Crashes, Fatalities Tragically On the Increase for 1Q2012

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released preliminary data for the first Quarter of 2012. 

According to an Associated Press article;

“Traffic deaths soared 13.5 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year, and the number of deaths per miles driven also rose significantly, according to preliminary government estimates released Friday.  An estimated 7,630 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first three months of 2012, up from 6,720 deaths in the first quarter of last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.”

“If the estimate holds true, it would be the second largest year-to-year quarterly increase since the government began recording traffic fatalities in 1975. It would also run counter to historic declines in deaths over the past four years.”

While NHTSA did not provide any evidence or opinions about the change in activity, many experts attribute it to the steadily recovering economy, an increase in mileage and congestion, and more people commuting longer distances to find employment.

The significant question is whether this reversal in trends will continue and what that will mean for employers whose operations depend on vehicles for deliveries, transporting passengers, getting crews to job sites, etc.

During the downturned economy, many firms reduced overhead by eliminating safety programs, training, and safety professionals from their payroll.  While as a nation, we’ve enjoyed four years of decreasing fatalities and crashes, now is the time for responsible management teams to shake off any reservations about re-investing in proven safety programs.  Safety complacency and increasing road congestion make an extremely bad combination.

What are you doing, personally or professionally (as an employer or employee-driver), to modify your driving tactics as congestion increases?

2012 Calendar for Ten-Minute Training Topics

Driver education takes many forms in many companies.  A variety of methods 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 a “reminder” or “refresher” program to supplement our driver coaching program.  It’s designed to remind drivers of what they should already know and be practicing on a regular basis.  Also, it’s designed to do this in a very short time span — typically a ten minute tailgate talk or similar approach (i.e. self-study; coaching sessions, etc.)

Each 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.

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 when driving.
  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.

Occasionally we’ve tested other elements — word searches, handbooks and quizzes, or other training delivery formats.  All in all, our 4,000 clients have agreed that “keep it simple” has worked best and they really enjoy working with our materials.  It’s easier than dealing with bandwidth/kiosk issues for many clients and yet we’re also working on the release of an online, interactive training program, too (featuring four-minute length reminder videos followed by a very short quiz).

The very first Ten-Minute Training Topic was published way back in May of 2003.  We’ve been publishing a new or re-written topic each month since then — building an archive of over 80+ topics at our customer website.

During 2012, we will be publishing several interesting topics based on client requests and feedback:

  • January – “Check Your Vehicle
  • February – “Rollovers
  • March – “Roadway Defects and Debris
  • April – “Rain & Fog
  • May – “Right of Way
  • June – “Your Turn Signals
  • July – “The Other Driver
  • August – “School Zones
  • September – “Traffic Congestion
  • October – “Vehicle Clearances
  • November – “Unexpected Breakdowns
  • December – “Impaired Driving

In the past, we’ve published topics on Aggressive Driving, Cell Phones/Distracted Driving, Drowsy Driving, and 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.

In 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. 

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.

Driver Safety Hotline Benefits Your Drivers

It is uncontested that 80% of all commercial drivers drive consistently well, but a small percentage have “bad habits” that contribute to the vast majority of crashes and “near-misses”. 

How do you identify these drivers so that you can effectively help them drive better tomorrow so that they:

  • Do go home to their families each night
  • Do make their deliveries on time
  • Do receive positive training, not punishment
  • Do understand that safety is serious at your firm
  • Do help protect the company’s image
  • Don’t have to sit through depositions
  • Don’t get hurt or killed
  • Don’t get a moving violation (with the out-of-pocket fines!)
  • Don’t have their personal insurance rates jump (due to the moving violation)
  • Don’t reduce their “employability” due to tickets or accidents

Historically, there were two options available to safety managers to identify drivers who may be “at-risk” of becoming involved in a crash:  Motor Vehicle Reports (profiling based on past tickets – and provided electronically by our E-DriverFile System) and Crash Reports. 

Over time, these approaches were supplemented by tachographs (speed recorders) and “black boxes” which tell us about location, speed, hard braking, etc.  Each of these processes tells you about problems after they’ve already manifested themselves — so called “lagging indicators of performance”. 

You see, to wait until a driver has already gotten a ticket, or has shown up on telematics data reports as an “exceptional exception” adds a delay that increases the odds of a crash happening before you have time to intervene.

Another way to identify these “at-risk” drivers is with a simple, low-cost, turn-key solution.  Our hotline program spots those drivers, who, if their behaviors were ignored, would end up with a violation or crash event. 

Here’s the process:

  1. We send you a report about specific incidents.  We also send Training Materials tied to the specifics of the incident.
  2. You talk with your driver – not to fix blame, but to help them fix any underlying safety problems.  Additionally to help them understand that the goal is safety – to avoid injury no matter who or what was the cause of the reported incident.  We also train your supervisors on HOW to COACH affected drivers for positive outcomes!
  3. You send us the completed report and we provide a monthly recap of progress and patterns in activity.
  4. We send a monthly training package to help ALL of your drivers with safety.

