass a "No Cell Phone while Driving Law"... which. yes. I am guilty.

    Well. then. Those pictures are unbelievable! You've got my attention (once again) and I've got my donut(s)! Marg.

  6. giggle...giggle...giggle...


    whoops... I'll pay attention now...

  7. As an auto insurance agent, thanks for helping me complete my continuing education. :)

    So are you saying that throwing the kids pretzels, while talking on the phone, and signing my paperwork to get my money back from the FDIC was dangerous?

    You'll be happy to know we are partaking in the 4th of July two doors down from our house.

  8. If you're interested, we have a blog dedicated to examining and reporting on terrible driving across the major cities of Canada. You can check it out at:


  9. I have read your blog faithfully for over a year now; I check it daily and enjoy the laughs and the ups and downs of your life. You are a very talented writer!

    I was actually in a very traumatic car wreck last week and nothing I could have done could have prevented it.

    You have the power to influence many people with your blog, and I understand where you were going with the safe driving bit, but I really hope you'll consider putting up a warning of graphic pictures with your heading, as I am badly shaken up still from my own recent wreck, and I know I'm not the only one who can't handle seeing pictures like that (especially without warning of graphic pictures).

    Thanks for reading this, and I hope you don't think I am being disrespectful.

  10. Sorry Anon - I didn't even think about how those pictures would be traumatizing to readers. I see photos like this quite often - and although they are very disturbing - they are also a good wake up call of what can happen on the road.

    I hope you are recovering well from your accident.

  11. CHILLING!!!!!! I have to get Matthew and Stephen to look at this page. Did you know Matthew is driving? UGGG!! THIS IS a WHOLE NEW world...I should blog about it.... I'm not a fan!!

    How did he get so old?? My baby!!

  12. Ugh, sorry you got 'caught'...
    And Romania, Russia...it's all the same (just don't tell them that!) LOL!

    I think watching a 10 year old girl jump out in this crazy traffic and get hit was the last straw for me. She's okay, a broken arm, but had I not seen the start of her "sprint" and swerved my car when I did, I would have hit her too (she landed where my car was). Foreigners don't get "let off" that easy here. The medical supply truck driver that hit her was not so lucky, I offered to be a witness and he said he would come by for me to sign a declaration to the fact that he was not to blame, but never did. Let's hope he is okay. A guilty charge could mean the loss of his job or prison.
    Most of the population in former communist countries are just now able to afford cars and drive and the so called "training" is not extensive. I've actually seen Scoala driving cars make some pretty dumb & illegal moves. Here in Romania, if your car costs more than 30K Euros, you "automatically" get the right of way (this could even mean both lanes of traffic merging to their rights to make an "imaginary lane" in the middle). I follow the rules so the majority of them get a 1 finger salute from me while I sit in my little Toyota.