Gearing up for safer driving
Driving is one of the highest risk activities undertaken by employees. In the UK alone, it’s estimated that around a third of road deaths and serious injuries each year involve people driving for work.
Across Europe, the picture is equally concerning.
Webfleet’s 2021 European Road Safety Survey found that 42% of commercial fleets were involved in between one and five road collisions annually.
Worryingly, half of all fleet managers admitted that they were not certain their drivers behaved safely on roads.
Apart from the risk of death and injury, dangerous driving impacts negatively on an organisation’s reputation and finances. Increased insurance excess and premiums, along with the cost of compensation and lost productivity are among the prices to be paid.
Tackling dangerous driving behaviours by offering sustained solutions is therefore a priority for fleet managers. Indeed, it could be business critical.
While tech is available to monitor driving behaviours and help correct weaknesses, it’s important to remind drivers to adhere to best practice driving standards and fundamental safety basics.
After all, the most sophisticated tech may prove futile if an employee habitually drives with their phone or without a seatbelt.
5 common culprits of unsafe driving
Here we look at five of the most common causes of unsafe driving and how they can be averted – to save business budgets – and lives.
1. Using a mobile on the move
A perfect scenario would see employees diligently turning off their phones and storing them out of reach as soon as they enter their car. Ideal but unlikely. Social conditioning means the desire to remain ‘in the loop’ has become almost innate.
Despite the obvious risks of using a phone while on the move, thousands do. Unsurprisingly it’s one of the main causes of road injuries and fatalities.
One solution is to equip fleets with apps that read out text messages and emails. Although this is preferable to driving at 70mph with one hand on a keypad, and eyes off the road, it still means driver focus – and consequently safety – is compromised.
Better to educate drivers to pull over and turn off the engine while they deal with any essential communications.
2. Driven to distraction
Mobile phone use is one of several driver distractions that can result in serious injury or fatality. But there’s a whole raft of seemingly innocuous activities that are equally dangerous.
Mentally running through a forthcoming meeting, rehearsing an imminent presentation, or replaying a domestic situation all cause the mind to stray.
And although listening to favourite songs can help make a journey more tolerable, changing a radio station or selecting a playlist means hands, eyes and thoughts are not where they should be.
The need to make a positive impression is important, but not so important that drivers have to shave, touch-up make-up or brush their hair while still in transit.
Likewise, drinking or having a snack – which means at least one hand is off the steering wheel – can wait until a vehicle is parked up.
Many take solace from a cigarette during long journeys. Again, this poses dangers either from lighting it or panicked reactions if an ember falls onto the driver.
All too often, such apparently inconsequential actions can result in tragedy.
3. The need for heed
Speed limits across Europe vary, even down to time of day, so drivers need to be aware of zonal variations on their journeys. Intelligence speed assistance (ISA) systems address this.
Since July, and under EU law, all new cars sold within the EU must be fitted with ISA systems. The UK is expected to follow suit, but even in countries where ISA is not a legal requirement, fleet managers should give serious consideration to adopting it.
Using satnav and a vehicle-mounted camera, ISA identifies speed limits and restricts fuel flow to the engine until the vehicle is travelling at the correct limit.
It’s worth reminding drivers that with or without ISA, limits refer to the fastest speeds at which it is safe to drive in perfect conditions.
4. Fatigue can be fatal
It’s estimated that between 10 per cent and 20 per of all global road crashes are fatigue related. Irregular sleeping patterns, dealing with a hangover, the effects of medication and monotonous driving conditions all contribute to the phenomenon of ‘microsleep’ – when someone nods off for between two and 30 seconds without realising it.
During just six seconds of microsleep, a car driven at 70mph travels 200 metres, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Meticulous shift scheduling can remove the risk of driver fatigue, but drowsiness detection systems – already mandatory across EU member states – provide effective support.
Hardware such as eye-tracking sensors and cameras is utilised to monitor yawning frequency, facial expressions, eye-blinking frequency, eye-gaze movement and other key indicators of fatigue.
Driving input behaviour, such as lane deviation and erratic steering movements can also be identified and analysed. Where necessary, the driver will then be prompted to take a break.
5. Red mist hazard warning
“It’s not my driving I have to worry about, it’s everyone else’s,” is a common attitude among many drivers.
They’re usually the ones who also find ‘valid’ justifications for their own dangerous driving decisions, while condemning others who perform exactly the same manoeuvres.
Such frustration at other drivers can quickly accelerate into tailgating, rash driving decisions, intimidatory driving and incidents of road rage.
At such times, a calm and objective voice is required, and in the absence of a reassuring presence in the passenger seat, apps that provide helpful insights can be an effective substitute.
Flo Driving Insights, for example, is an app that provides instant feedback on driving while a driver is actually driving. Likened to a driving instructor, it provides commentary on how safely a driver is driving, making observations on such points as whether they are braking too hard or accelerating too fast. Driver engagement is enhanced by scores for each trip, and drivers can be informed where they are doing well – and where they need to improve.
There’s also a financial incentive, with the potential for discounts on car insurance for those who perform well.
Drive with due care and attention
When trying to improve driving safety within your fleet, it’s the mindset of your drivers that can present the greatest challenge.
Long-term engagement is key. Drivers need to acknowledge any potentially dangerous driving habits they have acquired if they are to commit to improving and being receptive to solutions.
Coaching and educating should therefore be free from confrontational or accusatory undertones. Driving data, which can be invaluable in monitoring and addressing needs, should be dealt with sensitively as it may involve referencing speeding fines, licence insurance points and accident records.
Feedback should be presented as employee wellbeing best practice – not as incriminating evidence.
Imposing one-off, ‘one-size fits all’ training is unlikely to be effective. Instead, it needs to be tailored to meet the specific needs of individual drivers through mutually agreed long-term targets.
Making driver safety a business priority can save lives and money.