Signal and sound your way to safety

by Raymond Mercuri

To drive accident-free, there are some basic practices you must know, implement, and use on a daily basis. These practices need to become part of your normal driving habits.

How many accidents happen because of poor communication? Well, did you know that 90 per cent of all vehicle accidents are due to driver error? Based on this fact, I would have to say that there is a lot of poor communicating going on.

Question: How do you make others understand you?

Answer: Through easy-to-understand communication. This does not include the use of hand gestures or cursing. These actions are not effective and they are unprofessional.

Question: Does communicating apply to my driving as well?

Answer: Yes, your vehicle is equipped with the required tools to help you be an effective communicator.

Let’s look in the toolbox and get some ideas.

Use your vehicle turn signals. Be sure to use them well in advance of any lane changes, turns, highway ramp merges, or parallel parking that you plan to do. It never ceases to amaze me just how many vehicles complete a lane change without using their turn signals. This is a vehicle’s most effective communications tool. Use it.

Touch your brakes in heavy traffic so drivers behind you are aware you are planning to slow down or stop your vehicle well in advance of actually doing so. This is also a great way to avoid rear-end collisions in bumper-to-bumper traffic. A quick flash of the brake lights keeps those behind you focused and on their toes.

Use your vehicle lights when visibility deteriorates. Did you know that statistics show that the use of daytime running lights has lowered the number of head-on collisions significantly in Canada? Use and run your vehicle lights at all times. Remember the phrase “lights on for safety.”

Use your emergency flasher lights. Think of the times that you have been driving along at a regular speed, and all of a sudden you come up on traffic that is at a full stop or moving very slow. Many times you have little or no warning in these situations. But, because you are a professional driver, and are always scanning around looking for possible traffic problems, you have left yourself adequate time to react to the situation. Well, unfortunately, there are many drivers behind you who are distracted, speeding and in a rush, applying makeup, or simply not paying attention. You need to get the attention of those behind you in this type of situation quickly. Again, using your vehicle’s emergency flashing lights communicates a problem to others and it gets their attention fast. The best example of how effective the use of flashing lights is how quickly we notice and react to emergency vehicles (ambulance, police cruisers).

Last but not least, use your vehicle’s horn to get the attention of others. Your horn is a great communicator if used properly. A quick tap of the horn quickly gets another driver’s attention. A long blast of the horn on the other hand could possibly increase risk as people are prone to panic. Use your horn as a tool, not as a weapon.

Now the clincher. Now that we know what tools we have to work with, we need to discuss one more very important point. Do your vehicle tools work?

Can you see just how important a proper quality pre-trip inspection is? Furthermore, can you see why the pre-trip MUST be completed daily?

These vehicle communications systems must be in proper operating order without exception. Anything less is simply not acceptable. It is also a violation of the law.

Remember, while operating a vehicle, as a driver you only have two senses with which to communicate your driving plan. Those two senses are sight and sound. You have to know when and how to use your vehicle’s tools to drive defensively.

Please take a moment to review the above and ask yourself: Am I an effective communicator? n

Raymond Mercuri is the safety manager at RPS Ltd, based in Mississauga, Ont.

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