Rethinking Road Safety
Vehicle performance versus driver performance – have we got the focus wrong?
Human error is a factor in 95% of all road accidents, but a higher percentage of resource goes on vehicle roadworthiness and improved vehicle construction, despite the fact that vehicle defects are a factor in only a very small percentage of fatal road accidents.
UK vehicle tracking specialists Navman Wireless argue that a cultural shift in the focus of road safety is needed, with fleet operators adopting a more driver behaviour-focused safety ethos.
The big question is: ‘What is more likely to kill you – your vehicle, the road conditions or your own driving?’
Monitoring and improving driver performance when embedded in a safety culture that places greater, or at least equal, emphasis on driver performance as it does on vehicle condition, has the potential to greatly reduce human error and, therefore, greatly reduce the number of road accidents.
Research indicates that there are currently around five deaths and 65 serious injuries on UK roads every day at an annual cost of £32 billion.
Steve Blackburn, European vice-president of Navman Wireless, said: ‘The commercial fleet industry, working together with technology/software providers, can help prevent these needless casualties by making a driver behaviour-focused safety culture a corporate social responsibility (CSR) priority.
‘In recent years, the automotive industry has invested most of its energy into building vehicles that are safer to drive and protect passengers in the event of a crash. The next evolution should focus on preventing crashes from happening. Driver behaviour is a key factor in crashes, so we need to place the emphasis on monitoring and improving driver performance in order to eliminate ‘at risk’ driver behaviour.
‘We may then see a reduction in the so called ‘Big Three’ incident types – rear-end collisions, intersection crashes and lane change/merge collisions.’
Navman Wireless believe the advancement and adoption of ‘smart telematics’ as part of a new safety ethos could lead to a dramatic reduction in road accidents. Telematics data could be modelled to identify ‘at risk’ driver behaviour, such as tailgating, giving fleet managers the means to rectify behaviours’ identified as high risk.
Financial services company Zurich are already working with commercial fleet customers to develop a ‘driver indexing’ programme, which applies a comprehensive driver history algorithm to identify those drivers with the most problematic safety history. This algorithm is coupled to a driver coaching and mentoring tracking mechanism and then deployed to front-line supervisors, who are charged with intervening with identified ‘at risk’ drivers.
Mr Blackburn added: ‘This is a sign that responsibilities are shifting; fleet risk managers are learning that real improvements in safety can be achieved by addressing the factors that most impact the driving culture – attitude and awareness.
‘And there is increasing evidence supporting the idea that instilling a safety ethos is actually good business, saving thousands of pounds per year per driver. This is a clear case of where an ounce of prevention can save lives and money.’
Navman Wireless believe that driving culture (attitude and awareness) are the cornerstones for ethos-shared safety principles that guide and inspire permanent changes in safety performance.
Underpinning this new safety ethos should be a strategy to empower fleet managers to proactively make a dramatic improvement in driving safety. Technology provides an unbiased evaluation of every manoeuvre of every driver, so fleets can engage in a proactive and preventative safety programme, but management commitment, cultural change and employee buy-in are all key elements to successful implementation of a telematics solution.
‘Telematics systems are not employed to expose the incompetent,’ said Mr Blackburn. ‘No company will knowingly put a demonstrably incompetent driver behind the wheel of one of its vehicles. However, the specific objective data that telematics systems generate can significantly heighten awareness of unsafe driving habits and provide impetus and direction for taking actions to improve.
‘The secondary benefits – fuel and maintenance costs – make for a healthier bottom line for the company. Particularly in today’s difficult economic times, the financial health of the company resonates with employees at all levels and can be a strong motivating force.’
However, data on their own are of little value. How these data are actually delivered, interpreted and put to use is the key to improving safety for fleet personnel, increasing the fleet’s operating profitability and reducing its environmental impact.
The overriding message is clear – invest in the preventative measures that are proven to reduce the risk or severity of road injury and invest in the people and the skills that can provide sustainable paths to safety.
For further information contact Navman Wireless on tel: (0845) 521 1188; or visit: www.navmanwireless.com