I was recently reminded about the importance of using defensive driver techniques. It was a nice, hot summer day when I came up to a construction area with flaggers. As I approached the flaggers, I was the second vehicle in line after a tractor trailer, and it was hard to see what lay ahead. Construction areas have a lot of moving parts, and it’s important to be situationally aware, watching for activities such as vehicle traffic, people walking along the side of the road, and equipment being loaded or unloaded. As the truck in front of me proceeded forward into the flagging area, I started to follow him. Right before I entered the construction area, I noticed the flagger with his hands up and stop sign raised, so I stopped my vehicle immediately. I saw the flagger yelling at the tractor trailer driver trying to get his attention over the loud construction noise. A few seconds later, the tractor trailer came to an abrupt halt. The driver was on his cell phone and not paying attention to his surroundings, so he did not notice the flagger with the stop sign, continued to a one-lane road, and almost hit another vehicle head on! Thankfully, both drivers were able to stop before they collided. The entire project had to be shut down because there was very little room for maneuvering. Everyone in line, including myself, had to back up to give the tractor trailer room to back out of the construction area and allow the vehicles with the right of way through the area. As the first vehicle drove passed me, I looked at the passengers, who were an older woman and an older gentleman. I remember thinking in my head, that could have been my grandparents. How could someone be so distracted they didn’t notice the stop sign or the flagger? Thankfully this was only a near miss and no one was injured, but this could have very easily turned out differently.

For some of us, the most dangerous thing we do every day is drive to and from work. For others, driving is simply part of the job. To complete these tasks safely on a daily basis, we must practice defensive driving. Defensive driving techniques help reduce the risk of accidents and collisions through anticipating potentially dangerous situations including adverse conditions and even actions and mistakes made by others. Adhering to some general rules and incorporating specific driving techniques into your everyday commute can help reduce incidents. The following safety tips will help make you a safer, more defensive driver.

  • Stay Focused – When you are driving, your only focus should be on the road. No devices, people, or things should be capturing your attention. While the car is moving, refrain from activities such as cell phone use, touching up make-up, or eating.
  • Be a Defensive Driver – When you are driving, assess and know what you would do or where you would go if something were to go wrong. Having a plan helps you navigate situations quickly when seconds matter—and can be what saves your life.
  • Wear a Seat Belt – Vehicles are equipped with seat belts for a reason, and they should be used whenever the car is moving.
  • Maintain Safe Traveling Distance – The general rule of thumb when operating a vehicle is to stay three to four seconds behind the car in front of you. Doing this gives you enough time in case they stop abruptly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, automobile crashes are a leading cause of workplace injuries. Sadly, automobile accidents can leave people unable to work temporarily or even permanently, leaving victims without an income and creating financial instability for families. Fortunately, the story didn’t end this way for the tractor trailer driver or the older couple! As we enter back to school season, additional traffic and distractions make paying attention to the road even more crucial.

Interested in becoming a defensive driver? RETTEW also offers frequent Defensive Driver classes, which along with improving your driving skills, may decrease your car insurance premium. All RETTEW employees are required to take this valuable course!        

Ashley Loos, CSP, RSO, Safety Coordinator

Additional Offerings

Safety training and consulting are only some of RETTEW’s 600+ services. Our safety team works hand in hand with engineers, scientists, project managers, and other technical experts at places such as manufacturing facilities, drill pads, and commercial construction sites. We are well respected in many industries and known for ensuring workers and equipment remain safe, which keeps your projects on track and your bottom line growing.