There are going to be times when a company’s employees need to be driven in work vehicles. It might be a quick lift across town or a long-haul involving motorways. It could be a one-off work trip or something that happens every day. You may not even give it a second thought, but you should.
In 2019, 508 drivers and 228 passengers died in accidents on UK roads and research quoted by ROSPA cites ‘driver distraction’ as a factor in 78% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes.
Do passengers distract drivers? A study in 2018 indicated that seven out of 10 drivers believe there is “nothing more annoying” than passengers who offer unwanted ‘help’ or advice.
So how can passengers find that balance between being considerate and not infuriating the driver?
Here are our top tips on how to be a good passenger in work-related driving.
Be Covid safe – it’s one less thing for the driver to worry about
It is clearly difficult to socially distance during car journeys and car sharing is only currently
permitted with someone from outside your household or your support bubble if the journey is undertaken for an exempt reason. However, passengers can reduce the risk of transmission by travelling with the same people each time; opening windows for ventilation, sitting as far from the driver as possible and by wearing a face mask. You should also wash or sanitise your hands before and after the journey.
Be a good co-pilot
It’s possible to be helpful without being a ‘backseat driver’. It’s more about sharing responsibilities. You could offer to help navigate, gently point out diversions or road signs that the driver might have missed and, should you notice signs of fatigue, suggest that you could do with a break yourself and point out when the next services are coming up. It might also be helpful to dial down the chat and any music when a complicated junction is coming up or you can see the driver is trying to concentrate. Also, try to avoid the old favourite, turning on the interior lights while driving at night, as this can affect the driver’s night vision.
Under 35? Remember to belt up
It’s 30 years since adult passengers were legally obliged to wear seatbelts in the back seats of cars as well as the front. Studies show that wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of death among drivers and front seat occupants by 45-50%, and the risk of death and serious injuries among rear seat occupants by 25%. Also, that passengers aged 17-34 have the lowest seat belt-wearing rates, combined with the highest accident rate. It would seem likely the two are related.
Be considerate in your phone use
Being driven somewhere can be boring for the passenger, but spare a thought for the driver if all they can hear is you on your phone chatting away. If you do need to make calls, try to keep them short, professional and calm. If you happen to receive a call, keep it brief and, if it’s work-related, remember that everything you say is being overheard. It should help to keep driver distraction to the minimum. If the driver is using their mobile, maybe politely remind them that drivers using mobile phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash.
Allow enough time for journeys
It’s frustrating when you’re running late for meetings, but reckless driving isn’t the answer. Increases in average speed are directly related to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to its severity. According to the WHO, every 1% increase in mean-speed leads to a 4% increase in the ‘fatal-crash’ risk. Always remember it’s better to arrive late than not at all.
Mind the door
The entry and exit of a passenger must be done in optimal safety conditions. The greatest care must, therefore, be taken when opening the door so as not to obstruct traffic on the road. It’s also important to ensure a passenger exits when a vehicle is safely parked!
Drivers may recognise this situation: you’re driving along in your own little bubble, aware of everything around you, when there’s a sudden shout from a passenger: “Look out!” You panic, frantically check every mirror and window as your heart rate goes through the roof. After a few seconds it becomes clear the passenger was trying to warn you about a car braking 100 metres in front of you. In an emergency a shout may be helpful, but always try to ensure it is an emergency first.
Most employers, quite reasonably, have their focus on drivers when it comes to health and safety. But the role of passengers should not be underestimated. Employers can make a difference by highlighting these shared responsibilities to passengers (or ‘co-pilots’) as a part of their driver training. It would also help to include it in the onboarding process in a bid to firmly embed good habits. It’s easy to focus all the training on the driver, but the wisest employers and managers remember that the passenger also has a crucial role to play.