Drowsy Driving Update 2014

National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week runs November 2-9, 2014. Highlighting the need for drivers and safety teams to focus on drowsy driving, the AAA AAFTS Drowsy DrivingFoundation for Traffic Safety has issued a new research report which states that 21% (one in five) fatal crashes involved driver fatigue. Further, the report summary indicates that:

  • 6% of all crashes in which a vehicle was towed from the scene,
  • 7% of crashes in which a person received treatment for injuries sustained in the crash,
  • 13% of crashes in which a person was hospitalized, and
  • 21% of crashes in which a person was killed involved a drowsy driver.

How did we miss the scope of these crashes?  AAAFTS suggests that National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics “are widely regarded as substantial underestimates of the true magnitude of the problem.”  Why?

The statistics reported by the NHTSA are based on data compiled from reports completed by police officers investigating the scenes of motor vehicle crashes. However, unlike impairment by alcohol, impairment by sleepiness, drowsiness, or fatigue does not leave behind physical evidence, and it may be difficult or impossible for the police to ascertain in the event that a driver is reluctant to
admit to the police that he or she had fallen asleep, if the driver does not realize or remember that his or her performance was impaired due to fatigue, or if the driver is
incapacitated or deceased and thus unable to convey information regarding his level of alertness prior to the crash. This inherent limitation is further compounded by the design of the forms that police officers complete when investigating crashes, which in many cases obfuscate the distinction between whether a driver was known not to have been asleep or fatigued versus whether a driver’s level of alertness or fatigue was unknown.

Based on these concerns, many experts have concluded that the NHTSA data was merely indicating the tip of a large iceberg of hidden or mis-coded results.  Compounding this opinion were results from other studies, including naturalistic (camera in cabin, continuously recording) studies showing a much higher rate of drowsy driving related events.


Of course, this study makes several assumptions and may not present a perfect picture of drowsy driving in the USA.  However, it is reasonable to assertively promote tactics to avoid drowsy driving situations based on the following:

  • drivers are unable to prevent micronapping from occuring – the fatigued body will overpower their mind’s alertness
  • Poor diet, lack of exercise, frequently interrupted sleep periods, lack of consistent sleep cycles all contribute to weak health and drowsiness.
  • Many “home remedies” for drowsy driving may work for a few minutes, but can’t be relied upon for a real solution — many drivers who’ve turned on the air conditioning or turned up the radio still had crashes happen.

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is quoted as saying;

Despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans deem it ‘unacceptable’ to drive when they are so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open, more than 28 percent admit to doing so in the last month,”…“Like other impairments, driving while drowsy is not without risk.”

AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds sums it up nicely;

Unfortunately many drivers underestimate the risk of driving while tired, and overestimate their ability to deal with it.

Find other articles on drowsy driving at https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/?s=drowsy%20driving


Merging at Ramps

junction13Accessing a highway can present several challenges to drivers – whether novice or experienced: poor weather, low light levels, road design and the discourtesy of other drivers can each contribute factors that increase our risk of a crash while merging at ramps.

In a perfect driving world, we’d be the only operator and vehicle on the road; however, that’s just not possible.  We face congestion, road work, and delays each day as we go from site to site.  Merging adds stress since we have to cope with limited visibility areas (aka “blind spots”) and finding that gap in traffic flow where we can “squeeze in” to our spot with all the other vehicles.

SafetyZone-Safety GoalJuly’s Ten-Minute Training Topic provides drivers and their supervisors with insights and discussion about merging at ramps.  The driver handout refreshes operators on common problems encountered, and offers reminders about traffic, ramp metering and even wrong-way crashes that happen when a confused (or impaired) motorist manages to take the wrong ramp and rushes head-long into oncoming traffic.  The slideshows also help to illustrate these issues and aids for drivers.

Automotive Fleet Magazine recently posted a nice article and video to promote safe merging at on ramps.  To view these click HERE.

ramp collisions

Benchmarking Violation Data

Atri 2011 coverIn 2005 and 2011, ATRI provided a ground-breaking study of the connection between violations and increased crash risk (Click Here).

Having studied more than a half-million driver records, the analysis was incontrovertible and carries powerful implications for driver safety supervisors, managers and directors.

In short, when a driver receives a violation, the likelihood of a crash also goes up by a specific factor.  

We’ve also seen a connection between tighter MVR profiles and decreased crash numbers:

“As recently reported at a fleet safety conference, two similar fleets had chosen to use the same standard for MVR review — exclude violations greater than 36 months old and allow for a combination of three violations and one preventable crash before suspending driving privileges.  One of these fleets tightened their standard to two violations and one crash during the most recent 24 months and saw a five point reduction in collisions (from 22% of their fleet vehicles involved in a crash per year to 17% of their vehicles involved in a crash) and $2 million in savings.”  (click here for full coverage)

Now our question to progressive fleet teams is this — are you benchmarking your driver profile results against national trends in violations to assess relative crash risk?

Violatios Table

Consider this table (above) and how your individual drivers stack up against national averages.  IF your drivers have a greater share of violations than the average, what would you do to step up your performance monitoring or refresher coaching?

