Safety Talk

Defensive driving: highway traffic


Explain dangers

Highway traffic

Not everyone drives well. Some people speed aggressively. Others wander into another lane because they aren’t paying attention or they’re multitasking (e.g., talking on the phone, texting, checking messages, or eating).

Aggressive drivers can be a hazard to themselves and others who are sharing the road. Drivers may follow too closely, make sudden turns without signalling, or weave in and out of traffic.

The length, width, and weight of large trucks can create hazards for drivers of both small and large vehicles. However, many fatal collisions between cars and trucks are caused by the car driver’s error.


Identify controls

Follow these tips to make the highways—and your next drive—a lot safer.

  • Consider stopping distances. Trucks need a much longer braking distance than cars. Don’t cut in front of a truck. If you do that, it reduces the truck’s braking distance and limits the evasive action a truck driver can take.
  • Pass carefully. When passing a truck, do not drive alongside it for too long. Pass as quickly and safely as possible, and don’t cut too closely in front of a truck when re-entering the lane.
  • Drive defensively. Do not assume another driver is going to move out of the way or allow you to merge. Expect that drivers may run through red lights or stop signs and be prepared to react. Be considerate of others but look out for yourself. Have an escape route planned.
  • Maintain an optimal position. In all driving situations, the best way to avoid potential danger is to position your vehicle where you have the best chance of seeing and being seen.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Check your mirrors frequently and scan conditions 20 to 30 seconds ahead of you. Keep an eye out for stalled vehicles at the roadside, tow trucks, emergency responders, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
  • Follow the two-second rule. Since the greatest chance of a collision is in front of you, establish and maintain a safe following distance that provides enough time for you to brake to a stop if necessary. The recommended time-interval following distance is one second for every three metres of vehicle length. For a typical five-metre car, that would be two seconds.
  • Keep your speed down. Posted speed limits are meant for ideal driving conditions. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your speed matches the actual conditions.
  • Eliminate distractions. A distraction is any activity that diverts your attention away from the task of driving. Driving deserves your full attention. Stay focused on the driving task.


Ask your crew to describe ways of keeping a two-second distance between two vehicles. Pick a marker—a road sign or other stationary object—and count the seconds after the vehicle in front of you passes it. Two seconds should elapse by the time you pass the same marker.

If you have access to a vehicle that workers are expected to drive, show the blind spots and demonstrate how to adjust the position of mirrors to maximize viewing. Discuss typical stopping distances for small and large vehicles at various speeds (see table below).

Stopping Distance
30 km/h
19.5 m (64 ft)
60 km/h
53 m (174 ft)
90 km/h
100.5 m (330 ft)
Transport Truck
30 km/h
27.5 m (90 ft)
60 km/h
85 m (279 ft)
90 km/h
172.5 m (566 ft)

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