Safe vehicle operation

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  • Bureau of Workers’ Comp
  • PA Training for Health & Safety
  • (PATHS)
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving

  • In 2009, 33,808 people died and 2.22 million were injured in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. *
  • Inadequate driving skills pose a great danger, as does distracted driving.
  • It can be difficult to unlearn bad habits, but following a few driving rules can save your life and the lives of others.
  • * Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • PPT-032-02

Setting Up

  • Adjust your seat so your arms are slightly bent at the elbows when gripping the wheel.
  • Keep your hands at the ten o’clock and two o’clock or nine o’clock and three o’clock positions on the steering wheel.
  • Hold the wheel tightly enough so your palms do not slip off.
  • Adjust side mirrors so you can either see the door handles or angled away to cover blind spots.
  • PPT-032-02

Adjusting Side Mirrors for Blind Spots

  • Park car and have someone walk in both left and right blind spots.
  • Set mirrors so person is in view.
  • Check mirrors to see which areas remain invisible.
  • Re-adjust and check again.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Merging

  • • Merging requires attention to many different factors.
  • • Traffic moving at posted speeds = use the acceleration lane to speed up and match traffic flow.
  • • Use your signal and look for an opening where you can smoothly ease into traffic.
  • If traffic is congested and moving slowly, proceed down the ramp slowly and look for an opening.
  • Try to avoid stopping at the bottom of the ramp because it can disrupt traffic flow.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Intersections

  • Do not closely follow a large vehicle through an intersection with stoplights. You can’t see if the light has changed.
  • Leave enough space so you have a clear view of everything before proceeding.
  • When making a left turn, slow down and yield if there is not a green arrow giving you the right-of-way.
  • Don’t turn your wheels until you’re ready to move (if your vehicle is hit from behind, you could be pushed into oncoming traffic).
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Four-Way Stop

  • First car to arrive at an intersection with a four-way stop (whether sign or traffic light) should be first to go.
  • When it's unclear which vehicle arrived first, general rule is driver to the right has the right-of-way.
  • Don’t count on other drivers; proceed with caution.
  • PPT-032-02

Vehicle Maintenance

  • Neglecting maintenance can cause crashes.
  • Monitor condition of and air pressure in your tires. Not doing so could cause blowout or a flat.
  • Change wiper blades regularly.
  • Check your owner's manual for a maintenance schedule, and stick to it.
  • PPT-032-02

Vehicle Maintenance - Tires

  • Check tire pressure regularly, including the spare (at least once a month).
  • Inspect tires for:
    • Uneven wear patterns
    • Cracks
    • Foreign objects
    • Other signs of wear
  • • Ensure tire valves have valve caps.
  • PPT-032-02

Vehicle Maintenance - Tires

  • Check tire pressure before a long trip.
  • Do not overload vehicle – check tire info placard for maximum recommended load.
  • If towing a trailer, remember that some weight of loaded trailer is transferred to vehicle.
  • Try not to strike curb when parking.
  • PPT-032-02

Flat Tire/Blowout - Highway

  • At the first sign of trouble:
  • Firmly grip the steering wheel
  • Do not slam on brakes
  • Take foot off the gas pedal
  • Work vehicle toward the shoulder or exit
  • If changing lanes, use turn signals
  • Steer as vehicle slows down
  • PPT-032-02

Flat Tire/Blowout - Highway

  • Once off road, place reflective triangles
  • Keep emergency flashers on
  • Change tire, if you know how
  • Keep away from traffic
  • Call for professional help, if necessary
  • Do not stand behind or next to vehicle
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Skills

  • Keep your eyes constantly moving: - Look up and down the road - Look to the sides of the road - Look into the rear view mirror
  • Always leave yourself an out: - Try to find a place to head if a crash occurs - Think about other drivers’ blind spots
  • Don’t linger while passing.
  • Don’t follow too closely (“tailgate”).
  • Avoid “packs” of vehicles.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Skills

  • Ensure other drivers see you – keep headlights on both day and night.
  • Always use turn signals well ahead of time.
  • Never assume what other drivers will do.
  • Maintain an average speed on highways; going too fast or too slow creates a hazard.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Skills

  • Use average traffic speed when merging.
  • Think ahead – avoid making sudden movements when exiting highways.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals.
  • Keep your eyes on the road, not on a cell phone or music device.
  • Watch for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Scan the road ahead for animals.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Skills

  • Stopping on Highways:
  • Don’t be a stationary object or semi-stationary obstacle.
  • Stopping at the end of an entrance ramp is dangerous; learn to time a safe merge.
  • Avoid stopping on the shoulder of road; exit highway before stopping, if possible.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Sleepiness

  • Driving sleepy is driving impaired!
  • Reaction time and vision deteriorate when you are tired.
  • Pull over, take a short “cat nap” or just close your eyes for a while.
  • Sometimes taking a short walk will work.
  • Stop every two to three hours if driving long distances.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Familiarization

  • Be familiar with your vehicle:
  • Know what every button, switch and lever does.
  • Know where the oil, brake fluid, engine coolant and window washer reservoirs are.
  • Know how to fill those reservoirs.
  • Know what every indicator light means.
  • Know how to operate basic items, such as the defroster, wipers, radio and headlights.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Nighttime Driving

  • Traffic deaths are three times greater at night than during the day (Source: National Safety Council).
  • Prepare car for nighttime driving: clean headlights, taillights, signal lights and windows (at least weekly).
  • Have vehicle headlights properly aimed.
  • Don’t drink and drive!
  • Reduce speed and increase following distances.
  • Don’t overdrive headlights – should be able to stop inside illuminated area.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips – Nighttime Driving

