Recent News Articles On Safety Hotlines

Recently, an article from appeared on several news sites including NASDAQ and FOX BUSINESS

Titled “How’s My Driving? Dial My Car Insurance Company” it took a look at the How’s My Driving (or “Safety Hotline”) industry and tried to answer the question; “What happens when you call a How’s My Driving number?

The article begins; “An operator will answer your call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and take down the details of the incident. The report goes to a supervisor for verification and is then e-mailed or faxed to the driver’s manager. What happens next depends on company policy and the driver’s history. Your call, by itself, is not going to get a driver fired. His own car insurance rates won’t rise, and the company’s commercial premiums probably won’t, either. Reports are followed up with a counseling session and additional driver training. [Bold added for emphasis].”  Further, the article expands on this statement; “…reports are used to identify, retrain and if necessary weed out problem drivers before a serious incident occurs.

SafetyFirst was interviewed for the article, and contributed the following information; “Most SafetyFirst clients receive two to three calls per month. The most common complaints are:

  • Failure to signal
  • Excessive speed
  • Tailgating
  • Improper lane change

(These driver actions have been validated to be most closely tied to an increased risk of crash by the ATRI 2011 crash predictor study as reported on our blog earlier this year.)

“Roughly 80 percent of the drivers in a fleet never get a complaint. Half of the remaining 20 percent get one complaint call and never get another, while the final 10 percent make up the majority of the complaints.” (It’s not random chance that drivers get complaints — something clearly motivates callers to pick up the phone.)

Interestingly, the article explored the option for fleets to run their own “Do It Yourself” program and the differences in effects from a commercial program; “Donna Shaft, a professional services marketing specialist in Chicago, was tailgated by a tow truck driver. During a small break in traffic he gunned past her, swerved in front of her, and gave her the finger for good measure. When she called the number on the back of the truck, she reached a company employee who defended the driver and doubted her account of the incident.” [Bold added for emphasis]  How does that sort of response help boost the public image of that company, or benefit the affected tow truck driver through “no-fault training”?  Clearly it doesn’t accomplish much.

The good news is that relying on a commercially produced program, sponsored by an insurance carrier who has vetted the quality of the service provider, can provide many clear benefits:

  • Crash reductions (documented by many private fleets and insurance carriers, too)
  • No fault refresher coaching for affected drivers (training, not blaming)
  • Professional call takers who don’t take sides
  • No added “spin” to the reporting, and in most cases, we defuse the emotions of the caller
  • Tracking of data to establish patterns that may signal larger training or system issues.

If you operate a fleet of vehicles (pickups, vans, SUVs or even heavy duty tractor trailers) and you don’t use a safety hotline service, why not?  

What’s the potential downside to getting insights about driver habits if the point is helping that driver improve his or her performance so that they reduce the risk of becoming involved in a collision even if it’s not their fault? 

Safety awareness and safety attitude need to be built up day by day — hotlines provide feedback and training tools to reinforce that strategy.

Here are links to the articles:

Driver Safety Hotline Benefits Your Drivers

It is uncontested that 80% of all commercial drivers drive consistently well, but a small percentage have “bad habits” that contribute to the vast majority of crashes and “near-misses”. 

How do you identify these drivers so that you can effectively help them drive better tomorrow so that they:

  • Do go home to their families each night
  • Do make their deliveries on time
  • Do receive positive training, not punishment
  • Do understand that safety is serious at your firm
  • Do help protect the company’s image
  • Don’t have to sit through depositions
  • Don’t get hurt or killed
  • Don’t get a moving violation (with the out-of-pocket fines!)
  • Don’t have their personal insurance rates jump (due to the moving violation)
  • Don’t reduce their “employability” due to tickets or accidents

Historically, there were two options available to safety managers to identify drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a crash:  Motor Vehicle Reports (profiling based on past tickets – and provided electronically by our E-DriverFile System) and Crash Reports. 

Over time, these approaches were supplemented by tachographs (speed recorders) and “black boxes” which tell us about location, speed, hard braking, etc.  Each of these processes tells you about problems after they’ve already manifested themselves — so called “lagging indicators of performance”. 

