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At Work Drivers Are Different

It’s the sort of comment you hear in a lively discussion about driving down at the pub. You might have even uttered it yourself in a moment of weakness on the road, having witnessed a poor bit of driving: “And they call themselves professional drivers.”

It’s perhaps understandablBusinesswoman drinking coffee while drivinge that some drivers view those who drive for a living as infallible but of course at-work drivers in general are under far more pressure than the ordinary motorist who is just involved in a trip to the supermarket.

As human beings we’re vulnerable enough already while we’re driving – it’s a well known fact that in 95% of on-road collisions human error was the principal cause – so adding the responsibility of being at work while driving inevitably ups the stakes.

Hardly surprising then that a third of all road traffic incidents are thought to involve people who are at work.  Also, it’s been established that employees who drive in the course of their working day are 49% more likely to be involved in an incident than other road users who are not working [*Department for Transport].

There are a couple of key differences between the ordinary motorist and occupational drivers that we must bear in mind.

First of all, many people who have to drive for work do so on unfamiliar roads.  Most of us will have had the experience of driving on unfamiliar roads from time to time, such as when we go on holiday.  A good example is when we find ourselves at a roundabout and we panic while looking for the correct exit. Often we hand over control to the SatNav and let it tell us where to turn off.

Each instance of having to make a hurried or unexpected decision can take our attention from our surroundings for long enough to be caught up in an incident.  Making assumptions is a dangerous premise but in this case I think it’s reasonable to assume that making a decision as to which turning to take in busy traffic is just as distracting as being in the middle of a mobile phone call.  So it’s easy to work out where a sizeable amount of distraction arises for occupational drivers.

Another crucial, risk-elevating factor for the at-work driver is that they’re almost always under some form of time pressures to get the job done. Time constraints are something that the driver’s employer must be aware of and expectations for task completion should therefore be realistic, with driver safety always being the guiding principal.

But there are things that occupational drivers can do to help themselves as well.  Firstly proper journey planning will ensure that weather, traffic delays and major events are taken account of to optimise the route.  These days it’s possible to get a great deal of accurate information on the web or via the broadcast media, so there really is no excuse. It just means taking an extra 10 minutes planning time before setting out.

However, more than anything else, the main thing a professional driver can do is to take an extra moment to think before acting.  When you’re in unfamiliar territory and you’re under pressure time-wise, it’s very tempting to put your foot down and go when you think you see a gap.  In fact, if you have to pause to think at all, you shouldn’t be carrying out that manoeuvre in the first place.

Accept that if you miss that gap it doesn’t matter.  It’s far more important to control your emotions on the road than letting them control you.  You may feel anxious at times and that’s exactly when you need to take that extra second and wait for the next, larger gap in traffic, rather than take a chance.  After all you’re being paid to do a job, a job where the vehicle is a constituent part. It’s not worth risking serious injury, or worse, at any time………. let alone when you’re at work.

It’s also worth remembering that sometimes we see what we want to see and miss important things such as bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians and even other vehicles.  If you’re a professional driver you’ll do yourself, your loved ones, and maybe even a complete stranger, a favour by taking a moment longer at crucial points on each journey.  It may just take the blink of an eye but it could be the best decision you’ve ever made behind the wheel.

References

*Department of Transport, An In-Depth Study of Work-related Road Traffic Accidents, Road Safety Research Report No. 58, 2005

Driving Risk Management Ltd

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