Driving for Work
Driving for work can be dangerous. Crashes cause the most work-related traumatic deaths in BC. But nearly all of them can be prevented. Find out how the right knowledge, skills, attitude, and vehicle adjustments can help you stay safe.
Knowledge, skills, and attitude are important for safe driving. Preparing yourself before you drive can reduce your crash risk, and lessen driving stress and fatigue.
Build knowledge and skills
No matter how much you drive or how long you’ve been a driver, you’re at risk on the road. But knowing and living up to your safety responsibilities can reduce that risk. Legally, you need to take steps to keep yourself, your co-workers and others safe. This applies whether you use your own vehicle or your employer’s.
You also need to build your skills and knowledge. Take advantage of information, instruction, and training from your employer. Use our resources too.
Use practice tests to build and maintain your knowledge of road signs, driving behaviours, and the rules of the road. Take ICBC’s driving knowledge practice test and apply what you learn to improve your skills.
Develop a safety attitude
Your attitude matters when it comes to being prepared. Crashes aren’t always the fault of the other driver. Be focussed, courteous, patient, and respectful when you drive.
Be sure to carry over the positive driving attitude you develop and apply at work to your personal driving. Just as you’re responsible for the safety of your co-workers, you’re equally responsible for the safety of your family and friends.
Even short or occasional drives can be dangerous. Use email, virtual meetings, phone calls, and other tools to replace in-person meetings. You’ll save time and money, and remove the risks of driving.
If you must be at that job site, meeting, or client location, consider a safer way to get there. Public transit, ride-sharing, or taking a flight or taxi are all less risky than driving.
Use our Journey Management and Trip Planning Tool Kit to help build low-risk trip plans.
When you have to drive for work:
- Complete a pre-trip vehicle inspection.
- Leave the phone alone. Better yet, put it in the glove box or the trunk. Distracted driving leads to a lot of crashes in BC.
- Know and follow the rules of the road and your organization’s safe driving policies and procedures. Don’t speed, for example. It’s the leading cause of crashes.
- Learn how to drive for the conditions.
- Ask your supervisor for training, coaching, and learning resources if you’re not confident in your driving abilities. Talk with other drivers who have more experience. Practice what you learn.
- Remember that you have the right to refuse unsafe driving.
Getting ready to drive
Preparing to drive starts before you put the keys in the ignition. Follow these tips to prepare for a safe trip.
Using the right tool for the job is a basic rule for safety. Make sure the vehicle you use for work is fit for the job. Your personal vehicle might not be right for the driving you need to do.
High heels and work boots were not designed for driving. Choose shoes that fit you well, are comfortable, and give you a good grip on the pedals. You could have 1 pair for driving and another for your destination. Avoid clothes that might get in your way and slow your reaction time – tight pants and skirts, bulky jackets, mittens, and scarves, for example.
- Put anything you might need during the trip within easy reach. Looking for an item or stretching to get it while driving will distract you.
- Secure loose items that could roll or slide under your feet or the pedals, or become dangerous projectiles in a crash.
- Remove all items from the dash and put them in the console or glove box.
- Make sure heavy objects and cargo are secured in the trunk or back of the vehicle.
If there’s a big step up or down:
- Don’t “jump” into or out of the vehicle.
- Use three points of contact.
- Use the handle or grab-strap.
- Consider installing a step or running boards to reduce step height.
If you’re a truck driver, watch WorkSafeBC’s video on driver ergonomics.
If you have limited mobility, it might be easier to get in the vehicle by sitting in the seat and then swinging both feet in. To get out, face forward in the seat and swing both feet out and onto the ground.
Pull over in a safe place to get out, walk around, stretch, check tires, drink water, use the washroom, and use your phone. It only takes a few minutes and can help to prevent neck, back, and shoulder discomfort.
If you can, alternate between long drives and short trips. This helps you manage boredom and fatigue.
Preparing your vehicle
Once you are prepared for the drive, ensure that your vehicle is also ready. Adjust your seat, mirrors, head restraint, and seat belt to improve your safety and comfort. Hold your steering wheel and place your feet correctly. Make changes to your driving environment that will reduce stress, fatigue, and the risk of injury.
Adjust your seat
When you’re driving, you should be comfortable and able to reach the pedals, steering wheel, levers, and knobs easily.
Aim for a seating position that puts the largest amount of your body in contact with the seat. Sit in the seat, not on it. Push your lower back into the seat and sit tall to stay alert and see clearly.
Follow these instructions to adjust the seat in any vehicle you drive for work. Click the images to enlarge them.
