Insurance Carrier UBI and Telematics Vehicle Tracking Conference

TeleMaticsInsurers interested in promoting driver safety by telematics vehicle tracking, and UBI styled programs participated in a conference hosted by SafetyFirst Systems on November 6, 2014 in Morristown, NJ. Driver safety online courses and related topics were also addressed.

For more details — visit http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/11/prweb12321887.htm (will open in a new window/tab)

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x28730,000 road deaths from motor vehicle crashes annually is unacceptable. Insurers agree that preventing injuries and damages that result from commercial vehicle crashes is a priority.

Unfortunately, about 75% of all insured fleets operate without the benefits of telematics vehicle tracking, driver safety online course, hotline stickers or other critical fleet safety mechanisms. Of the fleets with telemtatics vehicle tracking systems, many struggle to find ways to translate mountains of data into urgently actionable follow ups with their affected drivers.

On Thursday, November 6, 2014, SafetyFirst hosted a conference in Morristown, NJ for representatives from fifteen insurers gathered from across the country. The group Quoteable quotediscussed barriers which prevent many commercial fleets from adopting telematics vehicle tracking, and what could be done to get a system installed in many more fleets to increase fuel efficiency, decrease carbon emissions, increase safety results and decrease the likelihood of injuries due to crashes.

Current estimates suggest that 75% of commercial fleet policyholders do not use telematics vehicle tracking in their safety program efforts, and are unable to monitor driver redlight cam picturebehaviors that lead to crashes such as driving excessively fast, tailgating and weaving through traffic. A greater adoption rate of this critical safety tool could save lives immediately. Insurers, as trusted advisers, have the ability to properly and professionally influence the adoption of this technology to reduce injury-producing crashes. SafetyFirst, as a supplier-partner to more than 75 insurance providers, offers a best-in-class solution that fits fleets of all types and sizes.

While not discussing any proprietary or sensitive strategies related to insurance carrier operations, the program facilitated discussion around ways to promote SafetyFirst’s telematics vehicle tracking to more commercial fleet operators in a reasonable and affordable fashion.

Comments from the audience included:

…received a clear definition of facts versus typical marketing hype about device capabilities and reporting options. The data set produced by the GO7 is very detailed if not a little overwhelming. With the help of SafetyFirst and Verisk Analytics, the underwriting team has begun to tackle the challenge of how to use the collected data within our organization… – VP Underwriting

A great crowd of expertise represented…provided good food for thought as our organization moves forward on strategy around telematics offerings” – Loss Control Manager

“Outstanding session!  Exactly what I was looking for today” – Chief Underwriting Officer

About SafetyFirst — Dedicated to reducing the likelihood of commercial vehicle crashes and the costs associated with them, we provide a complete range of driver safety services to the insurance industry for the benefit of their respective policyholders. Programs include training, hotline reporting, DOT compliance, automated MVR profiling, and more.

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Evolution of Driver “Training”

Another traffic picRoughly 90% of all vehicle crashes are the direct result of choices, attitudes, and habits of drivers while behind the wheel.  They may choose to drive impaired, or they may choose to speed, text while driving or make other fundamentally risky decisions.

Historically, society has tried to adjust for these choices in several ways:

  • Improving the design of vehicles to make them better protect occupants in the event of a crash, and to help drivers have more control of the vehicle in various circumstances so that they might avoid some crashes
  • Instituting standards for road design and signs to make it less complicated to drive
  • Improving post-crash medical response to help people survive crashes
  • Providing education to drivers to help them understand the possible consequences of their driving so that they might exercise greater caution in handling their vehicles

This post deals with the evolution of driver safety “training” or education efforts.  Early driver education programs included personal communications (word of mouth) between drivers and later became written documents and even short motion pictures.  The documents continue to this day as state government driver manuals for both new motorists (driving for first time) or for drivers who are applying to become commercial drivers (i.e. CDL manuals).

Movies, videos, CDs, DVDs, and online presentations represent the conversion of those SafetyZone-LMSwritten documents (content) into a captivating medium that can better illustrate common scenarios encountered on the highway.  Sometimes it is much easier to show someone a concept than to try and describe it in words.

