Staying Safe on the Road
by Michele Wade, on Jan 6, 2020 5:32:00 PM
Safety is a top concern for women drivers, according to the Women In Trucking Association’s Best Practices Guide to Increasing Women Drivers in the Industry. When asked to rate how safe they feel on a scale of 1–10, the average response for female drivers was just 4.4.
To give today’s drivers more peace of mind, we turned to two recent WIT Members of the Month — and 2018 Top Women to Watch: Sandy Goche and Melissa Allen. They had a variety of suggestions to help women stay safe while on the road.
Get off to a good start by going through your pre-trip checklist, our experts say.
“We check the lights, fluid levels, brakes, tires, belts... basically make sure the vehicle’s in good operating condition,” says Goche, who has been driving for three years with her partner Stephen Halsted as an expedite owner-operator with G&H Custom LLC. “Frankly, these are things that all drivers should be doing.”
Allen, who began driving professionally for Schneider five years ago, makes sure to stock plenty of food, water, weather-appropriate clothing, batteries, first-aid supplies, etc. in her truck. “At any time, I could easily survive four days or more in this truck without needing to restock,” she says.
On the Road
Once they’re on the road, both women drivers practice safe driving habits such as going the speed limit, driving with their lights on and using signals to alert other drivers. In their years of safe driving, they’ve developed other strategies as well.
“In stop-and-go traffic, I always leave enough room ahead of me for an ‘escape route,’” Goche says, explaining that the strategy helps in case of unexpected events such as the car ahead breaking down. “It’s saved me lots of time instead of having to back up.”
“I always have at least one dash cam recording if my truck is moving. That’s my personal insurance policy against careless drivers,” Allen explains. “Sometimes I have two cameras going – one facing out and one facing in.”
Goche uses a five-camera system (forward, two side, back-up, cargo) for safety purposes. In one case, she was able to help save another driver’s job with camera footage from an accident that showed he was not at fault.
Allen has a strict “no hitchhikers” policy. “I give food packs to beggers by handing a bag out my window to them, but I don’t ever give cash under any circumstances,” she says.
When it’s time to stop, safety precautions are a high priority, the women say.
At truck stops, Goche avoids walking between trucks. “They make a good hiding place. It’s best to take the long way around, so no one can reach out and grab you.”When walking in front of a truck, she recommends making eye contact with the driver to be sure they see you.
Never walk with your head down, the women say. “Walk like you know where you’re going – not yapping on your cell phone or checking messages,” Goche advises.
“Be aware of your surroundings... the people, the structures, the lighting and shadows, the sounds – even the inexplicable creepy feeling that will sometimes slam into you and heighten your alertness,”Allen recommends.
“When I meet someone, I look them in the eye, and say ‘Hi,’” Goche suggests. “That way, I could give a description later if necessary.”
That being said, Allen tries not to socialize very much with strangers out on the road and avoids making eye contact in uncomfortable situations. “When guys go out of their way to catch my attention, I make it very clear that I’m not interested in them, their small talk, hanging out... anything. I do this through my body lan- guage with little to no talking,” she says.
Try to keep your hands empty when you are walking around and wear sensible shoes or boots, so you’re better able to defend yourself if the need arises, Allen adds.
Stopping at night is a concern for both women.
Goche recommends parking where there will be a light over the truck and checking mirrors before you get out.
“I very rarely leave my truck after dark,”Allen says. “If I have to, I’ll wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight with the light turned on.” This makes her highly visible and less likely to be struck accidentally by a vehicle. People also are more likely to notice her and help if she’s in trouble, she points out.
Bottom line, stay alert at any time of day and follow your instincts. “If it doesn’t feel right, get yourself out of there,” Goche advises.
While it’s wise to be careful, safety concerns should not prevent women from becoming professional drivers, Allen says. “We can be cautious, make smart decisions and work confidently alongside our male counterparts."
This article was originally featured in Edition 2 of 2018 in our official magazine, Redefining The Road.
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