That’s it.  It is very simple and highly effective. Plus, it’s designed to boost the results from your existing safety practices at a very low cost (less than $15-$17 per vehicle per year).

If you are willing to invest about one minute per day (30 minutes a month) to coach and counsel drivers on their performance before they get a ticket or get hurt, then why not check out the program, it’s ease of use, it’s simplicity and it’s effectiveness?

Please let us show you our new DRIVER COACHING PROGRAM for supervisors — it can help you leverage your Safety Hotline Reports, your TELEMATICS Data, and even your VIDEO recordings. 

While other vendors tell you to coach your drivers we explain HOW to coach your drivers for better results!  Want to preview our program?  Give us a call at 1-888-603-6987

Because Results Count, What Training Approach Makes the Most Sense?

Guest Commentary from Joe Zingale, VP Business Development, SafetyFirst Systems, LLC

I was speaking to my CEO, Paul Farrell, at the SafetyFirst corporate office and we were discussing driver training and all the various types and formats that exist today: Online Training, Video, Audio, Written, Classroom, Behind the wheel, etc. We are in development of our own training program and we wanted to determine what would be the most effective, defined by the results it produced (reduced incidents/collisions).

We agreed that there are a lot of “good” training programs out there already, but when you look closely at the current offerings and then at the needs of the majority of fleets, we recognized some surprising things:

  1. There are a large range of industries, each with their own special concerns for drivers to address
  2. Most larger firms have multiple types of vehicles – each with special concerns that should be pointed out to drivers (i.e. blind areas, special equipment, handling concerns, etc.)
  3. Regardless of the size of the firm, drivers encounter wildly different road types and weather conditions throughout North America (i.e. “winter driving” is very different in Arizona versus Manitoba or even Maryland)
  4. There are differences in driving between the same vehicle type  (i.e. “VAN” could mean: cable companies driving tech vans vs. social services organizations driving 15 passenger vans.).  

We soon realized that each company would have to decide whether they wanted:

  1. To build a massive library to deal with each and every one of these variable factors, or
  2. Settle for a generic menu of courses (i.e. light versus large vehicles, “Defensive Driving” practices, or some variation of a “one size fits all” program) that would provide little impact to the driver taking the course.  After all, the phrase “Generic Focus” is an oxymoron in the training world for good reason. 

We admitted that we’ve heard from safety managers who feel the effort becomes pointless when, after a driver has taken the course, there is another incident recorded by the same driver.  We’re not undervaluing training mind you. It’s necessary and important; however, how do we know when it was fully effective?  What are the metrics that show us the results?  Is it reduced crash rates or test scores?  Is it the ease of implementation, or whether the drivers like theLMS/Content?

It’s amazing to think about the amount of hours invested in most fleets for: entry level driver training; training to learn new or advance current skills; regulatory compliance and policy training; even post-incident refresher training.

In the years that I have been designing and implementing fleet safety programs, I don’t believe I ever had a client who knowingly put a driver on the road that wasn’t: licensed; trained; experienced; and fully qualified to the various selection processes such as background checks, drug testing, medical certificates, etc.  So, once a driver is on the road and has an incident/crash that wasn’t due to a mechanical issue or clearly the fault of another motorist, doesn’t it boil down to either complacency (unaware of habits) or negligence (aware, but doesn’t care)It’s not a lack of training, skill or knowledge contributing to these incidents.  Bottomline:  I’m certain that most drivers wouldn’t have been entrusted with a set of keys and a company credit card if their results depended primarily on whether they had “enough” training – so how is “more training” going to fix the underlying performance issue?  (Again, training as a safety method isn’t the problem, I think it’s the over-reliance on training as a cure-all solution that gets some folks in deep water.  Also, check out the article on “training transfer” at 

With our “How’s My Driving?” program we find that it is a small percentage of drivers who ever receive reports (10-15%) but studies by our insurance partners and fleet clients show that drivers with multiple reports have a much greater risk of becoming involved in a crash. The typical response is to offer more “training” to these drivers in the hope that we can change their day-to-day performance by re-teaching the six second following rule.  Would that work if the underlying issue is attitude, not lack of knowledge? Also, if the supervisor’s attitude reflects that of the affected driver (just watch this video so we can both get back to work, OK?) why would the driver feel the need to change his/her behavior?

Interestingly, our clients experience the highest report volume during the first several months of the program. It reinforces a theory I’ve long held – drivers who are “at-risk” of becoming involved in a collision (so-called “Unsafe Drivers” by the CSA program) either don’t recognize their risk taking habits or don’t care about them.  Those clients who invest the time to look these drivers in the eye and really coach them on specific issues received a noticeable reduction after the first few months.  Clearly, the drivers that “don’t care” that will continue to receive reports (ignoring the coaching/training efforts and sadly moving on to other means to motivate a change in performance) and those that “didn’t know” that they had slipped into habits, once they have been made aware of them, do not receive a second report. So, back to our discussion on our training program development.  As mentioned earlier, because of the size of the library needed to cover all the variables, and the low impact of generic training, we looked for a different solution.

