According to the latest numbers from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the number of large vehicles involved in accidents has increased steadily over the past decade. In 2019 alone, 5,237 fatal crashes involved large trucks and buses, a 2% increase from 2018.
Motor vehicle accidents are overwhelmingly the leading cause of workplace fatalities, accounting for 40% of job-related deaths each year. For fleet managers, these numbers are an urgent call to ramp up safety initiatives to help reduce the chances of adding to these numbers.
To explore these issues further, let’s look at two top safety challenges affecting fleets — distracted driving and in-vehicle safety systems contributing to distracted driving — and what fleet managers can do to help overcome them.
It’s estimated that four out of every five crashes involve some form of distracted driving. The top causes include:
- Cell phones
- Loss of focus or concentration
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
- Adjusting or reaching
- Driving while tired
For fleet managers, reducing the associated risk of distracted driving to keep drivers safe, limiting the impact on fleet insurance premiums, and protecting their company’s image and reputation should be a top priority.
To that end, it’s a good idea to factor distracted driving into your fleet’s risk management program.
How to Keep Drivers Focused on the Road
A good starting point is establishing a driver safety policy that clearly states company rules on the use of cell phones while driving and also addresses the other main causes of distracted driving.
To be effective, the policy needs to be published, supported, encouraged, and enforced with the repercussions of breaking company rules made clear. Support for the policy should include formal driver training and awareness programs for old and new drivers, driver behavior monitoring with telematics, and periodic policy reviews to determine what’s working and what’s not.
In-Vehicle Safety Systems
Safety systems are designed to help make driving safer, but can often do the exact opposite and contribute to driver distraction. For that reason, safety systems such as lane-keeping assist and front collision warning need to be managed to avoid negating the benefits of the technology.
Fleets using in-vehicle active coaching technology have seen improvements in driver behaviors and reduced distraction incidents caused by safety systems. But critical to realizing these improvements is the precision of artificial intelligence (AI). Constant early warnings from systems can cause alert fatigue and annoy drivers to the point that they ignore alerts, tamper with the system, or turn it off.
As drivers spend more time with a highly accurate system, they learn that alerts are not an irritation or distraction, but rather, provide positive feedback that helps them avoid a collision and leads to better performance reviews because of their improved driving behavior.
How to Select the Right Safety System
To find a solution that produces highly accurate, predictive alerts and accounts for driving behavior and context, you should look for a system with AI that:
- Detects external risks, for example, whether the vehicle is about to be rear-ended, even in less than ideal conditions such as at night, during weather events, or at unusual intersections.
- Detects internal risks, such as the driver eating, drinking, or looking at their cell phone.
- Fuses this information to provide helpful real-time alerts.
Fusion needs to happen fast, so look for a solution where the AI processing takes place in the vehicle, rather than the cloud. That way, you’ll have a solution that works almost instantly because data does not have to travel far.
In addition to being powered by predictive AI, highly accurate, and able to account for context, a solution should meet these key criteria:
- Alerts are audible only, so there is no visual distraction for the driver — for example, a flashing light alert.
- Works accurately in real-world driving conditions, such as at night, in rain or snow, and at unusual intersections.
- Enables you to reduce manual coaching time and still improve safety and driver performance with in-the-moment feedback and guidance.
- Respect driver privacy with highly accurate technology that eliminates the need for surprise “drop-ins” by managers to monitor the driver.
- The system is part of a comprehensive driver safety solution.
Traffic congestion is a problem that keeps getting worse despite remedies to correct it. More cars on the road mean more accidents.
Putting safety first and helping your drivers avoid the ever-growing number of distractions that can lead to a crash can help keep them, pedestrians, cyclists, other drivers, and your bottom line as well as reputation protected.