Early education efforts focused on two underlying models:  Intellectual Awareness (discussing the details of an issue) and soliciting an Emotional Response to trigger a change in habits:

  • Intellectual Awarenessan assessment of issue, how it occurs, what contributes to it happening and suggestion of practical responses to either avoid that issue or cope with the consequences of the issue.
    • An example is describing how speeding robs a driver of time to react, reduces distance to brake and increases the energy involved in a crash; therefore, slow down to buy time to react, stop and reduce the consequences of the collision that may occur.
    • Pros/Cons – this is a great way to help establish a foundation of important knowledge and understanding of the risks of driving, but it depends on holding the attention of the audience and whether they understand all of the details being presented.  It can become dull for those people who are not passionate about safety issues – possibly causing them to miss the message.
  • Emotional Responsemany people, especially over the age of 21, become set in their habits and mindset unless an emotional event triggers self-reflection and ignites a willingness to change in response to a tragic or shocking circumstance.
    • An example would be the dramatic reenactment of a crash on screen.  This may trigger a strong emotional response from the graphic depiction of the actors being hurt or killed in the scenario.  A presentation of a brief learning lesson helps redirect the learner to want to change their habits in response.
    • Pros/Cons – not everyone responds the same way to emotional stimuli.  Not everyone will identify with the “victims” in the same way.  Some may reject the scenario as unlikely to happen to them for some reason.  Others may be frightened of the consequences but fail to grasp the message on how to avoid that scenario.


Within the past twenty years, new models have emerged to engage drivers.  These models seek to obtain a personal commitment from the audience, or to influence the audience into a new perspective on a common issue especially where there is a general misconception of the immediate threat presented by the target behavior or habit such as texting while driving (Social Norming).

  • Personal Commitment Solicitation is an effort to make the audience see “what’s in it for them” or how issue could affect them unless they commit to self-monitor (or adjust) their own behaviors to avoid issue consequences)
    • An example would be the presentation of a series of reminders about how crashes happen from attitude, choices and habits with a strong, emotional discussion of the potential consequences and a final, direct appeal to the audience asking that (based on the presentation) make a personal commitment to change habits (typically two or three specific commitments).
    • Pros/Cons – this sort of presentation isn’t designed to set a foundation of “how to drive”, but does highlight the consequences of poor choices and asks for a commitment.  There’s no way to assure that a commitment will be made, but this goes a step further than merely presenting an educational session and stopping the presentation.

Tailgating Preview – Commitment from SafetyFirst Systems on Vimeo.

  • Social Normingmany people, especially younger people (teens, young adults) hold inflated perceptions of reality (i.e. “crashes happen to other people – not me”, “texting while driving isn’t such a big deal since I do it all the time and have never crashed”, etc.) The approach of social norming is to counter misperceptions and help the audience adjust their perception of the true situation (people die from texting while driving, etc.).
    • An example would be to demonstrate how absurd it would be to translate our attitudes while driving into other social situations in order to elicit a response from the audience that their habits must change.
    • Pros/Cons – while entertaining, it may not convince some audience members that they ought to change habits.

…OR…

SUMMARY

Raising safety awareness, convincing drivers of the need to “want to” change and reminding them of the risks they take while behind the wheel are good efforts to reduce the risk of crashes.  Driver education is only one part of the program, but it can be an effective part when different methods are used for different audiences (young or old, seasoned or novice, etc.)

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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.

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Are You a Honkaholic?

Safeco insurance, a client of SafetyFirst’s services, recently published a study of “honking behavior” – check out this article and think about the connection between frustration, aggressive driving and crash rates on the increase….

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Courtesy: Tilson Public Relations

Do you have your beeping under control? According to a recent U.S. driving study from Safeco Insurance, 58 percent of drivers report honking behavior with 47 percent of respondents reporting they get honked at and 39 percent admitting to honking at other drivers.

What’s your honk style?

The survey identified the following three honk styles among U.S. drivers:

  • Quick Tapper (beep, beep!) – 54 percent
  • Moderate Honker (beeeep!) – 38 percent
  • Prolonged Beeper (beeeeeeeep!) – 8 percent

 

How the noise nonsense makes drivers feel?

  • Angry – 20 percent
  • Frustrated – 19 percent
  • Stressed – 18 percent

Tomorrow is Drive It Forward Friday (#DIFF), a movement to inspire positive driving actions and encourage drivers to put the brakes on aggressive driving. More than 72 percent of U.S. drivers are willing to change their driving discourtesy on Drive It Forward Fridays.

Here’s what you can do to make…

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New Video Releases (July 1, 2014)

SafetyZone-LMS

SafetyFirst’s Learning Management System (LMS) assigns focused training modules to individual drivers based on their risk taking behaviors such as weaving in traffic, excessive speeding or running stop signs.  These behaviors can be reported using our Motorist Observation Reports (MORs) SafetyFirst TeleMatic Alerts (TMAs), or Motor Vehicle Records (MVRs) from enforcement violations.

