It’s RoSPA’s strapline and it’s something we firmly believe in. The idea that ‘accidents don’t have to happen’ underpins all of our work, none more so than fleet safety. It’s estimated that 95% of road accidents are due to human error. Some of these are due to faulty mechanics, but the overwhelming majority are down to the driver.
The obvious assumption is that driver ability and concentration are the key contributors, but this isn’t as big a factor as you might think. Most drivers have (at least) reasonably good driving skills, and can make the vehicle go where they want it to without crashing. But this is usually only the case when they have sufficient time and they are fully concentrating.
Whether or not a driver has had professional driver training/lessons, or was taught by family or friends, once the psychomotor skills associated with driving such as pressing the brake, finding the biting point of the clutch and using the steering wheel are mastered, driving a vehicle becomes relatively easy. Loss of control will always feature in a crash, but it is rarely the root cause.
So what are the key factors?
Who are you?
What are your attitudes, beliefs and how do you live your life. Everyone has a set of values and motivations that guide us through life. These same values influence and drive certain behaviours when we’re behind the wheel. If you’re a methodical, laid back and relaxed person, you’re likely to drive differently from an impulsive, thrill seeking adrenaline junky. We all have personality traits that are conducive to safe driving and those which perhaps are not. It is up to us to be honest, to recognise which is which and crucially, do something about it.
The unwritten rules
How do drivers interpret and adhere to rules, such as the Road Traffic Act and the Highway Code? Irrespective of how well read they are, most drivers are aware of and understand the majority of the rules and procedures, but they don’t always follow them. When learning to drive many of us are taught how to follow the rules to pass the test. The key question is, what weren’t you taught during your lessons? Were you taught about being considerate to others and how to avoid feeling road rage? Did your instructor teach you all about time management or dealing with and managing fatigue? By learning to effectively manage factors like these, we can become safer, better road users.
All about the context
When you’re stuck in traffic or waiting at a red light, do you ever wonder why the driver in the next car is there at that moment in time and what pressures they may be affected by? It could be a familiar journey for them and they may have become complacent, losing focus on the driving task. It could be an unfamiliar journey in an unknown place and they may even feel stressed, trying hard to fit in with and assess the traffic flow, gathering and processing high volumes of information and making quick decisions.
The driver may feel under pressure to drive in a particular way, such as the obligation they may feel to arrive on time, perhaps to catch a plane or maybe a job interview or even the peer pressure of a passenger in a similar situation. Whatever situation we find ourselves in on the road, we use a lot more than the basic car control skills we developed when we were learning to drive. After all, stopping a car should be easy; we’ve been able to stop the car since day one of our driving lessons. So why do so many of us nip through on amber and why do so many drivers end up using the rear bumper of the vehicle in front to stop? Is it due to their poor car control skills or is it due to the circumstances of the journey?
To conclude, our personality and the way we choose to live our lives will usually inform the context of the journey. It will influence whether we choose to follow the rules and maintain the best vehicle control we are capable of. The true root cause of almost all crashes is the behavioural choices we as drivers make every time we drive.
RoSPA Fleet Safety are working to reduce occupational road risk using innovative, behaviour-based solutions. Our goal is to be the global leader in driver and fleet safety.