Seeing and Anticipating Hazards

Seeing the Hazards Ahead

This excerpt was taken from the Safety Management Services Company’s Accident Countermeasures program

A hazard can be defined as any road condition or other road user (driver, bicyclist, pedestrian) that’s a possible danger.

As an example, a car in front of you is headed towards the freeway exit, but his brake lights come on and he begins braking hard. This could mean that the driver is uncertain about taking the off-ramp. He might suddenly return to the highway. This car is now a hazard. if the driver quickly cuts back in front of your truck, it’s no longer just a hazard, but is now an emergency.

Seeing hazards allows you to be prepared. It allows you to have a plan of action to avoid an emergency. In the example above, you might make a lane-change or simply slow down to avoid a crash if the car suddenly cuts in front of you. Seeing the hazard gives you tie to check your mirrors and signal a safe lane-change. A driver who didn’t see the hazard until the slowing car pulls back onto the freeway in front of him would have to do something very sudden, such as braking hard or making a quick lane-change. Both of these actions are more likely to lead to a crash.


Watch for “People” Hazards

In order to protect yourself and others, you must know when other road users may do something hazardous. Some clues to these types of hazards might include the following:

Distractions – People who are distracted are hazards. (What drivers do you see who aren’t distracted these days?) Watch for where they are looking. If a driver is looking elsewhere, he/she can’t see you. Be alert even when a driver is looking at you, as he may believe he has the right-of-way even if he doesn’t.

Children – Children tend to act quickly and without checking traffic. In the midst of playing, children may not look for traffic and become a serious hazard.

Disabled Vehicles – Drivers changing a tire or fixing a mechanical problem often don’t pay attention to the dangers of roadway traffic and are often careless. Watch for raised vehicle hoods and jacked up wheels.

Impaired Drivers – Drivers who are sleepy, had too much to drink, are on drugs, or physically ill are all hazards.


Watch for Road Hazards

Road hazards encountered by professional drivers come in many forms. They can be naturally occurring, man-made, or a combination of the two. Road hazards are the characteristics of the road surface, shape, or contour that could adversely affect a driver’s ability to control his vehicle or see clearly. Road hazards are a major factor in truck accidents and seem even more prevalent during the spring/summer driving periods.

Work Zones – When people are working on the road, it’s a hazard. There may be a narrowing of lanes, sharp turns, or uneven surfaces. Other drivers often do not slow and may drive erratically. Construction workers and their vehicles can get in the way, so drive slowly, turning on your headlights and four-way flashers prior to entering the construction area to warn other drivers behind you and the construction workers themselves.

Drop-Offs – After a long, hard winter, erosion often causes the pavement to drop-off sharply near the edge of the road, especially on the two-lane highways. Driving too near the edges can suddenly tilt your truck/trailer toward the side of the road. Steering can be difficult as you safely slow your vehicle before steering back onto the roadway.

Foreign Objects – Debris on the roadway can be hazardous for the professional driver. Debris materials can be a danger to your tires and rims, brake lines, and crossover fuel lines. Some obstacles can appear to be harmless, but can ultimately be very dangerous. Stay alert for objects of all sorts, so you can see them early enough to avoid them without making sudden, unsafe moves.

Accident Scenes – Accidents on the roadway are particularly dangerous and obviously unexpected. Passing drivers tend to look at the accident and are not observant as to where they are heading. Vehicles may be required to slow or stop suddenly due to an accident scene. When traffic is stopped for an accident just over the crest of a hill or after rounding a curve in the highway, tragedies often occur.

The professional driver will always be looking and anticipating hazards while on the road. Watching and anticipating hazards buys you time to plan a way out of an emergency. Asking yourself questions such as, “What if there is stopped traffic over this hill?” causes the professional driver to plan for the unexpected, improving safety for both you and the motoring public.

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