Google Glass & Driver Safety: What Do You See Ahead?

Preemptive action is being considered by the UK Department for Transport in light of the impending release of Google Glass technology.

Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (you see data floating in front of your face because its being displayed immediately in front of your right google-glass-drivingeye). Google Glass enables users to interact with the Internet via natural language voice commands so you could get turn by turn navigation to your destination, check for traffic congestion ahead, note detours and construction zones, get weather reports, sport score updates, record videos (it has a camera built in) and much more.

The chief safety concern is that wearing these glasses while driving could introduce new and dangerous distractions to the wearer.

This has prompted action by the UK Department for Transport whose spokesman has said

We are aware of the impending roll out of Google Glass and are in discussion with the Police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving.

It is important that drivers give their full attention to the road when they are behind the wheel and do not behave in a way that stops them from observing what is happening on the road. A range of offences and penalties already exist to tackle those drivers who do not pay proper attention to the road including careless driving which will become a fixed penalty offence later this year.

We are aware of the impending roll out of Google Glass and are in discussion with the Police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving.

In addition to this proactive stance, West Virginia state representative Gary G. Howell has introduced an amendment to the state’s law against texting while driving that would include bans against “using a wearable computer with head mounted display.” In an interview, Howell stated, “The primary thing is a safety concern, it (the glass headset) could project text or video into your field of vision. I think there’s a lot of potential for distraction.

Technology journal “CNET” reports that “In the past Google has offered that it doesn’t see Glassing and driving as dangerous…: ‘We actually believe there is tremendous potential (with Glass) to improve safety on our roads and reduce accidents. As always, feedback is welcome.'”

Several articles on this topic suggest that the general public and at least one car manufacturer (http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/07/30/mercedes-benz-intergrating-google-glass-into-its-cars/) are looking forward to using Glass while driving.

PedestriansWith all the statistics on distracted driving collisions that come from holding a cell phone or checking email while driving, would the design of “Google Glass” make a significant difference in allowing drivers to navigate among pedestrians, cyclists, roundabouts, intersections and stop lights while checking stock tips?

Is the ability to record videos using Google Glass a redemptive quality in that the system could record, save and transmit collision videos directly to the claims unit of the driver’s insurance carrier? Is there an app for that?

Hmmm. What do you think about this device and it’s potential impact on safety?

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Webinar: Motivating Drivers to Make Safer Decisions

Everest National Insurance, together with Aspen Risk Management Group hosted a webinar today (4/23/2013) on the topic “Motivating Drivers to Make Safer Decisions“.   SafetyFirst’s CEO, Paul Farrell, was the presenter.

The topic is timely and vital to fleet operations regardless of their native industry type or business model” says Farrell.  “We’ve learned over the past thirty years that ninety percent of commercial vehicle collisions are due to driver’s attitudes, actions, choices, beliefs and assumptions about risk taking while driving.  If drivers operate in violation of safety policies,   and we can diagnose why this is happening, we’re on the path to getting their cooperation and compliance.

Dan Lessnau, VP of Sales at SafetyFirst contributed this thought; “While technology can play a very important role in enhancing both vehicle and driver safety results, the human factor can’t be underestimated.  When managers make time to self-audit their current practices, evaluate their successes and apparent failures, they’re enabling themselves to define a solid benchmark to build upon.”

While many drivers do operate their vehicle in compliance with company policy and state traffic laws, some violate these guidelines for various reasons.  Noncompliance can lead to traffic violations and crashes with damaged vehicles, injuries or even fatalities.  These negative outcomes influence business results, BASIC measures (in regulated fleets) and even insurance premiums when rated on a past-loss basis.

Of those drivers who are consistently non-compliant with company driving policies, there are four distinct populations of drivers:

  1. Those who are genuinely unaware of the nature of the risk or the policy which is in place to address that issue. (aka Training/Education Issue)
  2. Motivating Drivers to be saferThose who are aware that there is some degree of risk and/or that there is a policy in place to address this type of behavior, but there is also a genuine misunderstanding about the nature of the risk (consequences) or what the policy is communicating. (aka Communications Issue)
  3. Those who understand the nature of the risk and the intent of the policy very clearly, but fail to comply out of conflicting expectations from their own management team (i.e. “Hypocritical Enforcement or a “goal alignment issue” where the actual rewards and benefits for violating the policy (i.e. pay, productivity, etc.) may be greater for non-compliance than for compliance.) (aka Goal Alignment)
  4. Those who understand the nature of the risk and intent of the policy, but simply choose to violate the policy by sheer willful decision.  (aka Performance Issue)

Diagnosing why non-compliant drivers are violating policy based on the model described above is the starting point to improving results.  Questions like the ones below could be used to help diagnose why some drivers may not have been aware of the policy, or didn’t understand the policy fully enough to comply on a consistent basis:

  • Are all drivers fully aware of our expectations for their performance?
  • How have we communicated these expectations?
  • How do we know that the message was received and understood?
  • Did we take a “once and done” approach or have we used thoughtfully repetitive messaging to reinforce the communication effort?
  • Have we evaluated the simplicity of the wording used since legal teams often interject very precise wording that may be difficult to understand?
  • Did we use illustrative examples to clarify how the policy would be applied in realistic scenarios?