Our LMS is designed with the flexibility to function as a stand alone product offering, or to work seamlessly with our other driver safety programs (i.e. Safety Hotline System, E-DriverFile, MVR services, etc.) so that when a driver’s individual risk score changes (due to a new violation, etc.) our system can automatically recommend/assign the right module.

Based on past experiences, we recognized that having “more titles” (that drivers don’t pay attention to) isn’t the goal when promoting a Learning Management System.  The best system is the one that gets used, and the one that drivers actually enjoy working with (i.e. current, captivating and concise content).

Looking to find that right balance between highly engaging content and covering the needed range of topics, we’re always working on new modules. We have several in post-production editing presently.  A preview trailer of these new topics is embedded, below.

Our approach to learning content is to keep it simple, make it personal, and ask the affected driver(s) for a commitment to drive differently tomorrow based on today’s message.

At 5 to 7 minutes in duration, our videos (and their respective 10-question quizzes) are highly engaging and deliver the key content without losing your driver’s attention.

Currently Available:

  1. Tailgating (English/Spanish)
  2. Improper Lane Change (English/Spanish)
  3. Honoring the Right of Way (English/Spanish)
  4. Driving Too Fast for Conditions (English/Spanish)
  5. Running Red Lights / Stop Signs (English/Spanish)
  6. Aggressive Driving
  7. Distracted Driving (Cell Phone/Text)
  8. Drug/Alcohol Use
  9. Drowsy Driving
  10. Faulty Equipment
  11. Driving Too Slowly for Conditions (Impeding Traffic)
  12. Exceeding the Speed Limit (supports GPS monitored fleets)

To be released July 1st, 2014:

  1. Rules of the Road
  2. Parking Lot Risks
  3. The “Other” Driver
  4. Hydroplaning
  5. Distracted Driving (all sources)
  6. Intersection Collisions

To learn more about our online program, please visit http://www.safetyfirst.com/interactive-training-modules.php

SafetyZone-Safety Goal

New NHTSA Study

drowsy drivingWhen dealing with a ‘ton of data’ about crashes, causes, contributing factors, costs and such, it can take several years to fully value and understand what it all means.  Why?

  1. First, there’s a lot to analyze.  
  2. Second, not all final crash costs are known until the bulk of medical treatments have been completed and reported.  
  3. Third, data about the source data becomes available during the analysis process (we gain insights as the analysis proceeds — sometimes causing us to reverse and re-examine details).

With these points in mind, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a new study of “The Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes” that occurred during 2010.

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We wanted to share some select quotes from the study to highlight several key findings.

In 2010, there were 32,999 people killed, 3.9 million were injured, and 24 million vehicles were damaged in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The economic costs of these crashes totaled $277 billion. Included in these losses are lost productivity, medical costs, legal and court costs, emergency service costs (EMS), insurance administration costs, congestion costs, property damage, and workplace losses. The $277 billion cost of motor vehicle crashes represents the equivalent of nearly $897 for each of the 308.7 million people living in the United States, and 1.9 percent of the $14.96 trillion real U.S. Gross Domestic Product for 2010. These figures include both police-reported and unreported crashes. When quality of life valuations are considered, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was $871 billion. Lost market and household productivity accounted for $93 billion of the total $277 billion economic costs, while property damage accounted for $76 billion. Medical expenses totaled $35 billion. Congestion caused by crashes, including travel delay, excess fuel consumption, greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants accounted for $28 billion. Each fatality resulted in an average discounted lifetime cost of $1.4 million. Public revenues paid for roughly 9 percent of all motor vehicle crash costs, costing tax payers $24 billion in 2010, the equivalent of over $200 in added taxes for every household in the United States.

Clearly, traffic crashes cost a lot of money!

Key contributing factors to the crash data in 2010 included:

  • Impaired (drunk) driving
  • Speed
  • Distraction
  • Seat belts saved many, but some (3,350 people) perished for failing to use their restraints properly/consistently

It is staggering to realize that during 2010, there were more than 3.9 million people injured in 13.6 million motor vehicle crashes (including about 33,000 fatalities).  Alcohol-involved crashes accounted for about 21 percent of all crash costs and a third of all road deaths.

Speed-related crashes (where at least one driver was exceeding the posted limit OR driving too fast for conditions) were connected to 10,536 fatalities (another third of the total for the year).

