Another Look at Red Light Cameras…

redlight cam pictureRecently, we posted an article ( about a success story for traffic safety in Newark, NJ – specifically about how they had selectively used automated red light cameras to help control and reduce pedestrian collisions.

The use of automated enforcement is not without controversy and another article has appeared – in TIME magazine – celebrating the relative explosion of automated enforcement and the grassroots backlash it has spawned.

I find it interesting that the article cites how “…the number of local red-light camera contracts awarded around the country has exploded, from 155 in 2005 to 689 last year.

Clearly, municipalities have bought into the concept either by networking about the success or by being contacted by equipment sales teams.  Think about it, the rewards of installing cameras are significant – fines are rolling out (since people won’t change their behavior without a stimulus) and more people are paying attention to spot the warning signs of a camera controlled intersection.  From a safety standpoint, the worst argument I’ve heard is that the total number of crashes (in aggregate) hasn’t gone down considerably, but the nature of the crashes has shifted from intersection meets to “rear-enders” when the first car stops short and the following car hits them.

Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of skepticism out there, too.

Fueling the doubt are stories like the one reported in the TIME article –

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that in June the city will be dropping its contract with Redflex, a Phoenix-based firm that operates 384 cameras in the city, due to what the Chicago Tribune described as “a $2 million bribery scheme involving the former Chicago official who oversaw the red light program for a decade.” Four Redflex executives resigned as a result of the scandal.

Its not surprising that some people might be tempted by all the money these systems tap….the cost of a red-light ticket in California can be as high as $480…and with millions of cars, trucks and buses on the highway, that’s a lot of dollars on an annualized basis.

Still, from a safety standpoint, enough studies have shown that lengthening the duration of the YELLOW light can make a huge impact (pardon the pun) on collisions AND violations at traffic signal controlled intersections.  A recent column at the Wall Street Journal stated;

In Tampa, hundreds appear to have received tickets because a busy yellow was set at three seconds when the state minimum is 4.5. In Georgia, after a new state law adding a second to the yellow, several towns canceled their camera programs as no longer profitable.

Regardless of automated enforcement, those fleets using our safety hotline program still receive reports of red light running (6 reports per day so far in 1Q2013 for just this category alone), and all sorts of risk-taking behaviors that would not normally show up on most GPS or electronic safety systems (tailgating = 55 times per day!).  This doesn’t detract from those electronic-on-board systems, but complements them with added insights, training, behavioral safety modifiers and more.

The TIME article can be viewed by clicking HERE.cropped-cars-rushing.jpg

Safety Hotlines – How do they work?

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “just how do those safety hotline programs work?”  Followed by “do they really produce a meaningful result?

cropped-wb-banner-asp-trucks.jpgLet’s address results first, and then look at the mechanics of a strong program.

Safety hotlines really do work to help fleets cut crashes and spot drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a crash or getting a police-issued violation.

A Safety Hotline is different from a “how’s my driving” program in that Safety Hotlines are really training programs that use a sticker to bring certain drivers “to the front of the line” to get urgent assistance from management in “no-fault training“.

How’s my driving systems get drivers fired or punished and are often poorly supported by the vendor — allowing crank calls because their call center handles magazine subscriptions, sales calls, and all sorts of in-bound and out-bound marketing in addition to taking safety calls.

SafetyFirst was the first to change this approach from “complaints” to “training” and others have tried to mimic our approach, but have never come close to our crash reduction results (even in head-to-head comparison tests!)

  • About a dozen insurance carrier studies have been done between 1995 and 2010 validating the results consistently from independent study to independent study.
    • Insurance carrier studies are helpful since they average out variances from fleet to fleet and cut across industry lines to pick up a diverse crowd of participants
    • Insurer studies (done by their own safety teams) show a range of results from 22% to as high as 38% — with the stronger results being reported most recently as we continue to apply past learning to make the program more effective.
  • At least as many safety directors of larger fleets have done their own studies, too.
    • One involved 16,000 vehicles and documented a 24% reduction in claim count and a 25% reduction in claim costs – the study was done by a past chapter president of the American Society of Safety Engineers (he knew what he was measuring and how to do it!)
    • Another involved 3000 telecom-infrastructure vehicles (pickups and vans) and documented a three-year cumulative reduction of 54%
    • On the flip side, safety directors also looked at the relationship of reports to specific drivers found that the risk of collisions went up almost exponentially as one driver received a second, third, fourth observation report while other drivers (with the same vehicle and route complexity) got zero reports.
    • Safety directors confirm that reports are not random results of crank calls – 98-99% of all reports were confirmed valid upon investigation and 80% of all drivers NEVER get a single complaint (typically those drivers with CLEAR MVRs), but 10% get multiple complaints (typically those drivers with questionable MVRs)

7X20 decal 7233So how does it really work?

