We often approach operating a car or truck as an everyday occurance, one that for many of us we've been doing for years without giving it a second thought. This way of thinking however places us in greater danger of being involved in an accident more than ever. With the focus on safety in our operations, the Mindset of The Vehicle Operator should be at the forefront of everyone who gets behind the wheel of a corporate vehicle.
We associate pre-flight checks as a standard operating procedure for all pilots. Using a structured checklist the pilot will checkover every inch of his or her aircraft to ensure its flightworthiness. Then prior to takeoff the pilot continues with the checklist, checking dials and flaps to ensure that mechanically, the aircraft is flightworthy.
As CAP Vehicle Operators we must apply the same principles to the vehicles we operate. The CAP Form 73 is the checklist used for daily inspection of the vehicle. While the CAPF 73 allows us to visually inspect the condition of the vehicle and check the fluids and air pressure of the tires we must go beyond that. The CAP Vehicle Operator must inspect in the wheel wells for debris and trash that may be lodged in the wheel wells and behind the tires. A visual check of the exhuast system to ensure that muffler clamps and hangers are inplace.
The Mindset of the Vehicle Operator continues during the course of operations. The pilot will tell you the hundreds of things that he must conciously be aware of. Wind currents, power lines, other aircraft in the search grid, onboard distractions, radio chatter, and so on. The Vehicle Operator must contend with thousands of distractions, number one being other drivers.
As the Vehicle Operator you are the Operator in Charge (OIC). I borrow this term from my Air Force experience in Vehicle Operations. The OIC is the person responsible for that vehicle while it is in motion. You the OIC must contend with not only distractions from within the vehicle but the thousands of distractions that you will encounter driving down the road.
We've all encountered "Sally Cell Phone" who is more intent on her conversation then which lane she wants to be in; "Burger Bob" who is focused on the hamburger he just dropped in his lap rather than the traffic light that just turned red; "Turn Signal Tom" who is oblivious to the fact that his left hand signal has been going for the last three miles causing you to wonder when and if he is actually going to turn. These distractions as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, foul weather,( and the list goes on) emphasises the importance of the Vehicle Operator being alert to safety.
The question arises then, what can I do to be a more safety concious Vehicle Operator?
Common sense is the number one rule. If you are tired then hand off driving to someone who is more alert, or switch off driving on long stretches. Plenty of rest, and taking breaks will keep you alert and focused. Don't risk the safety of you and your passengers just to save a few minutes of time.
Walkaround inspections. After everystop before you pull away make sure that there aren't any obstructions which may cause damage now or later. Often we pull off roads when conducting ground searches, check to ensure that you haven't collected any brush or other debris under your vehicle.
Know your clearances and use spotters. The best way to avoid a backing accident is to avoid parking situtations where you will have to back out. Make sure your mirrors are set properly to you the driver and use a spotter. Be concious of your surroundings.
Just because the speed limit is 55 doesn't meant that road and weather conditions will permit you to drive 55. Reduce your speed on wet roads, avoid driving through pooling water if possible. Remember that water that has pooled often hides hidden dangers. Pot holes, debris, and other road hazards can be hidden under an inch or more of standing water.
As the OIC of that vehicle you are responsible for the lives of the passengers in your charge. Safety should never be compromised to get to a location faster, to get home earlier, or to wrap on the mission sooner. Vehicle Safety starts with you the operator first.