So, in hindsight, if all drivers had:

  1. worn their seatbelts properly,
  2. avoided driving while impaired and
  3. followed the speed limit (or driven with regard to local conditions)

then, about two-thirds of all road deaths could have been avoided (22,000 lives saved).

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The opening paragraph of the study that deals with speeding says a lot in a few words:

Excess speed can contribute to both the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes. At higher speeds, additional time is required to stop a vehicle and more distance is traveled before corrective maneuvers can be implemented. Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to react to emergencies created by driver inattention; by unsafe maneuvers of other vehicles; by roadway hazards; by vehicle system failures (such as tire blowouts); or by hazardous weather conditions. The fact that a vehicle was exceeding the speed limit does not necessarily mean that this was the cause of the crash, but the probability of avoiding the crash would likely be greater had the driver or drivers been traveling at slower speeds. A speed-related crash is defined as any crash in which the police indicate that one or more drivers involved was exceeding the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions, driving at a speed greater than reasonable or prudent, exceeding a special speed limit or zone, or racing.

In short, speeding robs you of needed reaction time – you need to make judgments faster and have less room to maneuver in an emergency.  Each of us can choose to drive slower and buy time to react and respond, but we’re often in a ‘hurry’ to get to our destination, and choose to increase or risk.

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The study reminded us of the urgent need for ALL drivers of cars, trucks, buses to properly use restraints such as seatbelts whenever driving.  Consider these statistics:

When properly fastened, seat belts provide significant protection to vehicle occupants involved in a crash. The simple act of buckling a seat belt can improve an occupant’s chance of surviving a potentially fatal crash by from 44 to 73 percent, depending on the type of vehicle and seating position involved. They are also highly effective against serious nonfatal injuries. Belts reduce the chance of receiving an MAIS 2-5 injury (moderate to critical) by 49 to 78 percent.

MirrorPoster_72dpiThe report did not have kind words for the use of motorcycles (however, I could speculate that the authors were concerned for the welfare of riders in delivering their findings in a stark way):

Motorcycles are the most hazardous form of motor vehicle transportation. The lack of external protection provided by vehicle structure, the lack of internal protection provided by seat belts and air bags, their speed capability, the propensity for riders to become airborne through ejection, and the relative instability inherent with riding a two-wheeled vehicle all contribute to making the motorcycle the most risky passenger vehicle. In 2010, 4,518 motorcyclists were killed and 96,000 were injured in police-reported crashes on our Nation’s roadways. This represents 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 3 percent of all police-reported injuries. Motorcycles accounted for only 0.6 percent of all vehicle miles traveled in 2010. Per vehicle mile traveled in 2010, a motorcyclist was about 30 times more likely than a passenger car occupant to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 5 times more likely to be injured. The difference in these proportions reflects the more severe injury profile that results from motorcycle crashes. Over the past several decades motorcycle fatalities and injuries have generally increased relative to those in other vehicle types.

Other observations included a good reminder that intersections continue to be a prime location for crashes since there are so many ways that vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists can interact with each other during turns or even while transiting the intersection (straight across).

SUMMARY

While the data summarizes activity from 2010, we can learn a lot about behavior, choices and safety results.  There’s never an inappropriate time to share safety messages with drivers about obeying traffic laws, using seatbelts and avoiding risk taking (i.e. driving while impaired, distracted driving, etc.)

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Tips from AAA on Mechanical Breakdowns

SafetyZone-Safety GoalAs a follow up to this month’s Ten-Minute Training Topic (on the value of inspecting your vehicle for obvious problems before any trip), we thought we would share this short video from AAA on what to do in the event of a breakdown.

While authored to help instruct drivers of sedans, the tips “work” for light and medium duty trucks, too.

If you’re not certain about your company’s specific policies or procedures, ask your supervisor.

Getting People to Change their Driving Habits

Following yesterday’s post about exploring fresh ways to address traffic safety culture, a colleague shared a link to an excellent blog called “Mobilizing the Region”   At this site (http://blog.tstc.org/2014/01/14/better-safety-education-campaigns-could-reduce-traffic-fatalities-in-the-united-states/) there’s a great article comparing the typical USA-based Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for traffic safety to those used elsewhere in the world.

Many of the US-based ads send a message of “DON’T GET CAUGHT“, implying that the unlawful, ill-advised behaviors and habits are fully expected and normal — just avoid detection and it’s OK.  Worse, some speeding PSAs send a message that speeding is OK, just expensive (if you can afford the fines, you’re somehow justified in speeding).