You see, to wait until a driver has already gotten a ticket, or has shown up on telematics data reports as an “exceptional exception” adds a delay that increases the odds of a crash happening before you have time to intervene.

Another way to identify these “at-risk” drivers is with a simple, low-cost, turn-key solution.  Our hotline program spots those drivers, who, if their behaviors were ignored, would end up with a violation or crash event. 

Here’s the process:

  1. We send you a report about specific incidents.  We also send Training Materials tied to the specifics of the incident.
  2. You talk with your driver – not to fix blame, but to help them fix any underlying safety problems.  Additionally to help them understand that the goal is safety – to avoid injury no matter who or what was the cause of the reported incident.  We also train your supervisors on HOW to COACH affected drivers for positive outcomes!
  3. You send us the completed report and we provide a monthly recap of progress and patterns in activity.
  4. We send a monthly training package to help ALL of your drivers with safety.

That’s it.  It is very simple and highly effective. Plus, it’s designed to boost the results from your existing safety practices at a very low cost (less than $15-$17 per vehicle per year).

If you are willing to invest about one minute per day (30 minutes a month) to coach and counsel drivers on their performance before they get a ticket or get hurt, then why not check out the program, it’s ease of use, it’s simplicity and it’s effectiveness?

Please let us show you our new DRIVER COACHING PROGRAM for supervisors — it can help you leverage your Safety Hotline Reports, your TELEMATICS Data, and even your VIDEO recordings. 

While other vendors tell you to coach your drivers we explain HOW to coach your drivers for better results!  Want to preview our program?  Give us a call at 1-888-603-6987

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel

Don’t Turn Thanksgiving into a Tragedy This Year,

Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time. 

SafetyFirst Systems, LLC is reminding highway travelers this Thanksgiving that the only belt that might be left unbuckled this year, or any year, is the one holding up your trousers–not the seat belts in your car.

“Seat belts have saved more lives than any other single piece of automotive safety equipment,” said Paul Farrell, CEO of SafetyFirst.  “But in order for them to work, they have to be used.  This Thanksgiving, and every day and night of the year, make sure you buckle up your seat belt and you’ll have the opportunity to unbuckle that other belt at the feast table with your family and friends.”

According to the most recent year’s statistics on file, the Thanksgiving Holiday period (6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m., Monday), saw 303 passenger vehicle occupants die in motor vehicle traffic crashes, including 115 during daylight hours (6 a.m. to 5:59 p.m.) and 187 during night time (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.). 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), night time is one of the more dangerous times on the road because seat belt use is traditionally lower.  Of the 187 passenger vehicle occupant deaths at night during the Thanksgiving holiday period, over one-half (54%) did not have their seat belts fastened (where seat belt use was known); while 49 percent in day-time crashes were not wearing seat belts.

 “There is no holiday more closely associated with the American family, or with American travel, than Thanksgiving,” said Farrell.  “But if you hit the highways unbelted, the faces you could be seeing this Holiday might belong to an emergency room physician or nurse instead of the faces of your family and friends.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.  Research has shown that when lap and shoulder belts are used properly, the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.

For more information about the urgency of consistent seatbelt use, please visit

(Thank you to NHTSA’s TSM unit for “free use” of their press release template on Thanksgiving Driver Safety)

UPDATE: Drowsy Driving

Our recent posting about Drowsy Driving got a lot of attention.  We wanted to circle back and provide a few updates.

A federal jury awarded a $7 million judgment in the case of a fatigue (or driving while drowsy) case.  Here’s a link to the report:

Several interesting news articles have appeared over the last week or two and we wanted to share them with you.

November 17, 2011 (it starts with “For any motorist, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or without sufficient sleep can have disastrous results. However, drowsy or intoxicated truckers and other drivers of large commercial vehicles pose a unique safety threat, as serious consequences of accidents caused by these types of vehicles are far more likely to gravely impact passengers in other autos: only about ten percent of those killed annually in truck accidents are drivers or passengers in the truck.”)