Adjust foot position
Plant your left foot against the foot rest area to the left of the brake or clutch pedal. This will brace your entire body.
This lets you work the pedals with greater accuracy and control. It also means you aren’t relying on the steering wheel for support during hard braking. This improves your ability to operate the steering wheel quickly and accurately.
Keep your right heel on the floor so you can turn your foot at the ankle to operate the pedals. Lifting your foot off the floor to apply the brakes is less effective.
Adjust head restraints
Head restraints aren’t headrests. They should support the back of your head and neck, and protect you from severe neck injuries if you’re rear-ended.
The top of the head restraint should be level with the top of your head and less than 10 cm from the back of your head. Leave enough room to turn your head without touching the restraint.
Adjust the seat to a slightly more upright position to move your head closer to the restraint.
Click image to enlarge.
Check the passenger head restraints, and adjust both the front and rear seats.
Mirrors should give you the fullest possible view with the least amount of extra effort. In a quick glance, you should be able to see vehicles beside and behind yours.
Click image to enlarge.
Here’s how to set your mirrors:
- Rear view: Adjust it to give you a view straight out the back window while you’re sitting in the normal driving position. Don’t tilt it to help you see traffic on either side of your vehicle. That’s what the side mirrors do.
- Driver side: Adjust it outwards so it’s just past the point at which you can see the left rear corner of your vehicle. You should not be able to see the side of your vehicle until you tilt your head to almost touch the driver’s side window.
- Passenger side: Adjust it outwards so it’s just past the point at which you can see the right side of your vehicle. If you tilt your head towards the centre of the vehicle, you should be able to just see the right side of your vehicle.
At first, this wider-angle view from your side mirrors may seem strange. But widening your view minimizes blind spots. Have someone stand in the blind spots while you adjust your mirrors to test it. You can also try a gradual approach, adjusting the mirrors outward a little more each day.
Set the side mirrors properly so that vehicles behind you can’t shine their lights in your eyes. To further reduce glare, flip up the lever on the bottom of the rear-view mirror.
When you’re used to the new mirror settings, you’ll be able to see more and drive with more confidence.
A properly adjusted seatbelt is the best protection against injury in a crash. Even an extra centimetre of slack can make the difference between serious or minor injuries.
When you’re sitting passively, a correctly adjusted belt allows a bit of movement. On impact, the belt sensors lock it in place. If you find the shoulder strap uncomfortable, use shoulder strap covers or cushions.
Follow these tips for seatbelt safety:
- Keep the lap belt snug and as low on your hips as possible.
- Ensure the shoulder belt comes across your shoulder without cutting across your neck. In most vehicles, you can adjust the belt for proper placement and comfort.
- Make the shoulder belt snug across your chest. If the belt has any slack, your body will gain momentum in a crash before hitting the belt, increasing the risk of injury.
- Never wear the shoulder belt under your arm. It greatly increases risk of injury in a crash.
Adjust the interior
Temperature and visibility in your vehicle can affect your risk of crashing.
The optimal temperature for driving comfort is about 18°C. Above 20°C is a little too warm because you can become drowsy. Some drivers keep the window open a crack or set the fan on low to keep the air fresh.
Dust that collects on the inside of your windows can affect visibility, especially when driving facing the sun. Dirty windows may also force you to crane your neck or get into an uncomfortable position to see. Clean the inside of your vehicle’s windows at least once a month.
Making your vehicle comfortable to drive reduces stress and fatigue. It can also help you avoid injuries like back and wrist strain.
Grip steering wheel properly
How you grip the wheel influences how well you can control the vehicle. A proper grip also reduces the risk you’ll be injured if the airbag deploys during a crash. The grips recommended most often are:
- Left hand at 10 o’clock position and right hand at 2 o’clock.
- Left hand at 9 o’clock and right hand at 3 o’clock.
Adjust and vary your grip to maintain circulation and avoid fatigue in your hands, wrists, and arms. If your knuckles are white, you’re gripping too hard.
Grasp the steering wheel with both hands and wrists straight, your elbows slightly bent, and your shoulders neutral (arms by your sides).
Stretch when it’s safe
Vary your seating position to ease tension. Once you’ve got your optimal seating position, shift your weight and adjust your posture to keep comfortable.
Do some stretches while you’re stopped at a traffic light. Tighten and relax your feet, ankles, thighs, core, shoulders, arms, and neck muscles when it’s safe to do so. Extend your legs, reach behind the seat and stretch your shoulders, and roll your neck a few times.
Learn more about driving and ergonomics.