This past year a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted seven experiments. Two of them measured the behavior of drivers at four-way intersections and at crosswalks.  Conclusions?

  • “Drivers of more expensive cars are more likely to cut off other drivers and violate pedestrians’ right of way.” and
  • “Upper-class individuals’ relative independence from others and increased privacy in their professions may provide fewer structural constraints and decreased perceptions of risk associated with committing unethical acts.”

This seems to reinforce the PSAs who suggest the only reason to drive at or under the speed limit is if you can’t afford to pay the fine, but if you can afford it, set your own limit based on your wallet’s contents.

A recent article in Wall Street Journal “Should Wealthy Drivers Be Fined More for Speeding?” (January 12, 2014) discusses the emerging trend in Europe to base traffic safety fines on the net worth of the individual in order to curb reckless and aggressive driving habits.  The article suggests that “For a multimillionaire, a $100 speeding fine is simply a small price to pay for saving time on the road.” therefore, a rich Ferrari driver with a history of violations in Switzerland was recently given a $290,000 ticket–a world record. The article continues “Such fines, pegged to wealth, are becoming increasingly common in Europe. Germany, France, Austria and the Nordic countries are issuing higher speeding fines for wealthier drivers. In Germany, the maximum fine could be $16 million.

Do you think increasing fines (tied to personal worth) are feasible in the USA?  Would this approach make any difference or only confirm that driver safety culture can be bought at a price?  

2014 Ten-Minute Training Topic Calendar

SafetyZone-Safety GoalDriver education takes many forms in many companies.  A variety of methods used frequently helps assure that drivers receive the message that’s being sent by the management team.

We recognize that there are many really wonderful driver “training” programs out on the market, but many approach the educational program by making the driver sit in a class or in front of a computer for more than an hour at a time.  This cuts into their productivity and may become “mind-numbing” after the first 12 to 15 minutes – especially if they’ve already been through this topic in the recent past.

We’ve built two different systems to deliver “reminder” or “refresher” programs to supplement our driver coaching program.  Both approaches are designed to remind drivers of what they should already know and be practicing on a regular basis.  Both feature module duration at the 5 to 10 minute time span to respect your driver’s professionalism and to get them to actually listen!

What’s the difference between systems?

  1. SafetyZone-Safety GoalOur Ten-Minute Training Topic series is delivered monthly by email to each location manager.  This package can be used or delivered to drivers in many different ways — a classroom talk, a tailgate discussion, a payroll stuffer or anything that works for your company culture.  The manager’s supplement provides a little extra information to help the supervisor address these issues from a policy standpoint and the driver handouts provide practical tips that address safer driving.
  2. SafetyZone-LMSOur Learning Management System (LMS) is set up to offer “stand-alone” course assignment or to “integrate” automatically with either our Hotline (get a Motorist Observation Report, then assign training modules matched to the reported behavior) OR our E-DriverFile platform (get a new MVR showing fresh activity, then get modules automatically assigned based on violation codes) OR our telematics platform (get a series of alerts, then get modules specifically published for dealing with GPS alerts)

SafetyFirstEach year we publish a new calendar for our popular Ten-Minute Training Topic series.  These driver training packages are included in our very popular “driver safety hotline” program that some firms continue to call a “how’s my driving” program.

This article is focused mainly on our Ten-Minute Training Topic series that is included with our hotline program.

The monthly training package for drivers includes:

  1. A driver handout with statistics about the issue, a description of why they should care and tips to consider about their driving habits.
  2. A manager’s supplement report that includes current news stories about that month’s topic, links to web sites with additional resources and a discussion of how the month’s topic relates to company policies and procedures.
  3. A pair of power point presentations — one for easy copying/printing and one with full graphics and images to help drivers relate to the message at hand.

The very first Ten-Minute Training Topic was published way back in May of 2003 — long before any other vendors had ever considered breaking driver safety down into simple, focused modules.  We’ve been publishing a new or re-written topic each month since then — building an archive of over 120+ topics at our customer website.

During 2014, we will be publishing several interesting topics based on client requests and feedback:

  • January – “Surviving Winter Weather“
  • February – “Check Your Vehicle“
  • March – “Driving Safely Near Motorcycles“
  • April – “Backing“ (April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month so you may supplement with additional “distracted driving” modules from our library)
  • May – “Red Lights“
  • June – “Intersection Collisions“
  • July – “ROW On-Ramp Collisions“
  • August – “School Zones“
  • September – “Tailgating – Following Too Closely“
  • October – “Tires“
  • November – “Roadside Hazards and Debris“ (November is Drowsy Driving Awareness Month so you may want to supplement from our library)
  • December – “Poor Visibility“

In the past, we’ve published topics on many other pertinent and timely issues related to driver safety.  Current clients may substitute older issues for current issues by going to our site and downloading the older topics as they see fit.