In my experience, the best and most successful safety directors are those that take safety and make it personal – compassionately intervening to impress upon their drivers a need to change before something bad happens.

I have always admired the passion they bring to their work. It’s not about numbers for them. After all, it’s about motivating their team to perform, not how to avoid getting caught. Offense rather than defense! One analogy I have used when speaking to various groups is the Safety Director/Employee relationship is very much akin to the relationship between a parent and teenager (who feels “invincible” and safety is a message really intended for their peers, not themselves).

If you were concerned about your teenager’s safety and well-being, you’d talk to them about consequences, reasons to choose safety over the dares and “counsel” of their peers.  You’d look them in the eye and talk about why it is so important that they understand how much you care for them and why you don’t ever want to see them get hurt. In short, you’d “discipline them” where “discipline” is defined as; “…training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”  We want to know that they’ll behave a certain, predictable way when we’re not there to watch them or intervene on their behalf.

What we wouldn’t do with our own teenagers is sit them in front of a television, pop in a DVD and cross our collective fingers that the “training takes hold”.   Paul and I further agreed that we’d spend time driving with our sons and daughters and restrict them from driving with friends who’ll distract them and other steps.  Would you do any less for your own son/daughter when they’re driving for the first time?  How about when they’ve been driving for five years, ten years or twenty – the time we spend with them now pays dividends in continued safety – later (when we’re not with them).  I’m not going to trust aDVDor online course to build their internal “discipline” – would you? 

We recognized that the best way we could impact a commercial driver safety program would be to help the Safety Directors by giving them coaching strategies and tactics! I haven’t met with a Safety Director that isn’t already working 60+ hours a week going 100 mph with their hair on fire, running multiple programs at the same time across a number of areas beyond the fleet aspect of their job. We have, and are continuing to, develop our “training” to do two things:

  1. Address the actual performance issue through coaching and use training only as a reminder of what they should already know. In the case of a Motor Observation Report that could be tailgating, unsafe lane changes, speeding, etc.   We’ll coach on why these behaviors necessarily lead down the road to “bad stuff happening”, but then we’ll also coach on how the driver can/should self-monitor and correct those habits and performance issues while behind the wheel.
  2. Equip, enable and empower the Safety Director so that each meeting with an affected driver can be used as an opportunity instead of turning into a confrontation.  It’s not about “blaming”, it’s actually about “training reminders” – so that the performance (whether “attitude” or “complacency” based) improves to everyone’s benefit.  The driver reduces the likelihood of getting a ticket or injury, and the fleet improves their CSA scores and maintains reasonable insurance pricing.

Our coaching program covers the comments and responses between driver and management, based on feedback we have collected from our clients, so that conversation is positive and the effect is the driver is a better driver!   To introduce our coaching program (an opportunity that really is best addressed through education) we have produced a brief, but powerful video package for supervisors to learn how to implement these concepts.

As our decals state; “Safety Is My Goal” – getting to that state of “safety” takes eyeball to eyeball conversations – training by proxy through an internet connection may be “easy” but only gets results defined by needing to buy more training.  We’d rather measure success by fewer injuries — Does anything else matter?

Joe Zingale recently joined SafetyFirst as our VP of Business Development and can be reached toll free at855-229-3220.  Joe has 17 years experience in driver safety having previously worked at Driver’s Alert, but finally “seeing the light” and making the change to SafetyFirst during 2011.

Joe Zingale Joins SafetyFirst Team

PARSIPPANY, NJ; July 19, 2011 – SafetyFirst Systems, provider of various driver safety and fleet safety programs, has named Joe Zingale as its new Vice President of Business Development.

Mr. Zingale, who had been Vice President of Sales at Driver’s Alert, will be in charge of increasing SafetyFirst’s core business while expanding into other markets and offering additional programs through key partner relationships.

“Our company’s core mission is to meet the needs of our customers by offering ways for them to reduce the likelihood of commercial vehicle collisions,” noted Dan Lessnau, President of Sales at SafetyFirst. “Joe’s extensive network of relationships with insurance personnel, safety managers, risk managers and innovative vendors will help us expand product offerings and grow our client base.”

Before joining SafetyFirst, Mr. Zingale spent 17 years at Driver’s Alert in a variety of roles with a special focus on developing relationships with fleet managers, safety directors, and insurance industry professionals from carriers, agencies and brokers.  “If you ask me what I do, I’d have to say ‘find out what clients want and then make it happen!’’ said Mr. Zingale.  “By teaming up with SafetyFirst, I feel empowered to deliver a higher level of customer service and custom program elements than ever before in my career.”

His passion for living comes from his interest in health and fitness as a personal trainer.  Mr. Zingale has pursued outdoor activities and team sports ranging from his involvement in high school and collegiate football as well as active participation in the Boy Scouts of America’s youth leadership program.