In this part of the training, we’ll explore further the differences between driving a van and driving a passenger car.
If you are going to be driving a van in your work at Dungarvin, please expect that you will get practice on-site with the actual van you will use. The same goes for any special equipment involved, such as a wheelchair lift.
A van’s extra size, weight and center of gravity make it different from driving your average passenger car. These differences can make driving more hazardous if you are not prepared for them. Here we will figure out in advance how to compensate for these differences:
We talked about size and blind spots earlier. What are the differences in blind spots between, say, a Honda Civic and a Ford Econoline van?
What can you do about these bigger blind spots when you are driving the van?
size & seat adjustments
- Make sure mirrors are adjusted optimally for your
angle when you are looking around
- Don’t be afraid to lean a little to get the best sight
A van’s added weight makes both accelerating and stopping take longer. Look at the dramatic differences in braking distance as you add speed. What kinds of compensating should you do when you are driving a larger, heavier vehicle?
vehicle(s) when pulling into traffic
- Allow more distance between you & the next
- Create more following distance
Also take a look at car vs. car, and truck vs. truck. Notice that when we have almost doubled the speed of each vehicle, we do not double the stopping distance; we more
than double it, and in the case of the truck, we triple
Keep in mind, too, that there can be significant differences in weight when the van is empty vs. one full of passengers, has or doesn’t have cargo, and so forth. A fuller van requires more stopping distance. It is also more prone to rollover collisions. How can you help compensate for these things?
chance of having to suddenly swerve
- Speed reduction in general, to reduce the
turns and curves
- Further speed reduction specific to taking
Wider plus longer plus higher gives you more concern about clearance—in all directions.
It also makes you more vulnerable in high winds. What can you do if you get caught in a high-wind situation?
Be meticulous about maintaining your side cushion of space, in case you drift a little
when you come out of a tunnel, pass a
densely-wooded area, etc.
- Keep both hands on the wheel
- Anticipate having the wind move the van
Did you notice? Some of this is also good advice if you are in a car sharing
the road with a van or other larger vehicle.
We talked about a van’s vulnerability to tipping and rollovers because of its weight. A van’s higher center of gravity is another factor. Rollovers have a very high fatality rate. How can you help make sure that
- Reduce speed below the posted limit in
- Reduce speed on curves & other tight turns
- Both hands on the wheel for best control
- Backing up
That goes double in a van—even if you accidentally stop in a crosswalk, you should avoid backing up in traffic.
Not only do you have to worry about the blind spots, you have to worry about allowing for the overhang, too.
If you are in a driveway or loading area or other low-speed, no-moving-traffic situation, you can use a spotter who is outside the van and directing you. Just remember to agree ahead of time on what the hand signal for “stop” is going to be!
Tell me what you do to ensure your safety and the safety of your passengers.
out to help passengers
- Defensive/proactive driving
- Properly maintaining the vehicle
- Driver knows & can deliver the behavioral &
- Seats adjusted upright, not reclining
- Everyone buckled up before starting
- Seatbelts adjusted properly
- Driver loads/unloads on the side opposite traffic
- Driver turns off engine & takes out key if getting
reach the curb from the van, or step into the
street between van & curb with ease
- Van is parked so that people can easily either
pedestrians, for that matter) across the road in
front of the van (driver may not see other drivers,
& has no control over them, anyway)
- Driver never waves exiting passengers (or other
Check to see that the seatbelt and shoulder harness are laying flat, not twisted. The lap belt should be fitted across the hips, under
the abdomen. The shoulder belt should lay across the shoulder and not
cut into the neck.
Sometimes, an individual will resist riding in cars or vans, yet not be able to tell you why. Or, maybe someone becomes irritable during a drive. When these things happen, consider the comfort level. Better yet, consider comfort before
Start with the person’s medical considerations:
- Do the person’s medications make him/her light sensitive? Maybe you can help him/her remember to wear sunglasses, or shade the window.
- Sometimes medications, or conditions such as diabetes or poor circulation, can make a person sensitive to temperature extremes, in which case you could adjust the interior climate before everyone boards.
- A person who has trouble getting in and out of a van may feel more secure using a stepstool, and/or you could offer a hand up.