Initial Set Up

A participating fleet supplies a vehicle list and matches the largest possible decal to each vehicle type.  This helps the decal be noticed and makes it easier for motorists to call in reports (hands-free!).

The decal includes a short slogan (which is there as an “icon” not something meant to be read by the motorist – they recognize the decal design) a specific identifying number and a toll free call in number (using all digits and no letters since hands free dialing is much easier with all digits – we were the first to go all digits in our industry recognizing the additional safety benefits to hands-free callers)

In Action

Motorists who observe truly egregious behavior on the road may choose to file a report by calling (hands-free) to our 24/7/365 call center and talking to a live operator who will move them through a concise interview to grab details about the situation.  Our goal is to get the maximum amount of information in the shortest time possible and get the motorist off of their phone.  Many times, motorists have already found a safe parking place to make their call.

Typical fleets get only two to three reports per 100 vehicles per month.  There are factors which can swing that “norm” up or down, but it’s not a lot to review in order to stem off 20-30% of your crashes!

drowsy drivingReport Transmitted to Client

The report is typed into a database, sent to a supervisor for review/audit and then our computer system attaches the appropriate training sheets (based on the categories of behavior noted in the report).  This package is emailed to the location supervisor who controls that vehicle.  The report may also be copied to their regional, divisional or corporate safety directors (and even their insurance carrier if designated).

The supervisor confirms who was driving the vehicle and schedules and interview with that driver.  We provide a full training program for supervisors on how to prepare for, set up and conduct effective, no-fault coaching sessions.

Coaching – What Happens to the Driver?

CoachingDuring the coaching session, the supervisor will review the details of the report with the affected commercial driver and provide the training sheets to that driver.  This opportunity for on-the-spot training shifts the focus of the meeting away from “blaming” and on to “training” for improved performance.  Many supervisors also work with the driver to set personal goals for monitoring and checking “risky” habits that could lead to a ticket or crash.

If the supervisor feels that it is warranted, he/she may assign additional “online, interactive” training modules as they are closing out the report in our database.  In that event, multiple (but short) reminder training modules can be emailed to the driver to take at home, from a kiosk, or even on their smart device such as an i-Pad during their downtime.

Coaching Tips TitleWhere most online training programs average out to 37.5 minutes each, ours never exceed four minutes duration.  We figure that if it takes almost forty minutes to explain why you should be using your signals, as a trainer, you’re “doing it wrong” and have probably lost your learner to boredom and information fatigue.

Most drivers NEVER get a report – in fact, 80% go without a report during their entire career.  10% get one report and never get another.  10% get multiple reports about risk taking while behind the wheel.  It’s not a random chance that one driver gets a call and not another – it’s all about behavior.

Closeouts and Monthly Reporting

Each report gets closed out in our database.  This accomplishes several important tasks:

  1. it shows a paper trail response to each report
  2. it builds a database of who was driving during each event (especially important for fleets who don’t permanently assign drivers to specific vehicles)
  3. it enables us to help corporate managers see how location supervisors respond to these reports and differentiate location by location loss performance
  4. it helps us build a benchmarking database by industry SIC classification
  5. it enables us to send monthly reporting of activity that is valuable and helpful in adjusting your existing safety tools and programs to become more effective.

Once a month we send an email with a series of links to reporting designed by our clients to be simple, helpful and informative.  You don’t need to remember to come to our site and download things, and you don’t need to remember your ID and Password like our competitors programs (that don’t feature automated reporting).  However, if you do keep your ID and Password handy, you can access a treasure trove of fleet safety and driver safety resources.

We maintain one of the largest libraries of fleet safety and driver safety materials on the internet.  It’s only accessible by current clients and is updated four times a year with articles, presentation files, training packages for drivers and much more.

Monthly Training Topics for ALL Drivers

Even if you don’t access the library frequently, we automatically send out a monthly “Ten-Minute Training Topic” for you to use with your employees and their immediate families as you see fit.

Driving Too Fast PPTThe package includes a driver handout, manager’s supplemental report (about setting, reviewing or revising your company policies on that issue) and a pair of electronic slideshows.  A different topic comes out each month, and can be used with any type of vehicle.

Each company uses the documents in slightly different ways – from classroom talks with on-screen presentations to payroll stuffers that go home in the pay checks.  A new topic is sent each month and the archive of older topics has grown to more than 80+

Online, Interactive Training

Our learning management system enables our clients to upload their entire driver list, and bulk assign training modules with minimal mouse clicks.  If your drivers have email addresses, it’s almost automatic, but if they don’t we can generate a PDF document with each driver’s log in credentials and a “how to” paragraph to get them started with ease.

Each course is related to various “real world” scenarios and issues.  The onscreen content includes a mix of broadcast quality (HD) video, text, On Camera Host, and even computer animations to illustrate concepts.  This mix of formats is highly engaging and represents the reality that adult attention spans (for better or worse) have been decreasing steadily.