November 9, 2011 — “Driving drowsy as dangerous as driving drunk, studies show  “I know what it feels like and looks like and so do you. So why do many surveys show that most of us have driven while drowsy and many of us do so on a regular basis? Well, for one thing, we are not a culture that takes sleep seriously.”

November 15, 2011 – “Not Enough Drivers Realize Dangers of Drowsy Driving, Insurer Says” “According to the National Sleep Foundation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that about one in six deadly crashes involve a drowsy driver.”

November 14, 2011 – “Is the driver in the next lane falling asleep at the wheel?” – “BE CAREFUL next time you’re out on the road–the driver next to you might be asleep. Or at least pretty tired. Neither, obviously, is a good thing.”

Our “Ten-Minute Training Topic” on Drowsy Driving has been one of the most popular and often downloaded topic we’ve published since 2003!  Thanks for the interest and support of our crash reduction programs.

Because Results Count, What Training Approach Makes the Most Sense?

Guest Commentary from Joe Zingale, VP Business Development, SafetyFirst Systems, LLC

I was speaking to my CEO, Paul Farrell, at the SafetyFirst corporate office and we were discussing driver training and all the various types and formats that exist today: Online Training, Video, Audio, Written, Classroom, Behind the wheel, etc. We are in development of our own training program and we wanted to determine what would be the most effective, defined by the results it produced (reduced incidents/collisions).

We agreed that there are a lot of “good” training programs out there already, but when you look closely at the current offerings and then at the needs of the majority of fleets, we recognized some surprising things:

  1. There are a large range of industries, each with their own special concerns for drivers to address
  2. Most larger firms have multiple types of vehicles – each with special concerns that should be pointed out to drivers (i.e. blind areas, special equipment, handling concerns, etc.)
  3. Regardless of the size of the firm, drivers encounter wildly different road types and weather conditions throughout North America (i.e. “winter driving” is very different in Arizona versus Manitoba or even Maryland)
  4. There are differences in driving between the same vehicle type  (i.e. “VAN” could mean: cable companies driving tech vans vs. social services organizations driving 15 passenger vans.).  

We soon realized that each company would have to decide whether they wanted:

  1. To build a massive library to deal with each and every one of these variable factors, or
  2. Settle for a generic menu of courses (i.e. light versus large vehicles, “Defensive Driving” practices, or some variation of a “one size fits all” program) that would provide little impact to the driver taking the course.  After all, the phrase “Generic Focus” is an oxymoron in the training world for good reason. 

We admitted that we’ve heard from safety managers who feel the effort becomes pointless when, after a driver has taken the course, there is another incident recorded by the same driver.  We’re not undervaluing training mind you. It’s necessary and important; however, how do we know when it was fully effective?  What are the metrics that show us the results?  Is it reduced crash rates or test scores?  Is it the ease of implementation, or whether the drivers like theLMS/Content?

It’s amazing to think about the amount of hours invested in most fleets for: entry level driver training; training to learn new or advance current skills; regulatory compliance and policy training; even post-incident refresher training.

In the years that I have been designing and implementing fleet safety programs, I don’t believe I ever had a client who knowingly put a driver on the road that wasn’t: licensed; trained; experienced; and fully qualified to the various selection processes such as background checks, drug testing, medical certificates, etc.  So, once a driver is on the road and has an incident/crash that wasn’t due to a mechanical issue or clearly the fault of another motorist, doesn’t it boil down to either complacency (unaware of habits) or negligence (aware, but doesn’t care)It’s not a lack of training, skill or knowledge contributing to these incidents.  Bottomline:  I’m certain that most drivers wouldn’t have been entrusted with a set of keys and a company credit card if their results depended primarily on whether they had “enough” training – so how is “more training” going to fix the underlying performance issue?  (Again, training as a safety method isn’t the problem, I think it’s the over-reliance on training as a cure-all solution that gets some folks in deep water.  Also, check out the article on “training transfer” at 

With our “How’s My Driving?” program we find that it is a small percentage of drivers who ever receive reports (10-15%) but studies by our insurance partners and fleet clients show that drivers with multiple reports have a much greater risk of becoming involved in a crash. The typical response is to offer more “training” to these drivers in the hope that we can change their day-to-day performance by re-teaching the six second following rule.  Would that work if the underlying issue is attitude, not lack of knowledge? Also, if the supervisor’s attitude reflects that of the affected driver (just watch this video so we can both get back to work, OK?) why would the driver feel the need to change his/her behavior?

