How can we change our mindset to avoid collisions and the hidden impact of collisions? John Davidge takes on wellness on wheels.

Maria had her arm in a sling and explained that she had only just returned to work after three months away following a car crash. They had been travelling on the motorway in busy traffic, which slowed as it often does in peak period traffic. Her husband had been driving their car which was a good, solid modern car, a following truck failed to notice them stopping and hit the rear of their car at speed, pushing them both forwards and sideways where their car was hit once more and then spun round several times, ending up colliding with the central crash barrier. The impact resulted in a broken arm for Maria plus numerous aches and bruises. Her husband had major cuts and bruises and their car was written off. With no dispute as to liability, insurers paid up within days.

However that’s just the simple part of the story – aside from the ambulance, police, statements, the hospital, vehicle recovery and transport home after the incident, there has been a long sequence of challenges that Maria recounted to me.

These include

  • The pain and discomfort immediately following the crash
  • Endless hospital visits (and long waits) for surgery, x-rays, plaster removal, physiotherapy, check-ups, etc., which will continue for some time to come (and aches pains later in life is not unusual at the site of the injury)
  • Getting about with no car and limited mobility, aggravated by living rurally with poor public transport links
    Coping with Christmas with one arm in a plaster and sling. Stuff the turkey this year!
  • Major disruption to so many aspects of family life – even seemingly simple tasks like washing, cooking, shopping and making beds become challenges when incapacitated in that way
  • Coping with children and pets
  • Significant administration including reports, claims forms, solicitors and litigation regarding the pain, consequential losses, etc.
  • While a car can be replaced, will it always be as good as its predecessor? A newer car may have lost some of the accessories that we come to love and value with model changes
  • The continuing effects of stress – Maria’s state of mind when faced with a motorway journey is clearly affected and will no doubt give her concerns for some time

If Maria were your employee, how much would the hidden costs of this scenario cost your business on an ongoing basis?

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The hidden costs of the crash to your business

Many of us would see just the simple aspects of the crash (“it was obviously his fault”) and assume that the prompt insurance settlement leading to a new car is the end of the story – but as you can see there is far more to it than we first assume – ask anyone who has been in a similar situation and they will tell you without question that they would far rather not have been involved in the whole sorry state of affairs in the first place.

At this time of year many people’s thoughts of ‘wellness’ usually means increased gym visits to lose the ‘Christmas pudding’ and resolutions around how we could do better, such as get fitter or learn new skills. –

But here is my inspiration for you. Without doubt our fellow human beings don’t always do what they should do, or what they promised that they would do! Most people won’t stay the course with the fitness regime – without the motivation and a good reason to do it, the new skills won’t follow, and our old habits so easily creep back in. Before long, we drift back into the old ways and resume our ‘norms’.

As a human being I am not like you, and you are not like me – we all have our own personality, attitudes, beliefs and skills, and they shape much of what we do. We also evolve as we grow older (and sometimes smarter!). Nevertheless one of the few things that people do consistently is to make mistakes. It’s probably true to say that everyone without exception does so – the only difference is that some of us make those mistakes less than others, and also there are those of us that will learn from our mistakes. Where we are similar though is in the common repeated errors that we see so often in driving:

  • Losing concentration is a typical human failing – as the lorry driver did in the above story, and as countless drivers have done somewhere today, and will do tomorrow – and for days, even years to come. After all, why do so many drivers collect speeding points from a camera that they could clearly see, but didn’t on one memorable day?
  • So many people collide with an obstruction that was clearly visible and that they failed to see, such as walls, posts or other vehicles, especially in low-speed scenarios where the focus issue is elsewhere
  • Most people know somebody who has filled a diesel car with petrol, or vice-versa. Nobody in their right mind would do so, but we do

Allow for the mistakes that people make

So – in the interests of our wellness why don’t we make allowances for the common mistakes that we should know people are going to make?

Can you afford to trust the driver ahead of you at a roundabout to go, just because you would in that situation? (He could be a new driver and might not be so confident!)

Can we safely assume that a hurried impatient driver in a car park will not misjudge his manoeuvring and collide with our pride and joy? (His mind could be on his wife recuperating at home after a crash! Where could you park that’s safely away from impatient drivers?)

Can we take it for granted that a following driver will slow down safely as everybody else usually does? (He could be tired from lack of sleep or on the phone as in the case of a recent truck driver on the A34).

‘Wellness on Wheels’ depends on developing both a healthy degree of scepticism about our fellow human beings (unlike a computer, consistent accurate performance is not the norm for most drivers) and at the same time a degree of understanding of the common problems that happen so often in driving. If I assume that the following driver could be distracted when he should be slowing down, how can I act differently so that his common error will not impact me?

Much of the process of getting a driving licence revolves around understanding the vehicle, and the rules of the road – the mechanical skills.

Wellness on wheels, the art of driving to avoid collisions, means understanding the human being, and finding workarounds for common mistakes – the mistakes that people will keep on making.

How many drivers continue to rely on luck or good fortune not to get hit by others, when they could develop awareness and intuition to avoid getting involved in the first place?

Small but significant changes will make a big difference – if we choose to let them.

Stand Up for Your Life

This article appeared in the Stand Up for Your Life, the Winter/Spring 2017 edition of Cardinus Connect. Download it by clicking the banner above.

John Davidge is Head of Fleet Technical for Cardinus Risk Management, find him on LinkedIn here.

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