TeleMaticsIn addition to providing these topics as a benefit of participating in the “driver safety hotline” program, some clients subscribe to the training topics as a stand alone program — separate from the hotline program.

We base most of the topics on suggestions we receive from current clients and their insurance carrier support teams.  If you have a topic of interest, please let us know and we will see what we can do for you.

If you have an interest in receiving a courtesy copy of one of our monthly programs, let me know!  Additionally, if you’d like to see a preview of our supervisory training programs, or our interactive training programs, we can arrange a web cast.

E-DriverFile

Diversion Programs and Violation Masking

If you get pulled over for speeding in Minnesota, it’s increasingly likely the police officer will give you a choice: Pay the ticket, or take a safe driving class.

The classes usually cost less than the ticket, and the violation doesn’t go on your driving record.

More cities and counties are offering “diversion programs” because they keep cases from entering the court system. One state auditor’s report, though, says there’s a problem with these programs: They’re illegal.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/11/14/news/driver-safety-class

PoliceIf you get pulled over for speeding in Minnesota, it’s increasingly likely the police officer will give you a choice: Pay the ticket, or take a safe driving class.

This legal tactic, known as “diversion” enables offenders to avoid prosecution (and resulting criminal record) in exchange for alternative outcomes like:

  • Education aimed at preventing future offenses by the offender (i.e. Traffic School in lieu of Moving Violations)
  • Completion of community service hours
  • Avoiding situations for a specified period in the future that may lead to committing another such offense

According to a wikipedia article on diversion programs:

Some jurisdictions in the United States, such as those in California, may impose the completion of DUI programs as punishment for drunk driving in the United States. One such program is the Victim Impact Panel (VIP). administered by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) since 1982. MADD typically charges a $25 “donation” (which is defined as voluntary), even for court-mandated attendance; MADD reported $2,657,293 one year for such donations on its nonprofit tax exempt returns.[11]

EdiscoverySome safety professionals do not like diversion programs since they tend to “mask” behaviors or habits that might otherwise be indicators of a deeper risk-taking mentality.  For example, suppose a chronic speeder relies on diversion programs to mask their speeding problem — ultimately, they may become involved in a fatal crash since their MVR (report of prior driving violations) didn’t signal the need for a stronger safety response.  Various reports have signaled that driver education programs often fail to reduce crash rates (click here) since:

  • Driver education does teach safety skills but students are not specially motivated to actually use them
  • Driver education could foster overconfidence
  • Driver education often fails to adequately address lifestyle issues
  • Driver education often fails to tailor content to student-specific needs

Further complicating matters is the fact that diversion programs are run locally — there’s no central reporting on who has participated and what the underlying cause may have been.  For corporate safety managers, that means giant holes in MVR reporting where all sorts of violations may have led to traffic stops, but there are no records to indicate an underlying issue with risk taking.

“We don’t want somebody with bad driving behaviors to be able to participate in diversion programs around the state and nobody knows how many they’ve participated in,” said [Minnesota] State Auditor Rebecca Otto. “If someone gets to participate in diversion in one county that’s doing this program, and then the next day they’re in a different city that has this program, their driving records are scattered all over.”

The view’s different, though, in sheriff’s offices and police departments across the state using diversion programs.

In Buffalo, Minn., the city started its Drive Smart program. Only people cited for minor moving violations — such as going 15 miles or less over the speed limit, running a red light, failing to yield – are eligible.  The number of programs like Drive Smart has nearly tripled over the last six years. More than 35 of them operate in cities and counties around the state.  [Unfortunately,]…There’s a range of fees. There’s a range of classes you get to take if you’re allowed to participate. One of them is an eight-minute online video that you watch.”

Motivating local departments and municipalities is the fact that generally a third of violation fines go to the state treasury, but diversion course fees largely stay local (a bigger cut of the pie stays at home).

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What do you think?  Should drivers be able to take an eight-minute online class and have a violation tossed as though it never happened?  In the end, would more drivers have more crashes if they have an underlying problem with risk taking while behind the wheel?  Is this all really about money in a tough economy?

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