Searching for answers on distraction

dis-enf-10-ever-officials_lo_res-post-72-enThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently published a Status Update titled “Searching for answers on distraction.”

This Status Update sheds new light on our evolving understanding of distracted driving, it’s contributing factors and compounding factors.

The article begins with a clear admonition followed by the conclusion of this most recent study:

Using a cellphone while driving is risky and can lead to crashes. Making or taking calls, texting, or interacting with an electronic device in any way can take your eyes off the road at a critical moment…

…A new study by IIHS in partnership with Virginia Tech helps clarify the risk of cellphone use behind the wheel and offers insight into other distracting things drivers do when they aren’t using cellphones. The research points to the need for a broader strategy to deal with the ways that drivers can be distracted.

It seems that as soon as this study and it’s summaries were released, critics came shouting that the study undermines the need to be vigilant in discouraging cell phone use of any type. However, the article makes it plainly clear that cell use isn’t the only issue we need to consider (yes, avoid cells, but no, don’t myopically focus on cells as the sole problem source)

Here’s the rub.  While cell use has skyrocketed, during the same time period, overall crash rates have plummeted.

drop in crashes over time

What does that mean?  From the study:

This doesn’t mean phone use behind the wheel is harmless. Numerous experimental studies have shown that talking on a cellphone reduces a driver’s reaction time, potentially increasing crash risk. Cellphone use also affects how drivers scan and process information from the roadway. The cognitive distractions associated with cellphone use can lead to so-called inattention blindness in which drivers fail to comprehend or process information from objects in the road even if they are looking at them. Studies also have found negative effects of texting on driving performance. The research is still unfolding, but there is a basic conundrum: Why is a distracting behavior not increasing crash rates?

The studies suggest a link between compounding behaviors and crash risk – when distracted in different ways or by more than one type of distraction, crash risk seems to go up.  So “multitasking” while driving = you’re not really driving, you’re busy being productive at your day job instead. Plus, some other behaviors seem to be even more problematic than talking on your phone.

Cell Phone Distraction VTTI IIHS 2014

This simply means we need to work at getting drivers to become more vigilant in their driving duties regardless of the nature or source of their distraction — indeed, put down the phone, but also stop the other distractions, too!

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21st Century Fleet Maintenance

StepVANSIn  a recent article, titled “How Telematics Has Completely Revolutionized the Management of Fleet Vehicles” published in Entrepreneur (Click HERE), the case is made on how UPS managed to increase maintenance intervals (reduce total number of inspections and PMs) while increasing fleet reliability:

That’s right: UPS went from 240,000 preventative maintenance inspections per year to 120,000. 

Director of automotive engineering Dale Spencer, who oversees the UPS fleet, explains that…For decades, UPS used the same maintenance schedule: changing the oil, fluids and brakes at prescribed intervals, no matter what…[now] UPS has learned to trust the [telematic] data–to monitor every truck remotely, from a high-temperature warning to signals as to whether a driver is wearing a seat belt. “We have the driver data; we know how fast they’re driving, how hard they’re stopping,” Spencer says. “That driver will change bad habits before it costs us money.”

With Telematics, it is easy to spot problems before they’d typically surface in normal PM inspections.  Some fleets are using the GeoTab program to spot failing alternators up to two weeks prior to the anticipated failure — giving them the luxury of pulling the vehicle when it is most convenient for their shop instead of dealing with a roadside failure later on.

It’s more than just cutting PM frequency to save money — it can be a powerful predictor of future recalls and warranty issues:

The software also allows the company to spot wear trends. “We could see certain parts wearing out on the same vehicles too quickly,” Spencer says. That enabled UPS to go back to the vehicle manufacturer and argue for a warranty claim because it was possible to document a pattern. Even a small-business owner with a 10-vehicle fleet might have such an advantage, he says, “as long as they had the data to prove it.”

ntdc truck lineupTelematics can also identify aggressive drivers who wear out vehicles faster than the norm within your fleet.  Drivers who accelerate, brake and swerve in harsh ways tend to kill the lifespan of brakes, burn fuel efficiency and damage steering and control systems. Often, these are the same drivers who top the list of “most crashes” before being asked to drive someplace else.

