VIDEO: Driver safety lessons from the topWritten by Mari-Len De Guzman 21 October 2008
Promoting driver safety to your employees will take more than just teaching them the rules of the road — it also involves changing attitudes and behaviours. This according to a safe driving expert who presented at a session at the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers’ annual conference held in Quebec City last September.
Spencer McDonald, president of Thinking Driver, a firm that provides driver safety training for government and businesses, tells an audience of safety professionals that a huge part of what needs to change is the attitude among most drivers that they are “pretty good drivers.”
“Majority believe that they drive better than the average,” McDonald says, noting that in many of the defensive driving courses he conducts in various organizations attendance is typically low. “We think our driving is so great, so someone else must be the problem.”
Much of the change that needs to happen in order to establish a safety conscious corporate driving culture is in the behavioural level. Drivers who believe they do an above average job behind the wheel typically justify an unsafe driving behaviour by attributing blame to either another driver or a particular situation.
“We believe we’re better than everybody else … so our standard of good driving is ourselves,” says McDonald.
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In 2006, more than 2,600 people were killed and close to 145,000 got injured from car crashes. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the need to create a safety conscious corporate driving culture, not just for companies engaged in the transport of goods, but also organizations with people who drive to and from job sites and even those that drive to and from workplaces.
McDonald says managers should lead by example and educate employees to focus on reducing risks instead of just avoiding being caught or ticketed. “Change occurs first at the top and works its way down to the organization.”
McDonald’s session on driver safety attracted many safety professionals interested in promoting a driver safety culture in their organizations. One attendee asked about the issue of “on-time delivery or it’s free” policy that some companies have begun implementing as a customer service strategy.
“I think that encourages drivers to take excessive risks. I think it could encourage them to speed and in the process endanger everybody else and themselves on the road. I think there are better ways to promote your products or your organization,” says McDonald.
He stresses that it’s vital that the change towards a safe driving culture come from senior management and that senior executives should lead by example.
Enforcement is also important to sustain the transformation. Evaluate your drivers and conduct driver training periodically, and institute “meaningful consequences” for unsafe behaviour and rule violations, says McDonald. “It sends them a message that this is important.”
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Published in Safety Stories