Updated: Mar 8, 2022
Whether you’re in a company vehicle or driving your own for work purposes, the responsibility for keeping you safe is shared between you and your employer.
Whilst there may be policies and procedures in place to keep you safe, you also have a personal duty to ensure your safety when on the road.
So how can you make sure you stay safe when driving for work?
Your health & road safety
Your health can have a huge impact on your ability to drive safely. Make sure you are fit to drive before getting behind the wheel, and if you’re not for any reason, don’t drive.
Alcohol affects your judgement, reaction times, and vision, and therefore greatly increases your risk of crashing.
It is illegal to drive when over the limit, and alcohol can stay in your system for hours after your last drink – you could still be over the limit the next morning if you’ve been drinking the night before. Even if you’re under the limit, having alcohol in your system can still impact your ability to drive safely.
The best option is to avoid alcohol completely before you drive, and stay within safe drinking guidelines to avoid overdoing it.
UK adults should drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over at least 3 days.
Drugs & medicines
Whether legal or illegal, some drugs and medicines can severely impact your ability to drive safely and increase your risk of crashing significantly.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist whether your prescribed or over-the-counter medicines will affect your driving – some can make you drowsy and unfit to drive, but there may be an alternative that won’t.
It’s illegal to drive whilst under the influence of drugs and some medicines.
Being tired behind the wheel can affect you in similar ways to alcohol by reducing your reaction times and affecting your judgement and coordination.
Many crashes involving tired drivers happen at high speed because the driver has fallen asleep behind the wheel.
Make sure you get enough sleep before driving and avoid heavy meals which can make you drowsy. Plan your journeys taking into account the need for rest and sleep, and don’t drive if you feel tired.
You should get your eyesight checked at least once every 2 years to make sure it hasn’t deteriorated.
For driving, your eyesight should be good enough to read a number plate from 20 metres away, which is about 5 car lengths.
Even common conditions such as colds, migraines and hay fever can impact your driving ability by causing reduced attention and reaction times.
Avoid powering through if your driving is likely to be affected and wait until you’re feeling better again.
Some conditions may exclude you from driving, or from driving certain types of vehicles, so if you get a new diagnosis it’s important to ask your doctor if you need to declare it to the DVLA.
Other ways to stay safe
Ensure your vehicle is well maintained and things like lights and washers are working before you set off.
Make sure you and any other passengers wear seatbelts, no matter how short the journey.
Drive at safe speeds – that might not be the same as the speed limit set for the road, as things like adverse weather conditions or heavy traffic might mean a slower speed is safer.
Avoid distractions such as mobile phones which are illegal to use when driving. Don’t operate satnavs while driving, set them before you leave and stop in a safe place if you need to adjust them. Even simple things like eating, drinking, and smoking can distract you when driving and have been known to cause fatal crashes.
Be prepared for the weather – whether it’s snow, high winds, heavy rain, or a heatwave, make sure you’re prepared by packing suitable clothing and extra drinks or snacks to keep you hydrated and stave of hunger should you get stuck or breakdown. Driving in rain or snow can reduce visibility and increase the risk of skidding or aquaplaning so avoid journeys if you can.
Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. The faster you are moving, the longer the stopping distance, so the further away you need to be from the car in front.
Know in advance what you need to do if you breakdown or have an accident. Your employer may have a procedure you need to follow for company vehicles involved in accidents, so make sure you understand it to avoid confusion if the time comes. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of this in the vehicle.
Our sources and for more information: http://www.rospa.com/rospaweb/docs/advice-services/road-safety/employers/safer-driving-for-work-handbook.pdf https://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/drivingforwork.htm https://www.think.gov.uk/campaign/vehicle-safety-checks/
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