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Have Your Employees Mastered These 7 Defensive Driving Training Topics?

While proactive safety managers strive to mitigate distracted driving among company drivers, they can't control the decisions of other road users. That's why it's vital for companies to prioritize ongoing education for their drivers in essential defensive driving training topics. This proactive approach equips drivers with the skills needed to navigate unpredictable roadways safely, fostering a culture of safety and reducing the risk of crashes.

The Importance of Defensive Driver Training for Employees

The concept of defensive driving has existed since the mid-1950s. Although there have been many changes to how and what we drive, approaches to teaching proactive driver safety have remained virtually unchanged. This poses a major issue for companies that are looking to implement effective defensive driver training for employees – especially as the roads become more dangerous year after year.

Since the start of the pandemic, drivers across the country have become more engaged in high-risk behaviors. From 2019 to 2020, fatalities in crashes involving speeding, alcohol impairment, motorcycles, pedestrians and inattentive driving all increased. And work-related crashes cost employers a whopping $39 billion in 2019 alone.

With the roadways becoming more dangerous for drivers AND for businesses, it’s crucial for companies to implement a proactive driver training program. Frequent driver training plays an important role in establishing an effective risk management strategy. Even the most seasoned of drivers need to have consistent refreshers on important driving skills. The effectiveness of driver training is easy to spot too – according to SambaSafety Insights, fleets that commit to monthly training have far fewer violations, with 25% less than the industry average and 50% less than fleets that train twice a year.

Below, we explore seven critical defensive driving training topics that every company driver should master.

Download Now | Free White Paper: Why Companies Must Maintain a Fleet of Defensive Drivers

7 Critical Defensive Driving Training Topics

1. Distractions

Distracted driving is quickly becoming the number one cause of many crashes on the road today. Today’s vehicle improvements in safety, comfort and technology can easily lead a driver to think that they don’t need to devote 100% of their focus to safely controlling the vehicle. Navigation, bluetooth connectivity and smartphones are now common features in most vehicles, and while they are all useful tools, they can easily take the driver’s attention away from the safe operation of the vehicle – even if it’s just momentarily.

Defensive driving training should cover:

  • Laws concerning distracted driving
  • How to manage visual distractions
  • How to manage auditory distractions
  • How to manage manual distractions
  • How to manage cognitive distractions
  • Reacting to distracted drivers and pedestrians

2. Effective Communication

Effective communication involves using a turn signal, lights, horn, lane positioning, speed and other cues to make sure that the vehicles around the driver know what they intend to do before making any maneuver.

Drivers communicating their intentions to other vehicles is a critical component of any defensive driving system. This allows other road users to see what their intentions are before they take action and move the vehicle. They also need to make sure that other drivers have shown signs that they have seen their communication, by slowing or creating space, before they commit to the maneuver – especially when considering the likelihood that other drivers could be distracted.

Effective communication training should cover:

  • How to clearly communicate intentions and actions
  • How to interpret communication signals from others
  • How to anticipate the actions/behaviors of others
  • Proper use of headlights, horn, emergency flashers and turn signals
  • Proper use of warning devices and signals on the roadway

3. Fatigue Management

According to studies, almost 30% of adults are getting less than six hours of sleep per night. Two weeks of this limited sleep creates the same level of fatigue as someone who has been continuously awake for 48 hours! Being fatigued has a serious impact on a driver’s reaction time, ability to read conditions, inhibitions, level of distraction and ability to avoid mistakes made by others.

Learning to understand when they are tired and the early symptoms of fatigue will help drivers know when to stop and take a break – before it begins to affect their defensive driving capabilities.

Fatigue management training should cover:

  • How fatigue impacts performance
  • How to identify the early signs of fatigue
  • How to manage fatigue
  • Introduction to the federal regulations around fatigue
  • How to get the most out of sleep cycles

4. Evaluating Space

While the front space of a vehicle is the easiest to control, a driver needs to be aware of the space on all six sides of their vehicle – top and bottom too. They must maintain enough space around their vehicle to avoid coming in contact with both fixed and moving objects. This space is their safety zone, and they need to protect this zone at all costs by constantly checking their surroundings, using their mirrors and looking ahead.

If drivers can maintain a space around their vehicle at all times, they are protecting themselves and their vehicles to proactively avoid collisions.

Evaluating space courses should cover:

  • Defining the space cushion around a vehicle
  • How to adjust to traffic
  • Changing lanes and merging
  • Turns
  • Intersections and blind spots

5. Navigating Hazards

The ability to avoid hazards is critical. Distracted drivers, low clearances, merging lanes, changing weather and dangerous road conditions are just some of the countless hazards company drivers must detect. Drivers need to know how to identify and deal with them when they occur.

Navigating hazards training must cover:

  • How to deal with changing road conditions
  • How to deal with other road users
  • How to deal with distracted and impaired drivers
  • How to handle obstructions and parked vehicles

6. Speed Management

Speed is typically the most frequent factor in collisions. Being able to manage their speed for all conditions will allow drivers the time and space to avoid a crash. When it comes to driving too fast, it’s more than just obeying the speed limit – drivers need to operate vehicles at a safe speed that allows them to deal with any situation. They must manage their speed in a way that allows them to see everything that’s going on around them, with enough time left over to make adjustments if needed.

Speed management training should cover:

  • Aggressive drivers
  • Adjusting speed for the conditions
  • Traction and poor road conditions
  • Hills and curves

7. Essential Planning

Essential planning requires understanding and successfully implementing the other six defensive driving training topics. Anytime a driver gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, they need to have a plan. They need to know where they are going, how they are going to get there, what the conditions will be like, if they are well-rested and if they have enough fuel and hours to get there.

This training should cover:

  • Trip planning
  • Vehicle inspections and injury prevention
  • Driving strategies
  • Parking lots and customer locations

A Fleet of Defensive Drivers Requires a Proactive Strategy

Dealing with bad driving behavior, poor road conditions and other collision-causing factors is all about developing the right mindset. That’s why establishing a proactive, positive safety culture with online driver training is so integral.

To find out where to start, download our white paper and learn more about why defensive driving is vital to fleet safety. 


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