In the United States, motor vehicles crashes continue to be the number one cause of work-related deaths. These incidents can impact the mental and physical health of employees. Further, they cost employers nearly $40 billion a year.
On this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, we sit down with Josh Palmer of AS3 International Inc, a company that provides driving training. Their courses combine techniques from the racing industry, law enforcement and the military. They specialize in training Security Drivers, professionals who get behind the wheel for high-risk employers: celebrities, diplomats, politicians and more. Palmer is the Chief Instructor, with more than 20 years of experience in the U.S. and Mexico.
First, we’ll talk about how security driving takes defensive driving skills to the next level. Then, we’ll discuss how security drivers take a proactive approach behind the wheel. Finally, we’ll share why it’s important for employers to help employees become more confident behind the wheel.
Listen to this episode on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.
Security driving: Taking defensive driving to the next level
Blockbuster movies show some of the world’s most extreme driving in action. Cars squeeze down small streets, zip around corners and dodge fruit vendors and strolling pedestrians. Bodyguards and world-class spies go to extreme lengths to protect their charges and avoid danger. Driving at that level requires specialized training – and it isn’t just for movie star doubles.
AS3 International trains clients in security driving, a more dynamic approach of operating vehicles. “Our clients vary widely from high-level government agencies to private security teams for ultra-high net worth families.” They train those in both corporate and private security; even nannies. Their method goes beyond defensive driving. It’s important for drivers to know the capabilities – and limitations – of their cars. For example, many executive security companies use the Chrysler 300, a luxury sedan. But in a high-speed situation, it handles much the same as a Chevy Impala, a much more common sight on the road.
Staying alert and ready on the road
The team teaches skills to help drivers stay alert and ready. One skill includes the proper position for hands on the steering wheel. Many drivers learn the 10-and-2 position from instructors or parents. This grip reflects the time on a clock. Some transition to the 8-and-4 position, which is more comfortable. AS3 International shares a different approach: 9-and-3. Why? It keeps drivers more engaged, and is a more efficient way to turn the wheel. It isn’t the most relaxed way to drive, but that’s for a reason. “You need to be actively engaged in what you’re doing,” Palmer explained. “Driving really is just an auxiliary job to get you to your job, so that’s kind of what we try to hone in on.”
Expecting the unexpected
Security drivers run into unexpected situations. And despite being well-trained, their responses aren’t always perfect. AS3 International makes it point to prepare them for the worst.
The smallest changes can make a big difference in the event of a vehicle crash. Different impact zones exist in car. If a vehicle happens to roll, then each one poses risk of a different injury. For instance, a vertical impact can cause a head injury. Palmer finds that most American drivers tend to sit further back from the steering wheel. As a result, they need to stretch their leg to hit the break. A forward impact could severely injure every joint in that stretched leg: ankle, knee, hip.
For the average person, these rules still apply. A distracted driver might need to brake suddenly for stopped traffic or a quick-changing street light. Moving the seat forward just a bit could result in a different outcome. Minor changes can make a major impact.
Preparing to drive reduces risk
One of the most important elements of security driving is situational awareness. Palmer finds that drivers simply not paying attention is one of the most common – and riskiest – habits. As3 International teaches drivers to be proactive, not reactive. This includes:
- Wearing a seat belt. Seat belts help drivers maintain the right driving position. They also limit potential impact in the event of a crash. Skipping this step can result in serious consequences.
- Adjusting mirrors. Mirrors are a vital tool when driving. Palmer encourages drivers to look three to five cars ahead. Rearview and side mirrors offer a better view. Don’t wait until you’re already on the road to adjust them.
- Leave an escape route. Finding an escape route isn’t just vital for security driver. Any driver should anticipate ways to avoid danger. Leave room for cars making sudden stops or turns ahead. A red light is simply a pause while driving – and not an excuse to take your eyes off the road.
For Palmer, these precautions help counter a common truth among many drivers: they don’t know how their car will respond in an emergency. For example, sudden braking, swerving or even coming off a roadway. A security driver might encounter these situations on the job. The average driver will encounter them during rush hour, on road trips or traveling through winter weather.
“Quite frankly, you probably haven’t looked up the certain mechanical capabilities of that vehicle, and you don’t know how that car’s going to respond in a panic situation,” he explained. “Most Americans have no idea how their vehicle’s going to respond in a panic situation. So allowing yourself that room and space to maneuver is so crucial.”
Becoming confident behind the wheel
In today’s world, many things are done online. Most employees complete their training sitting behind a computer screen. But when it comes to driving, physical experience is the best way to learn. As3 International takes a specific approach to training their confidence: real-world practice. Clients spend the least amount of time necessary in a classroom. Instead, the most important learning happens in the car.
“For most employers who have a large fleet, they really need to to strengthen their employees’ confidence behind the wheel,” Palmer shared. He puts drivers through drills, so they can learn how the car responds in different situations. “Knowing that your employees have the capabilities to react in an emergency in a panicked situation is so vital.” Even during drills, Palmer sees some students freeze under pressure.
The goal of security driving is to operate a vehicle in a high-risk situation, and then still be able to complete a mission. But the goals for the average driver? Avoiding an incident, preventing damage and even avoiding death. Employers need to empower their employees to be confident operating a car. “That tangible experience is invaluable.”
Security driving: Tips drivers can take to the workplace today
Security driving skills aren’t just for those who are transporting high-profile clients. They can help anyone become a more conscious driver – especially in high-risk situations. Palmer encourages drivers to implement these three simple tips today:
- Wear a seat belt.
- Adjust your seat and mirrors before getting on the road.
- Stay aware on the road.
For free safety posters, sample policies, and safety toolkits, visit our Resource Library. Then, learn how driving tips like these save lives in this WorkSAFE podcast episode featuring Captain Kevin Kelley from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.