  • When following a vehicle, keep your headlights on low beam.
  • If oncoming vehicle doesn’t turn high beams down, look to the right side of road.
  • If tired, stop and rest.
  • If you have car problems, pull to the side of the road and place reflective devices; turn on emergency flashers.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Seasonal Changes

  • Winter driving = slippery roads, visibility issues, cold, etc.
  • Spring = rain can cause slippery roads.
  • Summer = high temperatures can cause vehicle problems; there’s more traffic on roads.
  • Fall = wet leaves on road can make it slippery.
  • Daylight saving’s time = sun's position in sky changes causing darkness and glare.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Rain

  • Drive slowly and carefully – especially on curves.
  • Steer and brake with a light touch.
  • When slowing/stopping, do not brake hard or lock the wheels – could cause skidding.
  • Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Adjust your speed to the wet road conditions.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Skids

  • Remain calm.
  • Ease your foot off the gas.
  • Steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go (“steering into the skid”).
  • If vehicle has ABS (anti-lock brakes), avoid slamming on the brakes, brake firmly while steering into skid.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Hydroplaning

  • Occurs when water in front of tires builds up faster than vehicle’s weight can push it out of the way.
  • Water pressure causes vehicle to rise up and slide on thin layer of water between tires and road.
  • Can cause skidding, drifting out of lane, leaving roadway.
  • To avoid: keep tires properly inflated, maintain good tread, slow down, avoid puddles.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Hydroplaning

  • If hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly.
  • Ease foot off gas until vehicle slows down and you can feel the road again.
  • If you need to brake, do so gently, with light pumping actions.
  • If vehicle has anti-lock brakes, brake normally.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Winter

  • Ensure vehicle wiper blades are in good condition and washer fluid is filled.
  • Ensure vehicle battery is in good condition and appropriately charged.
  • Clear snow/ice from all windows, lights, hood, trunk and top of vehicle before driving.
  • Adjust your speed accordingly.
  • Check tire pressure regularly.
  • Dress warmly with layered clothing that is loose-fitting and lightweight.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Winter

  • If in vehicle and stranded due to road conditions:
  • Stay in vehicle.
  • Display trouble sign (ex: brightly-colored
  • cloth on antenna).
  • Occasionally run engine with heater on to
  • keep warm.
  • Keep exhaust pipe free of snow and open a
  • window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Winter

  • If in vehicle and stranded due to road conditions:
  • Do minor exercises to keep up circulation.
  • Clap hands and move arms and legs frequently.
  • Try not to stay in one position for too long.
  • Use newspapers, maps, mats, etc., for warmth.
  • Avoid drinking fluids containing caffeine or alcohol:
  • can quicken effects of cold.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Winter

  • Stopping Distances and Wet/Snowpack/Icy Roads:
  • Vehicle may travel 4x the stopping distance than on dry road.
  • Dry pavement vehicle traveling 70 mph requires 600 feet to stop; wet road requires 800 feet.
  • Snowpacked road requires approximately 1300 feet stopping distance @ 70 mph.
  • Icy road requires 2,500 feet @ 70 mph.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips - Winter

  • Winterizing Vehicles:
  • • Ensure ice scraper and windshield de-icer are on board.
  • • Carry spare set of wiper blades.
  • • Carry kitty litter, oil dry or sand for traction.
  • • Carry blankets, flashlight, road flares.
  • • Have lock de-icer available.
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Tips – Vehicle Fires

  • Get yourself and all others out of and away from the vehicle.
  • Move a safe distance from the vehicle and call fire department.
  • Do not stand near vehicle bumpers.
  • Remain away from vehicle; do not attempt to get back into burning vehicle.
  • If trained, are comfortable and fire is small, use appropriate fire extinguisher.
  • If you suspect fire under hood or in trunk, do not open.
  • PPT-032-02

Vehicle Safety - General

  • Always use seatbelts!
  • When backing up, use caution: if you have passenger, ask them to get out and direct; if not, get out and check area before backing.
  • If vehicle is not operating properly, report and discontinue use.
  • Shut off motor and do not smoke or use cell phone while refueling.
  • Do not leave engine running in an unattended vehicle.
  • Report all work accidents, no matter how minor, to your supervisor.
  • PPT-032-02

Vehicle Safety - General

  • Inspect vehicle before driving:
  • Ensure the horn, lights and turn signals work.
  • Ensure tires are in good condition.
  • Ensure brakes are working (test upon moving).
  • Ensure emergency brake works.
  • Check gauges after starting (e.g., fuel, battery, temperature, etc.) to ensure they’re working.
  • PPT-032-02

Vehicle Safety - General

  • Distracted Driving:
  • Nearly 6,000 people killed and 500,000 injured as a result of distracted driving (2008; USDOT).
  • Distracted driving is a factor in more than 20 percent of crashes.
  • Drivers on cell phones fail to see up to half of information in driving environment.
  • Do not text while driving – pull over!
  • Pull over to talk on phone – even using a “hands free” device is distracting.
  • PPT-032-02

Preventing Road Rage

  • Don’t offend, don’t engage.
  • Adjust your attitude (stay calm).
  • Avoid cutting people off.
  • Don’t tailgate or follow closely.
  • Don’t make obscene/questionable gestures.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Don’t start a fight – give angry drivers lots of room.
  • PPT-032-02


  • Operating a motor vehicle is dangerous, but it can also be a pleasant experience.
  • Use common sense, obey speed limits, drive defensively and observe “road safety rules.”
  • Distracted driving can be just as dangerous as alcohol-impaired driving.
  • Be careful, alert, courteous and safe.
  • Have a safe trip!
  • PPT-032-02

Safe Driving Quiz

  • PPT-032-02


  • PPT-032-02

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