The concept of defensive driving has been around 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 trying to be proactive about their fleets’ driver safety – 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 driver training program that emphasizes modern defensive driving skills.

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The Importance of Proactive Driver Training

Motivated safety managers and leaders are always looking for the next edge when it comes to mitigating their driver risk:

  • How can we get better, and what is the next silver bullet to fix everything?
  • How do I measure success – what are the key performance indicators?
  • How do we go a million miles without an incident?

The answers to these questions lie in a simple shift in your perspective: While thinking big picture is important, in order to stay ahead of violations, crashes and claims, you need to establish a mile-by-mile mindset across your fleet. You can do this by implementing frequent, ongoing driver training.

In order to stay ahead of violations, crashes and claims, you need to implement frequent, ongoing driver training. Frequent driver training plays an important role in establishing a proactive driver safety strategy. Even the most seasoned of drivers need to have consistent refreshers on important defensive driving skills. The effectiveness of driver training is easy to spot too – 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 key factors of defensive driver training that are crucial for every company driver to keep top of mind each and every time they get behind the wheel.

PRO-DEFENSE: A Modernized Approach to Defensive Driving Training

The “DEFENSE” in “PRO-DEFENSE” stands for:

  • Distractions
  • Effective Communication
  • Fatigue Management
  • Evaluating Space
  • Navigating Hazards
  • Speed Management
  • Essential Planning

These seven concepts are the fundamentals of SambaSafety’s defensive driving training suite. The PRO-DEFENSE courses are impactful both for new hires and for frequent training. They cover topics that work to educate and remind drivers that every second counts when they’re operating a vehicle – and that drivers actually have more control over avoiding incidents than they may think.

We explore each of these important defensive driver training topics and their respected course offerings below.

Distractions

Distracted driving is quickly becoming the number one cause of many accidents on the road today. Today’s vehicle improvements in safety, comfort and technology can easily lead to a driver to think that they don’t need to devote 100% of their focus on 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.

Our “Distractions” PRO-DEFENSE course covers:

  • 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

Effective Communication

Effective commination 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.

Our “Effective Communication” PRO-DEFENSE course covers:

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

Fatigue Management

According to studies, almost 30% of adults are getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep for two weeks has 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.

Our “Fatigue Management” PRO-DEFENSE course covers:

  • What is fatigue and how does it impact your 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

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 vehicle and can eliminate collisions.

Our “Evaluating Space” PRO-DEFENSE course covers:

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

Navigating Hazards

The ability to avoid hazards is critical. Hazards come in many shapes and sizes: distracted drivers, low clearances, merging lanes, changing weather and dangerous road conditions are just some of the hazards professional drivers must detect. Hazards are everywhere, and drivers need to be able to know how to identify and deal with them when they occur.

Our “Navigating Hazards” PRO-DEFENSE course covers:

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

Speed Management

Speed is typically the most frequent factor in collisions. Being able to manage your speed for all conditions will allow you 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.

Our “Speed Management” PRO-DEFENSE course covers:

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

Essential Planning

Essential planning requires the understanding and successful implementation of the other six PRO-DEFENSE concepts. 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.

Our “Essential Planning” PRO-DEFENSE course covers:

  • 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 training is so integral.

To find out where to start, download our guide and learn more about the questions you should be asking when looking to implement driver training at your company.