At the end of the day, the hardware and software your team purchases is important, but even more important will be the customer service support, the hand holding, the networking/benchmarking with other clients and the ability to integrate data into existing systems — all hallmarks of the GeoTab system offered by SafetyFirst (Click Here)

With SafetyFirst, we can integrate:

  • Scored MVRs (using your scoring system)
  • Aggregated Driver Risk Scoring (using crash data, HMD reports, MVRs and telematics)
  • Safety hotline reports (aka How’s My Driving – third generation)
  • Online Training Modules (5-7 minutes, newly produced, tailored to specific issues including speed alerts from telematics)
  • DOT DQ File Maintenance (online)

Further, these are all 100% in-house built systems — not merely a patch work assembly of multiple, third-party products that have been stitched together.

Connected Cars

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.)

drowsy driving

National Stop on Red Week

redlight cam pictureThe Federal Highway Safety Administration (FHWA) has selected the first week of August as “National Stop on Red Week”  This week is devoted to increasing public awareness of the dangers of red-light running through both education and enforcement activities.

This is an important tie-in to the start of the school season as well — children will be walking to school, along rural roads to bus pick up locations and crossing streets at intersections.  It is especially critical to reduce the frequency of red-light running to minimize collisions with pedestrians — especially school children.

To be as effective as possible, the FHWA encourages local communities to do their part in promoting this cause.  They’ve suggested ten specific ways to boost awareness of the issue that range from holding press conferences to setting up targeted enforcement areas.

The suggestion for employers to issue paycheck reminders (i.e. targeted messages to employees and their families) begs the larger question of how employers routinely educate their drivers (and office bound commuters, sales drivers, etc.) to obey traffic laws, signs and signals.

In the past, SafetyFirst has published Ten-Minute Training Topics on the dangers of red light running, and one of our very first Videos / Online training modules ever produced dealt with this issue, too.

FHWA provides additional information at this web site – http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/redlight/

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also has a page dedicated to red light running – http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/red-light-running/qanda#red-light-running

The Traffic Safety Coalition has produced a video to promote “National Stop on Red Week”:

Here are some more stunning videos of the aftermath of red light running:

Left Lane Hog?

Speeding is always a bad idea since higher speeds:

  1. rob drivers of reaction time
  2. increase stopping distance
  3. reduce driver’s ability to steer or control the vehicle due to the increased energy contained in the moving vehicle
  4. greatly increase the risk of crashes producing injuries or fatalities during inclement weather because of road conditions, poorer visibility, etc.
  5. violate traffic law in most cases (depending on conditions, posted limits, etc.)

blog rainy traffic day 1A recent NHTSA study (click HERE) confirms that speeding contributes to about a third of all crashes each year.

Having said all of that (and meaning it) we wanted to take a moment to talk about driving too slowly.

Yes, too slowly.

Almost all states have laws against impeding traffic on multi-lane highways (and some restrict left lane use for only passing).  This is one of the rules of the road covered in driver manuals, but often misinterpreted on the highway once we’ve forgotten everything we learned in high school driver’s ed.

PoliceNaturally, we’re NOT making a defense of drivers who speed in the left lane; however, we are suggesting that it’s not another driver’s right or obligation to block the passing lane or drive precisely at the speed limit in the left lane with the purpose or intent of impeding traffic.

While the aggressive speeder may be in the wrong, we’ve often heard the cliche that two wrongs don’t make a right!  Use the left lane appropriately and when safe to move over towards the right, allow the left lane for others to pass.

A much longer article on this issue was recently posted on July 9th — http://www.vox.com/2014/6/16/5804590/why-you-shouldnt-drive-slowly-in-the-left-lane

This article includes links to tables and maps showing state-by-state rules and laws governing this particular issue:

All About Cars: 9 Fun Car Facts | The Torch: Liberty Mutual

All About Cars: 9 Fun Car Facts | The Torch: Liberty Mutual.

A fun blog post over at Liberty Mutual’s blog site.  Our favorite from their list is number 6:

  • Your car is an elaborate puzzle of parts. Estimates show that the average car has over 30,000 parts. It might seem incredible, but when you start counting things like side panel pins and interior handle screws, you can see how the numbers can start to add up. That’s a lot of little pieces to put together.

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….

Fox17

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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