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VIDEO: Driver safety lessons from the top

By Mari-Len De Guzman

Promoting driver safety to your employees will take morethan just teaching them the rules of the road — it also involves changingattitudes and behaviours. This according to a safe driving expert who presentedat a session at the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers’ annual conferenceheld in Quebec City last September.

Spencer McDonald, president of Thinking Driver, a firm thatprovides driver safety training for government and businesses, tells anaudience of safety professionals that a huge part of what needs to change isthe 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 conductsin various organizations attendance is typically low. “We think our driving isso great, so someone else must be the problem.”

Much of the change that needs to happen in order toestablish a safety conscious corporate driving culture is in the behaviourallevel. Drivers who believe they do an above average job behind the wheeltypically justify an unsafe driving behaviour by attributing blame to eitheranother driver or a particular situation.

“We believe we’re better than everybody else … so ourstandard of good driving is ourselves,” says McDonald.

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In 2006, more than 2,600 people were killed and close to145,000 got injured from car crashes. Organizations are increasinglyrecognizing the need to create a safety conscious corporate driving culture,not just for companies engaged in the transport of goods, but alsoorganizations with people who drive to and from job sites and even those thatdrive to and from workplaces.

McDonald says managers should lead by example and educateemployees to focus on reducing risks instead of just avoiding being caught orticketed. “Change occurs first at the top and works its way down to theorganization.”

McDonald’s session on driver safety attracted many safetyprofessionals interested in promoting a driver safety culture in theirorganizations. One attendee asked about the issue of “on-time delivery or it’sfree” policy that some companies have begun implementing as a customer service strategy.

“I think that encourages drivers to take excessive risks. Ithink it could encourage them to speed and in the process endanger everybodyelse and themselves on the road. I think there are better ways to promote yourproducts or your organization,” says McDonald.

He stresses that it’s vital that the change towards a safedriving culture come from senior management and that senior executives shouldlead 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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