  • Could this data be used against you in a Negligent Supervision lawsuit?
  • Is your defense going to be proactive and demonstrate that you actively monitor this data and assign coaching, education, monitoring resources or to claim “we didn’t know“? (not knowing is never a realistic defense)

If you’re using an automated MVR solution to pull in MVR data and profile it, you should be considering:

  1. whether the ACD code tables are up to date (many providers haven’t updated their code lists in years and can’t even post a texting violation properly!)
  2. whether your data can be exported to spreadsheet for analysis against national records like the table presented above, or whether your provider can automatically provide a comparison on a “driver-by-driver basis” against such public data
  3. whether your MVR profiling efforts should include other proactive, leading indicators of performance such as GPS alerts, how’s my driving alerts, or even camera in cabin video analysis.
  4. how you compare actual MVR results to your own loss data to validate the ATRI study and take action on “at-risk” drivers to reduce collisions
  5. how to link your MVR (ACD Codes) to refresher training modules to document immediate action taken on all drivers (who show a change in results) each time their MVR is obtained.

Of course, it may be easier to simply use our plug-n-play E-DriverFile system, Safety Hotline Program and “SafetyZone” LMS to handle these issues for you.  We work with the nation’s largest fleets (of CMVs and non-regulated vehicles, too!) to help manage risk, safety and results.  We also maintain an “in-network” system of relationships with more than 75 insurance providers who use our services with their select, targeted clients.

Copy of Copy of EDF LOGO (final)

AAAFTS “2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index”

Founded in 1947, the AAA Foundation in Washington, D.C. is a not-for-profit, publicly supported charitable research and education organization dedicated to saving lives by preventing traffic crashes and reducing injuries when crashes occur.

Since 2008, AAAFTS (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety) publishes a traffic safety culture index report based on surveys of motorists.  This provides us with a benchmark of where people’s minds are at regarding their perceptions of safety and how Public Safety Ads, enforcement campaigns and other methods are working.

The full report can be found at this link – https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/research_reports/Distracted%20and%20Risk%20Prone%20Drivers%20FINAL.pdf

This year’s report was titled “Distracted and Risk-Prone Drivers” since “…distracted driving remains a significant and high-profile traffic safety concern…”

Indeed, the opening of the report offers these interesting insights:

In the 2012 survey, more than two-thirds (68.9%) of licensed drivers* reported having talked on a cell phone while driving at least once within the previous 30 days, and nearly one-third (31.9%) said they had done so fairly often or regularly during this time.3 This is the case despite the fact that nearly nine-in-ten respondents (88.5%) said that drivers talking on cell phones were a somewhat or very serious threat to their safety.3  In August 2012, researchers at MIT published results from a study that found that drivers who frequently used cell phones behind the wheel were more likely than those who did so infrequently to report or be observed engaging in other risky behaviors, such as frequent lane changing, speeding, and hard acceleration.4 Based on the findings, the researchers suggested that cell phone use itself may not account for the entire crash risk increase associated with this behavior, and that drivers who used their phones were more likely to engage in a range of other relatively risky activities, as well.4

While, in the past we’ve used the phrase “at-risk” driver to mean a driver who is at higher than average risk of becoming involved in a collision (if their behavior/habits are not addressed), the AAAFTS report prefers to use the term “Risk Prone” driver.  Risk prone drivers engage in these types of behaviors (as defined by AAAFTS):

  • Driven 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway;
  • Driven 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street;
  • Read a text message or email while driving;
  • Typed or sent a text message or email while driving;
  • Driven without wearing a seatbelt;
  • Driven when so tired it was difficult to keep eyes open;
  • Driven through a light that had just turned red when it was possible to stop safely;
  • Checked social media while driving;
  • Used the internet while driving;
  • Talked on a cell phone while driving; and
  • Driven when BAC was close to or possibly over the legal limit.

What I find interesting is that these behaviors are quite serious and present situations far in excess of what is typically reported on a safety hotline program (giving you an earlier indicator to intervene before the situation gets even this far advanced).  In the AAAFTS survey, they asked drivers to self-report whether they engaged in these behaviors never, just once, rarely, fairly often, or regularly (within the past 30 days).

Their statements about risk prone drivers are interesting:

For all risky behaviors examined, respondents who reported a greater frequency of cell phone use while driving were more likely to report also having engaged in that behavior. For example, 65 percent of drivers who talked on a cell phone while driving fairly often or regularly within the past 30 days also reported driving 15 mph or more over the speed limit on a freeway at least once during this time. [emphasis added] In contrast, only 31 percent of drivers who reported never using a cell phone behind the wheel admitted to such speeding (Figure A).  This pattern was consistent across all behaviors. Nearly half (47%) of drivers who regularly talked on their phones also ran a red light, compared to just 25 percent of drivers who never used their phones (Figure B). Likewise, 44 percent of frequent cell phone users also admitted to drowsy driving, whereas only 14 percent of those who reported not talking on their phones while driving did so (Figure C).

What remains unclear is whether there’s a causal effect between using cell phones and engaging in other “at-risk” or “risk-prone” behaviors or if it is coincidence.  Regardless, its still best policy to discourage use of cells while driving, encourage proper driving tactics and monitor driver behavior with a view towards coaching to modify behaviors.

What are you doing in your fleet to monitor your driver’s “at-risk” behaviors and intervene compassionately to prevent collisions?

If you’re looking for a more pro-active approach, consider safety hotlines to get motorist observation reports on egregious risk taking behaviors — when coupled with coaching and training it has been shown to reduce collision rates by 10-30% and it requires far less data analysis than most telematic or video based systems which can be onerous for safety metrics (data overload leading to difficulty separating the urgently actionable from the background noise of data buzz).