Before and after you turn those keys, look 360 degrees

Remember to look behind you when backing your vehicle. Photo: Fermilab Security

Although we at Fermilab ended fiscal year 2014 with a lower accident rate than in 2013, we still didn’t reach goal zero, with backing accidents accounting for 50 percent of all vehicle accidents for the past year. While most vehicle accidents at Fermilab involved only property damage, bodily injuries have been recorded in the past.

According to the National Safety Council, one out of four vehicle accidents can be blamed on poor backing techniques. Backing accidents cause 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year in the United States. Here are a few safe vehicle backing tips to help prevent accidents on and off the job.

  • Get to know a vehicle’s blind spots. In a medium-size truck, blind spots can extend tens of feet in front of and behind the vehicle. Mirrors can never give the whole picture while backing.
  • Park defensively. Drivers should choose easy-exit parking spaces that don’t crowd neighboring vehicles, parking their vehicle in the center of the parking space if possible.
  • Do a 360-degree walk-around. Walking around a vehicle gives the driver a first-hand view of the backing area and any limitations. Check for children, soft or muddy areas, potholes, tire hazards, light poles, wires, low-hanging tree branches and other dangers.
  • Every backing situation is new and different. Even though a driver might visit the same location several times a day, he or she should be especially careful in these cases, looking for changes and any new obstacles at every visit.
  • Use a spotter. A driver should use another person to help when visibility is vastly limited. The spotter should not walk backwards while giving instructions. Instead, the spotter should always walk forward, turn around, then give the proper hand signal.
  • Avoid distractions. Talking on a cell phone is never a safe option while driving, and this is especially true when backing. Backing requires the full attention and skill of the driver.
  • Back up slowly. Take time to check mirrors and give any initially unseen pedestrian time to move away. Rushing to park in a space or reverse direction only increases your risk of overlooking dangers. Patience saves lives.

Speaking of patience, employees and visitors that use our taxi service are asked to be careful and wait for the Fermilab taxi to come to a complete stop both before approaching the taxi to board it and before unbuckling their seatbelts to leave. If for some reason the bus has to come to an abrupt stop and you are out of your seatbelt, you could be thrown about and injured. Also, if you slip on ice or fall when walking toward the bus and roll or slide into the path of the bus while it is still in motion, you could be seriously injured.

Let’s all exercise safety precautions at all times. For more information on traffic awareness at Fermilab, visit the Traffic Safety Subcommittee website.

Brian Niesman