Simple fact: Life isn’t fair – let’s understand it and work with it

Simple fact:  Wealth, health, problems and risks are not distributed evenly.

Simple fact: We don’t all behave in the same way.

Ever since 1896 when Vilfredo Pareto identified that eighty percent of the land in Italy was owned by twenty percent of the people, the principles of uneven distribution and the ensuing ‘Pareto logic’ have been often noted elsewhere.

It is a common misconception when reading ‘Safe Driving Policies’ that the inherent dangers in driving will impact on all drivers equally, resulting in a hastily drawn-up plan pointing out to all employees that driving at work is dangerous and they must take care, drive carefully, not undertake long trips etc.  To a degree, simple parts of this may be true.

Not all drivers crash! When employers examine collision records (note that they are not ‘accidents’, since most of these are not random acts of God!) it becomes apparent that the same names keep appearing over and over on claims histories. Have you ever wondered why some ‘unlucky’ drivers keep on appearing in your claims history?

In the case of one recent client of ours, in just three years, one employee had been involved in three head-on crashes; had been hit from behind three times; and was the victim of a number of ‘hit whilst parked’ incidents No doubt this ‘unlucky’ driver will seek to lay the blame on the driver behind or the oncoming ‘idiot’ but the simple fact is that this driver is the one common denominator in all of these collisions.

If the majority of your employees can drive for thousands of miles each year and hand their vehicles back after three years unscathed and in a good saleable condition, what is it that results in a ‘select’ few of your employees being regularly involved in expensive, and often repetitive, collisions?  What is it that these drivers are doing so differently?  They have all completed broadly similar training at the outset to pass their initial test and gain a driving licence. Why have eighty percent of those employees continued to evolve and develop safety factors that protect them daily whilst the other twenty percent, driving on the same roads and parking in the same car parks, have so many difficulties.

Most drivers can soon identify the factors that lead to common collisions and would be able to recognise ‘developing hazards’ that result in them taking actions to avoid involvement, actions that in time will become habitual safety factors in their driving.

As Aristotle put it so eloquently in his comment “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”

So the difference between the good and ‘the rest’ may well come down to their habits. For the vast majority of our driving (especially for those covering higher mileages every year) is conducted on ‘autopilot,’ or as a matter of habit. For these drivers who keep the hire companies and the bodywork repair centres in business, their poor habits are crucial factors in their collision history, and the challenge therefore is firstly to get them to recognise and understand those habits. Not an easy task since ‘habits’ are subconscious, automatic repeated actions that they are probably not aware that they have developed over a period of time.

It is for this reason that drivers so often berate newly-installed telematics systems for identifying their poor driver behaviour patterns. As their actions are automated, subconscious actions they simply can’t imagine that they might be ‘at fault’. Despite a documented history of shunts you will hear comments such as “But I’m a good driver, I always keep a good gap when I’m driving”. Similar protestations about their observation prowess are negated by their reversing collision history.

In-car, on-road training sessions are often misunderstood as an opportunity to look at a driver’s skill levels. Whilst that is in part true, the real value of real situation training is to examine their mental attitudes, the rationale that lies behind why they do what they do.  It is only then that we can begin to influence a driver to identify and understand their existing habits, and want to change them. A frequent comment on introduction is “It’s not what you do today that matters, it’s what you might do differently tomorrow!’ Skilled and experienced trainers recognise the importance of helping that individual to ‘want’ to act differently tomorrow. When a driver understands why the new actions are important and beneficial, only then will the driver replace old habits with better and more appropriate actions that will in turn lead to the formation of new and safer levels of ‘autopilot’. It all starts with a clear understanding and a desire on the part of the individual.

The HSE advice is clear: simply holding a driving licence alone is not enough. The essential elements of Driver Awareness Training sessions are very different to those skills sought by a driving examiner in a driving test situation and serve to explain why so many learner driving instructors fail to make any difference at all with qualified drivers. Since habits are by nature repeated actions, a key part of changing those repeated actions is to have enough time to understand that poor habit, to recognise the need to change, and to spend some time carrying out the new actions on a repetitive basis to start new habits forming (note that this will very seldom happen in an hour and hoping to inspire new habits in such a short time is a waste of company money.)

Business drivers will only ever drive their vehicle in the way that they want to drive it. The skilled Driver Risk Managers at Cardinus know that their role is to inspire that driver to want to drive differently tomorrow because the driver sees the value and the need to change their habits.

As it is often said that our thoughts lead to actions, that if repeated become our habits and shape our character, in this case our driving character.

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