Not many people know that it is just as illegal to munch through a bar of chocolate as it is to use a mobile phone while driving. In actual fact it is perfectly legal to do both, but you are breaking the law if they cause your attention to wander. And when you use a mobile phone your attention automatically decreases.
Once your actions take your attention away from the road you are not only endangering your own life, but many others' too. Road vehicles, no matter how large or small, are potential killing machines.
Set up 15 years ago, Drive & Survive not only provides driver training but also fleet risk management services and event creation and management. The aim of the driver training is to reduce the number and severity of road accidents and insurance companies can benefit by recommending the training to their clients - even by taking the training themselves.
The statistics are frightening. According to Drive & Survive, anyone who has to drive for a living has 15 times more chance of being killed at work than people employed in accepted hazardous employment such as mining or high-level construction work. Perhaps it is not so surprising, then, that 66% of company cars are subject to an insurance claim each year. Whether these figures are attributable to lazy driving or simply spending more hours on the roads is debatable. But one thing is sure, bosses certainly appreciate the knowledge that their drivers are driving safely. Having their overall outlay reduced is bound to be a welcome bonus.
Andy Neale, Drive & Survive's managing director, spoke of some of the company's existing clients: “They worked out that if they pay for the driver training, the accident rate would go down more than enough to cover the training costs.”
As soon as you clamber into the car on the training day it becomes apparent that it's not going to be just another day behind the wheel. For starters you are given an introduction using the powers of modern technology via a laptop computer that provides an overview of the training ahead.
Many drivers no doubt walk in thinking, “I've been driving for 20 years – who are you to tell me what to do?” But Drive & Survive is keen to stress that it is not there to tell you what to do. Instead it is there to point out potential hazards and increase awareness of dangers on the roads.
Scott LeMaitre, senior fleet risk manager, comments: “We are there to give a service. Over a period of time it will help clients reduce their costs and start taking responsibility for their own actions.”
As part of the training you are taken out onto the roads so that you can experience real situations. Trainers give a running commentary along the lines of: “What's happening ahead of you now? What's the lorry driver going to do? Can you see him in your mirror? Down the road is a pedestrian crossing – is there anyone waiting?” All that in one breath. You walk away from the training realising that the next time you get in a car things will never be the same again. You certainly become more aware of potential hazards on the roads.
Drive & Survive offers driver training for most types of vehicles including trucks, motorcycles and performance vehicles. Four-by-four training is also available on Drive & Survive's four-mile off-road course near Bracknell in Berkshire. It also has a private road-track featuring realistic road signs and junctions and a multi-surfaced skid area.
Neale says: “Driver training is the first part of an ongoing safety culture.” Clients do not receive just one training session – refresher sessions are encouraged to ensure drivers continue to remain safe.
The risk management services Drive & Survive provides are also useful to smaller clients who may not have their own fleet manager. Drive & Survive fleet managers advise clients, to try and help them reduce their risks and operating costs. They carry out total vehicle risk audits, accident statistic analysis, advice on strategies for both crash and fleet-running cost reduction, to name but a few elements. Programmes are tailored to meet individual client needs. The remaining part of Drive & Survive's service is event management and creation. Its specialist division has been running since 1997 and has been responsible for four-by-four courses at London and British International Motor Shows. It designed, built and operated the show on behalf of its organisers and participating vehicle manufacturers. It is also willing to put together smaller scale events. These can involve a conference meeting in the morning followed by an activity afternoon, for example. Activity days can also be arranged for members of the public.
Drive & Survive won two national awards last year, recognising its driver training products. It was awarded Best Driver Training Company in the Fleet Excellence awards and the Best Driver Safety Specialist Company from the Institute of Traffic Management.