Gute Fahrt – 3 simple tips to make your drivers safer

Gute Fahrt - Safe Journey

That’s German for “Safe Journey”. Not directly related to computers or the IT industry, but a symptom of the sort of characters it attracts to the Sales ranks. A population of relatively young drivers of fairly expensive and quite powerful cars. In our case, one female manager in Welwyn who took it as a personal affront to be overtaken in her BMW. Another Salesman in Bristol, driving his boss to a meeting in Devon in his new Ford Capri 2.8 Injection; the mistake was to leave very late and to be told by his Manager to “step on it”. I think he’s still trying to remove the stain from the passenger seat.

With that, the rather inevitable bad accident statistics, not least as statistics suggest that 90% of drivers think they are better than average. As a result, every driver in the company got put on a mandatory one day course, an attempt to stem that tide. The first thing that surprised me that the whole one day course was spent in a classroom, and not a single minute driving a car. But the end result of attending that one class was very compelling.

As was the business change example given previously (in http://www.ianwaring.com/2014/03/24/jean-louis-gassee-priorities-targets-and-aims/), there were only three priorities that everyone followed to enact major changes – and to lower the accident rate considerably. In doing so, even my wife noticed subtle changes the very next time she rode in our car with me (a four hour family trip to Cornwall).

The three fundamentals were:

  1. Stay at least 2 seconds behind the car in front, independent of your speed. Just pick any fixed roadside object that the car in front goes past, and recite “only a fool breaks the two second rule”. As long as you haven’t passed the same object by the time you’ve finished reciting that in your mind, you’re in good shape. In rain, make that 4 seconds.
  2. If you’re stationary and waiting to turn right in the UK (or turning left in countries that drive on the right hand side of the road), keep the front wheels of your car facing directly forward. Resist all urges to point the wheels toward the road you’re turning into. A big cause of accidents is being rear-ended by a car behind you. If your front wheels are straight, you will just roll straight down the road; if turned, you’ll most likely to fund yourself colliding head on with fast oncoming traffic.
  3. Chill. Totally. Keep well away from other drivers who are behaving aggressively or taking unnecessary risks. Let them pass, keep out of the way and let them have their own accidents without your involvement. If you feel aggrieved, do not give chase; it’s an unnecessary risk to you, and if you catch them, you’ll only likely embarrass yourself and others. And never, ever seek solace in being able to prove blame; if you get to the stage when you’re trying to argue who’s fault it is, you’ve lost already. Avoid having the accident in the first place.

There were supplementary videos to prove the points, including the customary “spot the lorry drivers cab after the one at the back ran into another in front”. But the points themselves were easy to remember. After the initial running of the course in the branch office with the worst accident statistics, they found:

  • The accident rate effectively went to zero in the first three months since that course was run
  • The number of “unattended” accidents – such as those alleged in car parks when the driver was not present – also dropped like a stone. Someone telling porkie pies before!
  • As a result, overall costs reduced at the same time as staff could spend more face time with customers

That got replicated right across the company. If in doubt, try it. I bet everyone else who rides with you will notice – and feel more relaxed and comfortable by you doing so.

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