The average television commercial is now 15 seconds long.  Forty-minute+ training modules are dying dinosaurs and disrespect your driver’s professionalism by dragging along at such a plodding pace.

GPS Anyone?

Since 2001, SafetyFirst has been integrating telematics data alerts into E-DriverFile and working with fleets on specialized reporting.  Regardless of the hardware platform, you can leverage our data platform to accomplish multiple goals:

  • Use our coaching system to translate GPS data into a behavioral safety outcome (one fleet did this and saw a 600% reduction in excessive speed alerts within 12 months time)
  • Combine alerts with MVR data or other data points to spot drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming hurt or driving up your CSA BASIC scores.
  • Simply get more from your solution like “cell control” to block cell phone use without the hassles of competing systems

Last, But Not Least

Blended Risk ScoreThe final step in our closeout process for those customers participating in our E-DriverFile suite is to post each “Safety Hotline” report to their driver risk profile.  The driver risk profile is an extra-expense report that enables managers to develop their own “blended” score of MVR violations, Preventable Crashes, Telematics Alerts, and How’s My Driving notices.  The driver risk profile helps validate the effectiveness of each of those programs and serves as an early warning indicator (by mixing leading and lagging indicators) that particular drivers need to be “brought to the front of the line” to get immediate help from their managers before a violation, or worse.


Safety Hotlines have come a long way in a short time.  They’ve been repeatedly proven effective, and are very simple to use.  They cost far less than other systems and provide a real value by becoming an extra layer to your safety processes.  They do not need to alienate drivers any more than GPS, telematics, or camera systems might.  The data captured has been validated by the safety supervisors, and these supervisors have used our training on “how to coach effectively” to host meaningful conversations about safety instead of letting these turn into confrontations about policies.

If you’ve never tried OUR program, you really can’t compare it to anything like you’ve used before — our approach is part of the success criteria of the program.  Consider a fresh start and test our program — you’ll see the differences immediately — we know that driving safely is every driver’s responsibility.


Reader Follow Up from Driving Too Fast for Conditions

We’ve received a ton of great suggestions and comments from our recent blog post on “driving too fast for conditions” and we wanted to share some of those with you.

  • “In the UK we are advised to keep a minimum gap to the vehicle in front. so in good weather you keep a 2 second gap , in wet weather a 4 second gap and in icy weather /snow a 10 second gap although to be honest slowing down and adding a few more seconds wouldn’t go amiss.”

blog rainy traffic day 1

  • Teach common sense. As a law enforcement officer I would venture to guess I have written this particular citation (or more importantly listed as hazardous action on an accident report) more than any in relation to accidents. A speed limit is exactly that, A limit on how fast you CAN go given perfect conditions.”

blizzard traffic day

  • “I usually counsel my drivers that their speed should depend on no less than 6 conditions, namely:
    • condition of traffic
    • condition of road
    • condition of weather
    • condition of vehicle
    • condition of load, and, last but not least
    • condition of driver.

If any of these is/are not ideal, you must reduce the speed accordingly. Furthermore, drive the speed which will allow you to come to a complete stop without a hard-brake application. Aim high, anticipate traffic patters, work with your mirrors, keep eyes moving by panning them from left mirror across the windshield to the right mirror, than back again across the dash (after all, you want to see what your gauges are doing)….and, maintain that safety cushion ahead of you.

blog banner snow ice blizzard

  • Also, drivers need to understand that posted speed limits are just that. Limits….it does not mean that they have to drive that speed, but they shan’t exceed it!”

drowsy driving

  • “If you have ever driven a fully loaded truck and had to hit the brakes in icy conditions. that’s a good gauge of what you need to do to formulate a plan to prevent an incident. Happened to me years ago when I was driving my truck but I was lucky that day and so was the person in the car in front of me. A truck won’t stop once it losses traction and will hit whatever is in front of it if you’re too close.  Thinking otherwise is a huge mistake.”


  • “What I have been teaching for years is that, Mr. Professional Truck Driver, do you really know and completely understand the dynamics of bringing an 80,000 pound vehicle to a “safe stop?”  Although most will say yes, when I sit with them for an hour or so they find that they are amazed,,, and say, “good gosh” I never had this explained that way before, thank you for making me a driver who now understands the basics of vehicle control…”


  • “If you are talking about snow, fog or other visibility issues like lights at night use the “Trained Eye Lead Time” rule. This will help prevent some of the too fast for conditions problems. Basically the rule is 12 to 15 seconds, if you cannot see hazards and identify them that far ahead of you before you get to them, you cannot react in time. In icy, wet slick conditions you should increase you following distance as others have stated but your following distance should be more in the big truck, (1 second for every 10 ft of vehicle length) the 2 second rule works great for cars but not us. If you get to the point you feel traction about to break, back down 5 mph.”