- You can suggest to an individual who tires easily to take a pillow along to support his/her head.
- Some people need reassurance that you will be taking plenty of breaks and rest stops, especially on extended trips.
- If boredom seems to be a problem, discuss things people can take with them that would provide entertainment.
- Lastly, think about the personalities that will be traveling in close quarters. Although adults should not have seats assigned to them, you should certainly help plan seating options so that people who really don’t like each other don’t have to sit next to each other.
Have you dealt with comfort issues like these? Or ones that are different from these examples?
When we talk sensitivity, we are dealing with our consumers’ status as adults.
Definitely, the “no assigned seats” rule fits this category, too.
This also means you don’t do for
your passengers, but instead support them in doing as much for themselves
Will that take more time? Yes. Plan for it, and remember that your patience is a sign of respect.
Ask for permission to assist, and when you get it, tell the person what you are doing and why.
Tell me, what are some of the warning signs that your vehicle is breaking down?
- Steam/smoke coming from under the hood
- Thumping or knocking noises
- Engine sputters or cuts out
- Car suddenly pulls to one side/is hard to control
When something like this happens, the short answer is: pull over, phone your supervisor and/or the nearest Dungarvin home, and call the nearest service station for a tow truck.
To go into a little more detail, here’s a breakdown of the general procedures:
As soon as you encounter a problem while driving, make sure you know where you are. Pay attention to what the nearest cross street is. What are the landmarks? A restaurant, a service station, a mall?
On an interstate highway, note the mile marker, the last exit number, or rest stop.
You know this already, so what I want to talk about is how
you should be pulling off the road. Tell me how you should do it.
absolutely necessary, for better control
in case of flat tire; & for ability to use
momentum in case of engine failure)
- Signal for the pull-off
- Slow down gradually (no brakes until
drivers can see you (not just over a hill
or just beyond a curve, if you can help it)
- If you have a choice, go where other
on some interstates) as far as you can
while still remaining on level ground
- Pull off to the far right shoulder (except
vehicle, depending on factors such as
the type of problem, weather, etc.
Certainly turn off the engine in case of
fuel leaks or smelling gas fumes. NO
SMOKING, no flames or sparks.
- Determine whether or not to turn off the
Alert other motorists
- Usually, you want to stay inside the
The point is to make yourself as visible as possible to other motorists. Always turn on the emergency flashers. You can also open the hood, and/or tie a brightly-colored scarf or other piece of fabric to the antenna, door handle, or stuck halfway out the top of a closed window. Use reflective warning triangles if you have them, but if you have flares only light them if you are sure
you don’t have any fluid leaks. Let’s look at how you should place them. There are two ways, depending on whether you are on a two-way road or a one-way road.
If you’re not good at estimating distances, pace out the distance the best you can. Carry the triangle between you and oncoming traffic.
If you only have two reflective triangles or flares, you should still use them on the assumption that something is better than nothing, especially when driving visibility is compromised. Usually, you would eliminate Number 3 in that case.
An alternative in a low-speed traffic area would be to put triangles front and back lined up with the corners closest to traffic, and about 30 feet from the car.
- Communicate your situation
The odds are pretty good nowadays that you travel with a cell phone and can phone for help immediately from the comfort of your vehicle.
Most experts agree: if you are able to pull away from traffic, staying in your vehicle until help arrives, is safest. Thousands of stranded motorists get hit by vehicles each year because they are spotted too late.
If it’s not engine trouble and you need to run the engine—say, to keep warm—that’s OK but don’t run it continuously for long periods because that puts you at greater risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. In snow, always make sure the exhaust pipe is clear.
But let’s play the “what if” game again. What if you have no cell phone or its batteries are dead? Should you go looking for a public phone, or wait for help?
Discuss. Answer: It depends. Risks of waiting vs.
risks of traveling on foot must be assessed in each
individual situation. Some variables are:
- Whether you are alone, or have passengers
- Whether or not there’s a second staff member
is not fully ambulatory; someone has critical need
of his/her medication, etc.)
- The medical status of any passengers (someone
while traveling on foot
- Whether you can ensure everyone’s safety
know of one within walking distance, or will have
to search for one
- Whether you can actually see a phone nearby,
- Have info at hand for road service
You will want to have at least five pieces of information on hand when you phone for help. Write them down before you call, if you need to.
