L5 – The benefits of a systematic approach to driving hazards

Imagine you’re in an airport’s departure lounge, looking through a window at the aircraft that will soon fly you and your family on holiday.

Now imagine the following two developing scenarios

Scenario 1
As you’re looking through the window, two pilots scurry past and disappear into the jetway, before reappearing in the cockpit seconds later. As you watch the pilots take to their seats and fasten their seatbelts, you hear the call to board. There are not many passengers on the flight, so you board within a few minutes and the aircraft’s doors are quickly closed. You’re surprised when the aircraft immediately begins taxiing before taking off just moments later.

Scenario 2
As you’re looking through the window, two pilots walk past and disappear into the jetway, before one pilot reappears in the cockpit window. As you watch him take his seat, his colleague reappears on the ground near the aircraft’s nose, before spending a few minutes walking around the whole aircraft, seemingly carrying out one last check that everything looks safe for flight. The other pilot continues to busy himself with checklists in the cockpit. There are not many passengers on the flight so you board within a few minutes, and through the open cockpit door you can now see both pilots taking time to work their way through checklists. The aircraft’s doors are closed, but the aircraft remains parked whilst the pilots continue their systematic pre-flight checks. After a measured delay, the aircraft begins taxiing.

Pilots engaged in their systematic pre-flight checks

With your family’s safety in mind, which of the two scenarios do you prefer, and why?

Air travel is seriously safer than road travel. 2018 was a particularly bad year for commercial aviation safety, with 534 recorded deaths. In contrast, during the same year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1,350,000 people died on the world’s roads.

One of the most important reasons why travelling by plane is much safer than travelling by car is because of aviation’s established, holistic safe systems approach to managing the risks of crashing. The aviation world has particular ways of doing things that are procedural and systematic. If you preferred scenario 2 above – as almost everyone does – were you swayed by the pilots’ adherence to procedures and systems?

Hazards on the roads are called hazards because they are, er, hazardous! Defensive drivers, like pilots, approach hazards with a plan in mind. Whereas many drivers’ approach to hazards is haphazard, defensive drivers invest time in conditioning, through repetitive practise, a systematic approach to negotiating hazards. Defensive drivers are mindful of the significant risks involved and they take a careful, systematic approach to reducing them. How about you?

In the next lesson (L6) we will explore a simple but effective driving plan.