Interestingly, our clients experience the highest report volume during the first several months of the program. It reinforces a theory I’ve long held – drivers who are “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision (so-called “Unsafe Drivers” by the CSA program) either don’t recognize their risk taking habits or don’t care about them.  Those clients who invest the time to look these drivers in the eye and really coach them on specific issues received a noticeable reduction after the first few months.  Clearly, the drivers that “don’t care” that will continue to receive reports (ignoring the coaching/training efforts and sadly moving on to other means to motivate a change in performance) and those that “didn’t know” that they had slipped into habits, once they have been made aware of them, do not receive a second report. So, back to our discussion on our training program development.  As mentioned earlier, because of the size of the library needed to cover all the variables, and the low impact of generic training, we looked for a different solution.

In my experience, the best and most successful safety directors are those that take safety and make it personal – compassionately intervening to impress upon their drivers a need to change before something bad happens.

I have always admired the passion they bring to their work. It’s not about numbers for them. After all, it’s about motivating their team to perform, not how to avoid getting caught. Offense rather than defense! One analogy I have used when speaking to various groups is the Safety Director/Employee relationship is very much akin to the relationship between a parent and teenager (who feels “invincible” and safety is a message really intended for their peers, not themselves).

If you were concerned about your teenager’s safety and well-being, you’d talk to them about consequences, reasons to choose safety over the dares and “counsel” of their peers.  You’d look them in the eye and talk about why it is so important that they understand how much you care for them and why you don’t ever want to see them get hurt. In short, you’d “discipline them” where “discipline” is defined as; “…training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”  We want to know that they’ll behave a certain, predictable way when we’re not there to watch them or intervene on their behalf.

What we wouldn’t do with our own teenagers is sit them in front of a television, pop in a DVD and cross our collective fingers that the “training takes hold”.   Paul and I further agreed that we’d spend time driving with our sons and daughters and restrict them from driving with friends who’ll distract them and other steps.  Would you do any less for your own son/daughter when they’re driving for the first time?  How about when they’ve been driving for five years, ten years or twenty – the time we spend with them now pays dividends in continued safety – later (when we’re not with them).  I’m not going to trust aDVDor online course to build their internal “discipline” – would you? 

We recognized that the best way we could impact a commercial driver safety program would be to help the Safety Directors by giving them coaching strategies and tactics! I haven’t met with a Safety Director that isn’t already working 60+ hours a week going 100 mph with their hair on fire, running multiple programs at the same time across a number of areas beyond the fleet aspect of their job. We have, and are continuing to, develop our “training” to do two things:

  1. Address the actual performance issue through coaching and use training only as a reminder of what they should already know. In the case of a Motor Observation Report that could be tailgating, unsafe lane changes, speeding, etc.   We’ll coach on why these behaviors necessarily lead down the road to “bad stuff happening”, but then we’ll also coach on how the driver can/should self-monitor and correct those habits and performance issues while behind the wheel.
  2. Equip, enable and empower the Safety Director so that each meeting with an affected driver can be used as an opportunity instead of turning into a confrontation.  It’s not about “blaming”, it’s actually about “training reminders” – so that the performance (whether “attitude” or “complacency” based) improves to everyone’s benefit.  The driver reduces the likelihood of getting a ticket or injury, and the fleet improves their CSA scores and maintains reasonable insurance pricing.

Our coaching program covers the comments and responses between driver and management, based on feedback we have collected from our clients, so that conversation is positive and the effect is the driver is a better driver!   To introduce our coaching program (an opportunity that really is best addressed through education) we have produced a brief, but powerful video package for supervisors to learn how to implement these concepts.