Drivers who heard the policy and understood the expectation may require additional information to translate their understanding into positive action.  For instance, going the extra step to explain why the policy is needed, what goals are being sought through the policy and “what’s in it for me, the driver?” could provide motivation for some to voluntarily comply on a consistent basis.

Other concerns include how the message gets delivered.  Some old-line managers valueYou tell his mommy the melodramatic message to shock people and use emotion to motivate compliance.  This image and message accomplishes that goal, but this approach can be overused and become ineffective for several reasons.

First, a steady bombardment of this type of heavy handed messaging may make drivers feel like they are villains or make them angry if there is hypocritical enforcement (i.e. managers breaking the same rules with impunity).  Secondly, youthful drivers have been raised on a steady diet of “just say NO” messaging or “this is your brain on drugs” messaging and they have become increasingly calloused towards the approach.  “Our caution is to evaluate the types of messaging being used and take great care to avoid over reliance on one type or style.  A great variety of messaging mechanisms keeps the information fresh and attractive.” commented Farrell.

Goal Alignment, Mixed Signals, Crossed Purposes

That segment of drivers who understand fully, but don’t comply by choice may be doing so for a range of reasons.

First, we must recognize that from the driver’s own perspective, rules such as state traffic laws or company policy can seem like suggestions:

  • compliance isn’t monitored or enforced with consistency
  • the consequences for non-compliance are not feared (i.e. seen either as trivial or unlikely to occur)
  • bigger reward for non-compliance than for compliance undermines value of adhering to policies
  • “just don’t care” factor (personal liberty is more valuable that potential consequences of non-compliance)

The “just don’t care” factor can be best illustrated in light of Virginia Technical Transportation Institute and Insurance Information for Highway Safety studies showing:

  • Policethe difference in compliance between companies with cell phone bans versus no policy at all = %17 (neither complied very well)
  • no measurable difference in early results between those states with a cell phone ban versus those with a strong ban in place.
  • crashes rose slightly in those states with a ban versus those without.

Dealing with this segment of the driver population (understands policy, but rejects compliance) may boil down to monitoring and enforcement actions, which will be discussed in the final segment of the article.

Next we must open our eyes to operations teams who reward productivity through bonuses, stronger pay raises, or management praise while sending signals to drivers that speeding, using hand-held cell phones while driving and other risky practices are worth broken rules if it means more revenue.   If drivers believe that the possible rewards gained by breaking the rules outweigh the risk of the potential, but likely consequences, they’ll continue to violate the policies.  

Some drivers break the rules because the management team encourages them to do so — for instance, no one is to use their cell while driving “UNLESS” it is their boss on the line demanding to speak with the driver immediately.  This sort of hypocritical enforcement adds to confusion about compliance and how to apply directions given by the management team.

Time For A Change

Weeding out “hypocritical enforcement” (however subtle) and making sure that manager’s goals/expectations are properly aligned with policy statements isn’t always easy, but it does help everyone in the organization focus on a common goal.  While we’ve previously done whole webinars on goal alignment for fleet safety results, our focus today was on ways management teams could monitor driver performance and increase the accountability of both managers and drivers in regards to policy compliance.

Some parallels worth examiningWe believe this monitoring and enforcement effort actually begins with candidate screening practices (i.e. “setting up for success”).  Some organizations use screening tools such as DISC or other behavior/motivational/skills based testing to find “rules compliant” applicants.  Others use revised interview questions and tactics to evaluate a candidate’s attention to details, listening skills and so on.  This is also a good time to begin sending the messages that safety is important and valued within your organization.

Other monitoring and enforcement mechanisms were covered during the webinar and ranged from How’s My Driving hotlines to MVR profiles to identify drivers who may be at-risk of becoming involved in a collision or may have broken a local regulation.  Technology such as on-board recorders, GPS systems and even Camera-in-Cabin systems were introduced with their respective pros and cons.

The group had a special interest for cell phone enforcement technology, and incentive programs which might be used to help spur compliance.  We discussed the emerging technology solutions around cell phone control, including pitfalls and ways to defeat the systems.  We also discussed why incentive programs can start strong and end in ashes if not carefully managed each step of the way.

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Summary

Drivers need clear communication of expectations which are consistently reinforced by their own management team.  Simple rules, thoroughly monitored and fairly/evenly enforced using technology and administrative programs can make a vast difference in safety results obtained.   Motivating drivers to make safer decisions while behind the wheel is one of the cornerstones of a solid driver safety program.

Current SafetyFirst clients and their respective insurers will have access to the slides at our website shortly.  If you’re not currently affiliated with SafetyFirst and would like to discuss this topic or get a copy of the slides and support materials, please contact us at support (at) safetyfirst (dot) com (providing your contact information and how we can assist you) or call us toll free at 1-888-603-6987

SafetyFirst provides driver safety services to a network of more than 75 insurance providers and 3,800+ active fleet clients throughout North America.  Driver Education, Online Interactive Modules, Driver Coaching, Hotlines, GPS and more are available through our consultative team of transportation, insurance and IT specialists.

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