Defensive Driving

Posted: Mar. 10, 2020 • By Kevin Kohler

Defensive Driving

We often drive for work, it’s not a “big deal”

Unfortunately, driving for work is a very big deal from a health and safety standpoint.  Motor vehicle incidents (MVIs) are a leading cause of workplace injuries and fatalities.  Consider the following statistics:

  • WorkSafeBC reports that MVIs account for 33 per cent of all work-related traumatic deaths in British Columbia, making it the leading cause of traumatic workplace deaths in the province
  • OSHA reports that MVIs account for 30% of all U.S workplace fatalities resulting from occupational injuries 

The prevalence of MVI injuries at work are common across all jurisdictions. All forms of driving are statistically hazardous.  These statistics are even more significant when we include driving injuries and fatalities that are work related, such as commuting to work.

As a hazardous activity driving should figure prominently in our hazard and risk assessment process.  If we can influence driving safety amongst our employees and contractors, both at and away from work, we can significantly reduce the incidence of serious injuries and fatalities.

We’re told to defensively but I’m not sure what that means

According to the Canada Safety Council defensive driving is:

“Driving to prevent collisions in spite of the incorrect actions of others and adverse conditions.” 

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation refers to defensive driving as:

(Being) able to see dangerous situations before they happen and to respond quickly and effectively to prevent them

Defensive driving is a state of mind that prepares drivers to deal with driving difficulties that may not be within the driver’s control.  Defensive driving should be part of an overall motor vehicle safety program that includes Journey Management. A journey management program specifies how driving hazards will be controlled for each journey that is undertaken.

What are the components of a defensive driving system?

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation cites three concepts in defensive driving;

1. Visibility

  • Visibility refers to your ability to see others sharing the road with you, and the ability of others to see you.  
  • Visibility means properly using your vehicle’s headlights, turn signals, wipers, windshield, mirrors, cameras, and electronic warning systems.  
  • Visibility also refers to using your vision to identify hazards and establishing a regular practice of looking ahead, scanning from side to side and checking your mirrors.
  • Visibility means staying focused on the task at hand and avoiding distractions that interfere with your ability to see.

2. Space

  • Space refers to how you manage your position on the road relative to other vehicles and stationary hazards, so that you can anticipate, react and see and be seen.
  • Maintaining space requires you to adjust your driving for speed and relative speed, road conditions and other vehicles around you.  Maintaining space means being aware of safe following and stopping distances as well as blind spots.

3. Communication

  • Communication refers to using the means at your disposal to communicate with others sharing the road with you
  • Communication can include making eye contact, using your turn signals, using your horn, or even gestures
  • Communication reduces uncertainty concerning your actions and allows others the time to prepare

Offering defensive driving to employees

Defensive driving is a state of mind that works best when used consistently.  There are many defensive driving courses that are accredited and recognized by government and industry associations.  Offering or requiring these courses for employees who drive for work can help to provide a consistent approach and basis for defensive driving.Defensive driving saves lives and is an important component of any journey management system.


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