As our decals state; “Safety Is My Goal” – getting to that state of “safety” takes eyeball to eyeball conversations – training by proxy through an internet connection may be “easy” but only gets results defined by needing to buy more training.  We’d rather measure success by fewer injuries — Does anything else matter?

Joe Zingale recently joined SafetyFirst as our VP of Business Development and can be reached toll free at855-229-3220.  Joe has 17 years experience in driver safety having previously worked at Driver’s Alert, but finally “seeing the light” and making the change to SafetyFirst during 2011.

Drowsy Driving Week – November 6-12, 2011

No, it’s not the week where we want to drive drowsy — it’s to raise awareness of the extent of the issue and the need to educate drivers of what they can do to prevent driving while drowsy.

While most people have come to recognize the dangers of “drinking and driving“, “texting while driving” or “driving without the use of a seatbelt“, many still consider “driving while drowsy” to be a relatively minor safety concern. People think that they can tell when they’re about to fall asleep and can safely get home before a problem occurs. These drowsy drivers are at much greater risk to be injured in a crash than they realize.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents each year.

In a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS) survey, nearly nine out of every ten police officers reported they had stopped a driver who they believed was drunk, but turned out to be drowsy.  The AAAFTS survey also indicated that:

  • Younger drivers age 16-24 were nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as drivers age 40-59,
  • About 57 percent of drowsy driving crashes involved the driver drifting into other lanes or even off the road.
  • More than half (55%) of those drivers who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year said that it occurred on a high-speed divided highway.
  • More than half (59%) of those drivers who reported having fallen asleep while driving in the past year said they had been driving for less than an hour before falling asleep; only one in five reported they had been driving for three hours or longer.

Drowsy driving is operating a motor vehicle while sleepy, fatigued or “tired/exhausted”.  Sleepiness and driving is a dangerous combination. Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don’t realize that drowsy driving can be just as fatal. Like alcohol, sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases your risk of crashing.

The potential to fall asleep behind the wheel can’t be judged by the operator – they simply fall asleep and typically lose control of their vehicle.

This month’s Ten-Minute Training Topic covers what drivers can do to recognize the warning signs, prevent drowsy driving and improve their health/wellness in the process. 

The Ten-Minute Training Topic series is a monthly driver training package on a specific, focused issue like Drowsy Driving, Parking Lot Dangers, Improper Passing, etc.  The program includes driver handouts, manager’s supplemental reports (with relevant news stories, links to web site resources, etc.) and links to A-V presentations for the drivers.  The program materials can be used as payroll stuffers, classroom training sessions, or tailgate talks.  Drivers can review the materials from remote locations electronically.

We encourage managers to review any existing company policies that relate to the Ten-Minute Training Topic in advance of its distribution to drivers.  This provides an opportunity to make any needed enhancements, prepare for anticipated questions and check to make sure that your policy and the Ten-Minute Training Topic are in agreement.

While some companies may have developed “policies” concerning how drivers should deal with drowsy driving and “fatigue”, others may want to consider the following questions:

  • Are your drivers aware of your specific company expectations regarding driving while tired or “drowsy”?
  • Are there any specific instructions you want them to follow regarding breaks, use of rest areas or other procedures when “at-risk” of falling asleep at the wheel?
  • Are there any circumstances where the driver should not attempt to drive while tired?
  • Has your company developed or participated in any workplace wellness programs that might help address sleep disorders, diet and other contributing factors?
  • Are there pertinent regulations affecting your drivers with regard to their alertness or ability to drive safely (ie. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; Hours of Service Rules, etc.)

This is a great time to re-acquaint them with your company’s practices and expectations regarding all aspects of driving safely at night or during extended trips where fatigue may become a safety issue.

If you’re interested in learning more about our monthly driver training package (included free in our hotline program, or available for separate purchase), please let us know.  We can even send out a sample training topic for your review as a courtesy copy. 

Our toll-free number is 1-888-603-6987 – just let us know that you’re interested in the Drowsy Driving Training Topic.