We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Why bus drivers are the best on the road

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, April 27, 2012

B.C. Transit driver Eric Abraham steers bus No. 50 along Douglas Street. Why are bus drivers so good? They're better trained, constantly under scrutiny and are held to a higher standard of performance. Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist, Times Colonist

People often ask me, “Who are the best drivers on the road?”

My answer often offends the person who asked the question.

Bus drivers, in my humble opinion, are the best drivers on the road. They carry the most precious cargo, namely us. School, transit, tour and specialty bus drivers are all noticeably safer and more skilful than your daily driving commuter.

There are a number of reasons why they’re so good at their chosen profession.

They are better trained and tested than most other drivers. Bus drivers are scrutinized by their passengers, other drivers, pedestrians, and virtually everyone they come in contact with. They are simply held to a higher standard of performance, and for that reason alone, they usually outperform every other group behind the wheel.

There are exceptions to every rule. On the other hand, poor bus drivers do not last. The obvious validation or criticism of an increasingly aware public is enough of a check against a poor bus driver. How would you like to have your every action behind the wheel witnessed and assessed by your passengers? Enough said.

Dangerous-goods drivers, particularly those transporting fluids, are the next best drivers on the road.

Their skill and safety behind the wheel is amazing. They must co-ordinate the gear shifting of the big rig with the movement of the fluid being transported. Their approach to curves and turns must be manipulated to account for a shifting load. They must be thinking well ahead when they drive.

Stopping quickly is not an option for many tanker truckers. Their every crash, although few in numbers, is the subject of endless reporting, scrutiny, second guessing and speculation by media and public alike, and rightly so.

Logging-truck drivers warrant a special mention. They must drive resource, private and public roads. They deal with shifting loads, variable balance and myriad regulations, both vehicular and administrative.

In tense resource-road conditions and situations, they are required to make split-second decisions to stay with the load or bail out. The potential for logs to come through the cab as a result of an emergency stop is a concern of every resource-road logging-truck driver.

Motorcycle riders are my next-best group of safe and skilful drivers. There is a saying, “There are no old bold riders.” Yes, there are daredevils in this vast group of riders, but they don’t last long. They are either scared straight or suffer injury or worse, in short order, because of the skill it takes to ride one of these machines. They are constantly scanning for the inattentive driver who will simply not see them.

Drivers for telephone companies and some cable companies have always had my respect. For years, they have used safety cones to mark their vehicles when parked on a call-out or regular business.

This single action denotes a commitment to a driving philosophy that has become time-honoured. It forces every driver to do a 360-degree check around the vehicle when exiting and entering. How many of us do the same?

I often see superior driving traits demonstrated by seemingly “average” drivers. Good drivers leave more space around their vehicles, whether moving or parked. They drive with their lights on 24/7. They have a slight right offset in their lane position. They choose lanes according to space, not speed. They seldom have the need to pass or get passed because of their sense of average speed positioning in any driving cluster. Good drivers communicate by using their signals, flashers and headlight high and low beams, and they often employ hand signals for increased emphasis.

Who are the worst drivers on the road? That is the stuff of my next column.

Steve Wallace is a certified British Columbia teacher and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C.


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