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Driver Safety: What’s the true definition of safety?

By Jeff Cassell

This is the second article in the Driver Safety series by Jeff Cassell. For the first article, see page 17 of the January 2015 edition of BUSRide.

George, executive director of the Moston Public Transit Agency, opened his monthly management meeting by asking what his staff had learned about creating safe norms in their operations since the last meeting.

Ryan, a new supervisor, had started this direction and took the lead.

“We have had a couple of meetings and talked with a number of other agencies and we believe our training is outdated and woefully incomplete,” Ryan said. “If we want to create safe norms, we need a major overhaul.”

“Wait a minute, our training meets all the state requirements and we created these materials ourselves,” George interjected.“What are you saying?”

“That was my opinion before I investigated what other agencies are doing,” said Linda, the dispatcher. “Each of our programs are stand alone and out of date. Yes, we meet the state requirements but we have learned that the state requirements are the absolute minimum, not the ultimate goal. Think about it, we have been proud of our driver training, when in reality, we have been teaching the absolute minimum possible.”

“I see what you mean, but can you explain what you mean with examples?” George asked. “What subject should we be presenting that we don’t train now?”

“A trainer from one of the agencies we contacted took us all through a webinar presenting a program called Safety Best Practices,” said Alan, the lead driver trainer.  “We do not address any of the critical issues she covered in Safety Best Practices.  She started off with asking us to define the word safety.  What does the word mean?  As we thought about it, we realized none of us knew the true definition.”

“I said having no accidents,” added Linda.

“I said that it’s acting in a caring way,”  Ryan said. “Since then, I have asked many drivers and management and no one knew what safety meant. This is ridiculous.”

Ryan paused.

“The trainer we contacted explained to us that the definition is freedom from risk,” he said.  “If you are free from risk, you are safe.  If you reduce risk, you are safer.  We then learned the definition of risk, where risk comes from, and how to remove or reduce risk in everything we do. The Safety Best Practices program brought every one of our goals into perspective and it became clear how to achieve them.  We do not know or teach any of these best practices anywhere in our operation.”

“Then she explained how to use the tools of a LLLC defensive driving program to remove or reduce risk in everything we do,” Linda said. “This made so much sense.”

“LLLC?” George asked.

“It stands for Look Ahead, Look Around, Leave Room and Communicate,” Linda said. “Four Safety Best Practices that drivers can use to remove or reduce risk, making everyone safer. Think about it, we have posters in our facilities saying we have a passion for safety, when we don’t even know how to define it.  We ask our drivers to drive safely without ever explaining what that means. No wonder we have so many accidents.”

“We also learned how these concepts of LLLC can be used to remove or reduce risk in specific practices we need to teach,” Ryan said. “All the safe practices for intersections, lane changing, railroad crossings, and pedestrian awareness relate to each other making the training systematic and integrated.  They are not standalone training programs like we use now.”

“To instill safe practices into operations, other agencies we talked to have created a vision, mission and values strategy aimed squarely at the drivers,” Alan said.  “The Vision is do it right the first time, every time. The Mission is to remove or reduce risk and the Values are to avoid all unsafe behaviors. They have built their training curriculum around these concepts and have achieved tremendous results reducing accidents and improving their overall operations.  This is the creed to live by.”

“Everything you have talked about, we weren’t even aware of,” George said.  ”How can we put this into effect? Ryan, you are in charge, bring an implementation plan to our next meeting.”

This series by Jeff Cassell will continue in the May 2015 Issue!

Jeff Cassell is president of Transit & Paratransit Company (TAPTCO) Hudson, Ohio. TAPTCO provides training courses that change driver behaviors. Visit 

Posted by on Mar 1 2015. Filed under Safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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