We really appreciate the feedback we get from our readers.  The list of subscribers continues to grow each month and we have a ton of folks who have been asking for specific topics be added to the editorial queue.  If you haven’t let us know what’s on your mind, please reach out.

Also, thanks for the inquiries about our revolutionary refresher training program designed to work with coaching processes (whether driven by GPS, camera-in-cabin or safety hotline inputs) — it’s just the right approach for drivers regardless of industry or vehicle type.  No training module is more than FIVE minutes in TOTAL length — if it takes another vendor an AVERAGE of 37.5 minutes to tell your driver why they need to use their turn signals, we think that they don’t know very much about educational design or people’s attention span.

Respect your drivers — give them training that they want to take and will actually learn from — and then get them back on the road!



Driving Too Fast for Conditions

Driving Too Fast PPTDrivers encounter all sorts of conditions from day-to-day. Heavy traffic, detours, construction zones, bad weather, breakdowns and accidents blocking multiple lanes….all of these situations can affect their attitude, energy and judgement.

Driving too fast for the conditions means going faster than reasonable based on the conditions around the vehicle. Most drivers think this is limited to bad weather, but it could be any of the issues mentioned above.

The FMCSA states;

“Driving too fast for conditions is defined as traveling at a speed that is greater than a reasonable standard for safe driving. Examples of conditions where drivers may find themselves driving too fast include: wet roadways (rain, snow, or ice), reduced visibility (fog), uneven roads, construction zones, curves, intersections, gravel roads, and heavy traffic.”

Driving too fast for conditions robs the operator of time needed to react, steer, brake and avoid problems. Speed increases stopping distance, and the raw energy stored in the vehicle — possibly translating what might have been a fender bender into a crash with ambulance and tow truck.

Learning self-discipline to slow down in response to challenging situations is one mark of a truly professional driver, or at least an operator who really cares about being safe and getting home to his/her family without incident.

Key Places to Slow Down

Several specific areas should be treated with extra caution regardless of the posted, legal speed limit:

  • streets near neighborhood playgrounds and/or schools
  • areas with heavy foot traffic or cycling lanes
  • construction zones
  • marked wildlife crossing areas
  • railroad grade crossings
  • curvy roads where sight lines are limited (can’t see around the bends)
  • approaching the crest of hills where stopped traffic may be waiting

Key Times to Slow Down

The most obvious time to slow down is during extreme weather conditions.  Additionally, driving at night may be a time to exercise appropriate caution.  Many crashes, especially fatal and serious injury crashes, occur because drivers failed to reduce their speed for one of these special conditions.

Practical Tips for Dealing with Adverse Conditions?

This month’s Ten-Minute Training Topic includes a list of practical tips for drivers to consider when planning their trips, tools that can be helpful and ways to stay calm despite the conditions they encounter.

Our Ten-Minute Training Topic program (Click HERE to see our topic calendar for 2013) features a monthly driver handout, manager’s supplemental report (with news items related to the topic, tips for reviewing safety policies, and more).  The program also includes a pair of slideshows — one for easy duplication, and one for showing in lounges or classroom settings with full graphics, photos and charts.

The program is part of our safety hotline system — to enable the 80% of drivers who NEVER get a complaint about their driving to benefit from safety awareness training while those who do get the occasional complaint have additional training resources available to help them change habits (of the 20% who get complaints only half get more than one complaint — it is this very small group of drivers who get report after report who need the most urgent attention from managers before they get a ticket or become involved in a collision.


The unfortunate, likely outcome of driving too fast for conditions is either a ticket or a collision.  Ultimately, adjusting your speed to cope with the conditions (however defined) is your responsibility. 

Making the Case for Automated Enforcement – NEWARK, NJ

redlight cam pictureA recent article in the Star-Ledger by James Queally covered the release of a short video produced to make the case for automated enforcement (red light cameras) in the City of Newark, NJ. (To read the article, click HERE)

There are a number of factors that led to the City installing cameras at two crash-prone intersections (dubbed “Project Red Light” — more details available by clicking HERE).

One of the significant factors is the much greater than average percentage of residents who don’t own or operate a car.  The pedestrian traffic in downtown Newark increases the risk of pedestrians being hit or killed when motorists run red lights.

Preliminary reports show significant reductions in crashes at these intersections:

“Total crashes at the Project Red Light intersections have dropped 36%. Additionally, severe right-angle crashes, which are directly attributed to red light running, have been reduced by 42%.  Same direction crashes, such as rear-end collisions, were reduced by 25%…”

Of course, the program generates revenue for the City, as well.  According to the Star-Ledger article “Each ticket costs drivers $85, and Newark keeps $39.50 from each ticket.”  A June 2010 Star-Ledger article found the city issued 93,634 tickets in 2009, resulting in a nearly $2.8 million boon for the city.