WHEN you send your trucks off to the next big event, you have a lot more to worry about than just chipped china and lipstick on the lamours.

One out of every nine licensed drivers in the United States will have a collision this year, according to the Itasca, Ill.-based National Safety Council (NSC). Every year brings more than 19 million collisions on American highways, more than 40,000 deaths and more than 2.3 million disabling injuries. Accidents cause pain in the pocketbook, too, with higher insurance rates, spikes in workers' compensation costs and bills for repairs.

To help teach rental company employees to drive safely, the Moline, Ill.-based American Rental Association offers an online defensive driver course for a nominal fee. Developed by the NSC, the course was taken by more than 300,000 people last year, the council says.

“We know that safe driving is a top priority for our members,” says Carla Brozick, ARA director of education and training. The online course “allows your employees to move at their own pace, provides bookmarking capability so they can go back to where they left off in the program and covers information they need to keep safety at the forefront.”

The online course is based on the NSC's eight-hour, instructor-led Defensive Driver Course, which is the most widely used driver safety program in the world, the organization says. However, it takes the average student half that time to complete the online version, the NSC says. The course is available in both English and Spanish.

HUNT FOR HAZARDS

The course uses interactive animation and graphics to create an interactive learning experience where students analyze real driving situations, spot driving hazards and identify the correct defenses. NSC developed the course to train drivers in collision prevention techniques while promoting courtesy and cooperation on the road.

Topics covered include:

  • Identifying risky driving attitudes and behaviors

  • Three basic steps in collision avoidance

  • Recognizing driving hazards

  • The effects of impaired physical and mental conditions on driving safely

  • Techniques to maintain control in adverse driving conditions

  • Three steps needed to pass with safety

  • Driving maneuvers to help maintain control in uncontrollable driving conditions



The course includes tests that students take both before and after completing the course to demonstrate how much they have learned.

GET SMART AND SAVE

Students who finish the course can receive a certificate of completion from NSC, which in some states will lower the insurance rates they pay for their personal vehicles. The impact on the employer's insurance rate is less direct. “Commercial insurance policies are based on experience and loss history alone,” says Maura Paternoster, risk management coordinator with ARA Insurance Services, based in Kansas City, Mo. “But I personally think that if a lot of {a company's} drivers take the course, safety will be at the forefront of their minds. It may not change all their habits immediately, but it may well impact them positively and lead to fewer accidents in the future. That will result in a better loss history and better premiums.”

Purchasing the course gives the buyer an identification code to gain access online. The course is available online at all times, and students can stop and start as they need to. Paternoster says that students don't need sophisticated computer skills: “It's very easy to navigate,” she explains. “Even the least experienced people can do it; you just can't mess it up.”

Employers who want to check to see if their hardware and software can access the course can play the “demo course,” available on the NSC Web site at www.nsc.org/online training/driving/ddc_pc.cfm.

DISCOUNT PRICE

NSC charges $41.25 per course, but the fee per course for ARA members who purchase through ARA is $35. It drops to $30 per course for purchases of five to 20 courses, and to $25 per course for purchases of 21 and more. Members insured with ARA Insurance Services get an extra bonus — they are entitled to one course free. And the 40 percent of ARA insureds who also have their auto insurance through the association get a second course free.




RESOURCES

American Rental Association, 1900 19th St., Moline, IL 61255; 800/334-2177, ext. 241; www.ararental.org; National Safety Council, 1121 Spring Lake Drive, Itasca, IL 60143; 630/285-1121; www.nsc.org