We already talked about one of them: your exact location. What are the other four?
including area code
- Phone number where you can be reached,
- Color, make, model, & year of your vehicle
- License plate number
- Description of the problem
Find out if the vehicle you drive has equipment that requires special preparation for towing. For example, automatic air ride or drive train devices require disengagement before towing, or the vehicle could be damaged. If you’re not sure, consult your supervisor or the owner’s manual for towing instructions before you call for a tow.
- Stay in your vehicle if possible
We already talked about risk assessment and your options when you have no working cell phone on hand.
Let’s continue our “what if” game here. What if you could not quite get off the roadway when your car totally dies on you, and you think you may be struck from behind?
exiting the door(s) on the side of the car
farthest from the traffic
- Start flashers
- Get yourself & any passengers out of the car,
Exception: if you have a passenger whom you
have good reason to believe would be in more
danger outside than inside.
- Walk a safe distance from the road
What if a stranger offers to help, or to take you to a phone? Should you do it?
What if a road-rageous driver threatens or harasses you?
If you are involved in any
type of accident, you must
If the accident involved a parked car with nobody inside, you must
try to locate the owner.
If you cannot locate the owner, leave a note on the windshield of their vehicle that contains your name, work address and phone number, license plate number of the vehicle you were driving at the time, and a brief description of what happened.
Also you should jot down and take with you: the license plate number, vehicle make and model, and a description of the location and type of damage to the other vehicle.
If anyone is injured in the accident, the police must be called and you must not leave until law enforcement has released you. There can be heavy penalties for leaving the scene of an accident.
There are real dangers at an accident scene. You might end up in a spot that could be hit by other vehicles. There might be a fuel spill. Maybe the accident downed power lines. What are some things you might do to make the scene safer?
- Get the vehicle off the road if you can
- Put vehicle(s) in parking gear
- Turn off ignition
- Don’t smoke or ignite anything
- Avoid downed power lines
- Don’t let anyone stand in/near traffic lanes
- Put out cones or triangles, etc. to alert others
After you’ve made the scene as safe as you can, check for injuries. That way, when you phone 9-1-1—or send someone else to do it—you know whether to request an ambulance as well as police.
Whoever phones 9-1-1 should report any complications at the scene—such as downed power lines, spilled fuel, person trapped in a vehicle, and so on; s/he should also have information on the number and conditions of the victims.
A little first aid review, here. What kinds of medical signs and symptoms require emergency medical treatment?
- Not breathing or trouble breathing
- No pulse
- Signs of shock
- Large wounds, uncontrolled bleeding
- Signs of internal bleeding
- Signs of head/neck/back injury
- Signs of serious musculoskeletal injury
When would you move an injured person? Would you ever?
If you have more than one person with apparent injuries, you must prioritize care. How do you do this?
Anyone that you suspect may have a serious injury, you automatically treat for shock. Let’s review treatment for shock. What do you do?
don’t suspect head, neck, back, hip, or leg
injuries (if you’re not sure, don’t elevate)
- Make sure 9-1-1 has been called
- Monitor consciousness, breathing, pulse
- Control any external bleeding
- Keep the victim from being chilled or overheated
- Elevate the legs about 12 inches as long as you
- Comfort & reassure the person until EMS takes
s/he asks for it
The reasons for not giving food or drink are:
1) if the person vomits, s/he will be in worse shape
than before, from fluid loss;
2) you don’t want anything in the stomach if the
person has to go into surgery;
3) if the person suddenly goes unconscious, s/he
- Do not give food or drink to the victim, even if
Make sure you get the names and addresses of everyone involved in the accident, including witnesses. Exchange license numbers and insurance information. You can find Dungarvin vehicle insurance info...where?
Answer: Vehicle Notebook.
Don’t talk to anyone but
and your supervisor
about the accident, and do not admit liability to anyone.
- Finish transport & towing arrangements
At a minimum, you will turn in an Incident Report and the Vehicle Accident Report. If you
are injured in an accident while on duty, also refer to the P & P on Worker’s Compensation