Originally published in Fleet Management Weekly 05/05/2021
By Ed Dubens, Founder/CEO of eDriving
Speeding. Distraction. Fatigue. Three extremely well-known high-risk behaviors, and in some ways so familiar that people can become complacent to them.
Facts like these no longer appear to shock:
- Speeding contributes to around 30% of road deaths in high-income countries and around 50% in some low and middle income countries
- Fatigue is thought to contribute to around one in five car crashes
- Drivers using a mobile phone are around four times more likely to crash
But, with the latest preliminary data from the National Safety Council (NSC) estimating that as many as 42,060 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020 – an 8 percent increase in deaths, and a 24 percent increase in death rate over 2019, it’s critical that we find a way to refocus our attention on these behaviors, and double (or triple!) our efforts on the management of such behaviors.
In a year in which traffic volumes were reduced greatly, it would be fair to expect a reduction in collisions, not an increase – and certainly not for the roads to be deadlier than they have been in years. But, in fact, the death rate increase is the highest estimated year-over-year jump that NSC has calculated since 1924 – a whopping 96 years!
What’s happening? Preliminary fatality data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the first nine months of 2020 revealed that speeding – and other unsafe behaviors – was primarily responsible for a 4.6 percent increase compared to the same period in 2019. We can assume that quieter roads are resulting in some drivers taking greater risks.
Towards the end of 2020, Deputy NHTSA Administrator James Owens was quoted as saying: “We’ve never seen trends like this, and we feel an urgency… to take action and turn this around as quickly as possible.” Likewise, the Governors Highway Safety Association commented that “far too many drivers saw open roads as an invitation to engage in risky behaviors.”
It’s interesting when we think about who was on the road during the pandemic. I’ve read suggestions that those who did leave their homes were likely to be people more inclined to take risks, with the safest drivers staying at home. It’s fair to presume that many of those who were on the road were driving for essential work purposes.
As we look ahead to what happens next, despite emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, it’s predicted that we’re likely to live in a somewhat “hybrid” environment for the foreseeable future, and this could increase the temptation to drive distracted. The recently published Travelers Risk Index 2021 revealed that texting, emailing, checking social media, taking videos and pictures, and shopping online while driving are all behaviors that have increased during the pandemic.
Additionally, the survey found that people may be feeling increased pressure to always be available for their jobs. This year, 48 percent of business managers say they expect employees to respond frequently to work-related calls, texts or emails, and one in four respondents say they answer work-related calls and texts while driving. Almost a third (29 percent) say their supervisor would be upset if they didn’t answer.
This reinforces the critical role that managers play in influencing driving behaviors. And, with this in mind, I encourage managers to refocus their attention on reducing high-risk behaviors among those who drive for work purposes.
Assessing the risks that drivers face is a key part of risk management, and being able to measure those risks is critical. If speeding, distraction and fatigue all increase the likelihood of a collision occurring while driving for work, then measuring these behaviors and reducing the risks is really important for organizations. As we approach UN Global Road Safety Week – which this year is focused on speeding – now is the ideal time to step up the management of risky behaviors.
Risk can be measured in multiple ways, including online risk assessments, ride-along assessments, and telematics, that enables organizations to identify specific driving behaviors such as speeding and phone distraction. And, while fatigue is perhaps the trickiest high-risk behavior to measure, warning signs CAN be identified. In addition to physical indications, technology can also identify on-road actions such as varying speed for no reason and harsh braking, which can point towards a fatigued driver.
Once risky behaviors have been identified, ongoing reinforcement of low-risk behaviors, eLearning and one-on-one coaching – all delivered within a solid safety culture – can help to improve behaviors and lower risk.
- Together with Global Road Safety Partnership, eDriving has launched a new “Triple Threat” campaign, including three dedicated Resource Centers for Speeding, Distraction and Fatigue. Each Resource Center includes an infographic about that behavior, as well as eBooks, webinars, articles and more.
- In support of UN Global Road Safety Week, which takes place May 17-23, and is this year focused on speed, eDriving and GRSP are hosting a free webinar panel about managing speeding in the workplace. Visit Speeding Resource Center to register.
- Also in support of UN Global Road Safety Week, eDriving is offering a complimentary speeding eLearning module for drivers.
About the Author
Ed’s passion is helping companies proactively manage driver risk and prioritize the safety of their employees who drive for work purposes. The ultimate goal of eDriving’s programs is to help drivers return home safely to their loved ones and communities at the end of each day. Ed has been fortunate enough to be living out his passion for over 25 years, impacting lives and helping transform the field of driver risk management along the way.
eDriving’s Mentor program is a digital solution that collects and analyzes driver behaviors most predictive of crash risk and helps remediate risky behavior by providing engaging, interactive micro-training modules delivered directly to the driver in the smartphone app. As part of its broader risk management platform, Virtual Risk Manager®, eDriving provides organizations with everything they need to establish safety as a strategic imperative, and support drivers and managers as they strive to create a crash-free culture®.
eDriving is the driver risk management partner of choice for many of the world’s largest organizations, supporting over 1,000,000 drivers in 125 countries. Over the past 25 years, eDriving’s research-validated programs have been recognized with over 100 awards around the world. Learn more at www.edriving.com.
¡ World Health Organization
¡¡ Virginia Tech Transportation Institute