Human beings are complex creatures. And we’re all different, bringing our individual background and experience to every situation. Which is why we act, and react, differently. For example, someone pushing in line at the bar or the bank might annoy you but be ‘water off a duck’s back’ for others. You might say something because you were raised to stand up for yourself. Others may not, preferring to avoid confrontation because last time choosing a different path did not end well.
It is the same when we are behind the wheel. Some of us like driving and spending large parts of our working day driving is enjoyable. Someone else may dread the same activity, perhaps being on edge anticipating the near misses they know are coming, thinking about a recent experience as first responder, or preoccupied with a serious crash they were involved in even though it was caused by a third party.
This unpredictability, both in what challenges professional drivers will face each day and in how they react to incidents, is a major reason road trauma experts Bernadette Nugent and Chris Harrison believe it is critical there is more awareness in the transport industry about impacts of road trauma and measures in place to maximise resilience and help drivers recover.
Another reason is the typical response: ‘I’m okay, I don’t need any help’.
Bernadette and Chris, from Amber Community, are delivering NRSPP’s September webinar, ‘Understanding the impacts of road trauma’, highlighting how road incidents can impact driver mental health, the signs someone needs support, and practical actions drivers, employers and the transport industry can take to help recovery.
Similar themes are also highlighted in the ‘All hands to the wheel’ thought leadership piece, which includes a driver’s personal experience of how a significant road crash, which they could not avoid, had a major impact on their personal and professional life.
Simple measures, major benefits
“So if someone flags with you or you notice that someone doesn’t appear to be their normal self, there’s a process that happens, and it can be as simple as having conversations with people: ‘what’s going on mate, you don’t seem your normal self?’,” Chris Harrison says.
“Often employers either don’t see or don’t recognise it, and employees don’t put up their hand and say they’re not coping, so it’s about preparing for people’s wellbeing before events happen.
“So for the individual, it’s about helping build skills around resilience and training to recognise signs and symptoms themselves.
“For supervisors and employers it’s being aware of and having an understanding of what can go on for people at the time, and having the skills to know what to look for and what to do.
“From an employer point of view,” Bernadette continues, “I would like to see some structures put in place that there is a specific process when any road incident takes place. If a driver is involved in a significant event or they witness a serious crash they speak to someone, whether they flag there is something wrong or not.
“That has been put into place in other industries because too many within Defence or Police, for example, were saying ‘I’m fine mate, don’t need any help’ and then down the track things were coming up.”