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.

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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

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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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The Increasing Urgency of Driver Safety

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Despite crash rates falling to record lows during the recent economic recession, crashes continue to exact a toll on families and businesses.  Consider these factors:

  • The largest spike in fatal crashes ever recorded by NHTSA happened during the first six months of 2012 (click HERE for summary)
  • While crashes lessened for the remainder of 2012, the year end summary showed an increase over prior years (click HERE)
  • During 2013, early indicators showed millions of injuries from Motor Vehicle Crashes resulting in nearly 32,500 deaths.
  • According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), the most costly, lost-time worker’s compensation claims (by cause of injury) are from MVCs at an average of $65,875 per claim. (Click HERE for summary)
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a press release that the current minimum insurance requirements for the trucking industry are inadequate based on several factors including average medical treatment costs which have grown at a rate far above the standard consumer price index (Click HERE for additional insights).
  • The FMCSA’s “CSA model” is used to rate each fleet’s regulatory compliance ranking.  FMCSA’s use of the model has resulted in: company shutdowns; enforcement actions/interventions; and an increased sense of urgency among fleet operators to increase their compliance status. Unfortunately, skepticism remains high that this model is failing to have a direct, positive affect on crashes (click HERE)

Considering these factors, many fleet operators (in non-trucking business segments, especially) have been investing in driver safety tools, processes and procedures.  The most frequently asked question raised by professionals concerned about safety has been; “What else can I do to avoid crashes?

Most MVCs are due to a driver’s choices, attitude, and risk taking (click HERE) as determined by a study of about 500,000 driver records. MVCs are not due to a lack of qualification, skill or knowledge about how to drive.  Most drivers are appropriately qualified to at least minimum standards and “know” how to safely operate their equipment. Unfortunately, some become complacent in their safety vigilance, while others may be distracted while driving or suffer some form of impairment (i.e. drugs, drinks, fatigue, illness, etc.).

The real safety challenge presented to managers is monitoring drivers for:

  • compliance with company safety policies
  • compliance with local traffic safety laws
  • compliance with pertinent regulations (i.e. State or Federal)
  • proper driving techniques that minimize risk of becoming involved in a crash (not otherwise governed by policies, laws or regulations)

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The real challenge facing safety professionals is getting and understanding “information” about driver compliance so appropriate action can be taken to “coach” drivers back into compliance before their “behavior” leads to a crash.

In a recent American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study (click HERE), an insightful conclusion was summed up like this:

“By becoming aware of problem behaviors, carriers and enforcement agencies are able to address those issues prior to them leading to serious consequences. The converse is also true, however, as lower priority behaviors, if ignored, may begin to play an increasing role in crash involvement.” 

In other words, if you take the time to look for behavioral issues and do something about them, you can directly influence your crash rates.  Similarly, if you ignore behaviors deemed to be a “low priority” such as failing to use turn signals, they can develop into habits increasing the chances of being involved in a crash.

Safety Management Systems for Driver Monitoring

SafetyFirst’s approach to help our clients is to teach supervisors how to intervene with “at-risk” drivers in a compassionate way (Click HERE for a full article).  We help them develop data inputs, understand algorithms to interpret data, and provide turn-key solutions to put safety first in the attitudes of their drivers.

  1. Insights into a driver’s compliance with safety policies, rules & laws and vigilant, safe driving are developed through:
    1. Safety Hotline Reporting 
    2. MVR Scoring
    3. GPS/TeleMatics Exceptions
    4. Other “agnostic” or “third-party” mechanisms or data inputs (i.e. FMCSA data, video event recorders, etc.)
  2. These insights are funneled into our “E-DriverFile” platform in order to generate:
    1. Another example of a blended scoreA “blended” or “aggregated” risk score calculated from various data points — this highlights a driver’s need for management intervention
    2. A comparison of current versus historical data (i.e. Lagging Indicators”) such as past crashes (i.e. preventable vs. non-preventable, type, root causes, contributing factors, etc.)
    3. Tailored coaching and training modules to match a driver’s Behavioral Modification need (each module is less than ten minutes long, but covers specific risk-taking behaviors and their potential consequences)
    4. A safety history for each operator — noting corrective actions taken in response to concerns raised (closing the loop through quizzes, coaching notes, certificate of completion, etc.)
  3. Assist clients with their efforts at coaching/training/education/intervention
    1. Supervisor’s training program on “how to conduct effective (positive) coaching sessions”
    2. Online, interactive learning management system (tailored topics, each 5-7 minutes, asking for a personal commitment from each driver to modify their own habits).
    3. Monthly Ten-Minute Training Topics to benefit all drivers in a given fleet — keeping safety awareness at heightened levels throughout the year.

Do Results Count?

Many insurance carriers and private fleets have validated the impact of our programs through studies that show a 10-30+% reduction in claims (results vary but are tied to client participation — those who work the program more vigorously tend to get better results).

Supervisor testimonials also indicate that the SafetyFirst programs are easy to implement, maintain, and manage.  Our utilization, completion and reporting rates are among the highest in the Motorist Observation industry and Online Training community.

Comments from clients:

  • In first year, 25% reduction in claim costs, 24% reduction in claims/100 vehicles…It may seem basic but it’s what we know and how we hold our employees accountable (National Arborist)
  • As a national utility construction and maintenance contractor we have over 1,500 vehicles operating on the roads every day. The Safety First program provides us with the ability to cost effectively monitor and measure our fleet and driver performance in virtually real time. The Safety First program is an essential element in our approach to improving our fleet safety performance. The program has played a key role in our achieving a 54% reduction in incidents and accidents over the past three years. The Safety First programs reports and information assists us in recognizing our safe drivers and identifies those areas of our fleet safety program that need improvements. This allows us to focus our time and resources on the areas that will best improve our fleet safety and corporate image.
  • Those clients enrolled in SafetyFirst “…achieved a 9.2% better loss ratio than the total NP [Non Profit] book…the costs per claim would be $1055.00 representing a 73% reduction in cost per claim” (Insurance Carrier)
  • …not long into the program we started seeing measurable results. There is a definite sense of heightened safety awareness. The sticker on the back of the vehicle has the same effect on the operator as seeing the police car in the rear view mirror. (Arborist)
  • Working with SafetyFirst has been a breath of fresh air. The quality of service and value of the program are far superior to our previous driver safety vendor. All of the account transitions were completed seamlessly, resulting in positive feedback from policyholders.  (Insurance Carrier)
  • Since partnering with SafetyFirst, we have observed an increased interest and excitement in the program by our Field Staff. The tools and resources provided have proven to be valuable to both policyholders and Risk Control staff. (Insurance Carrier)
  • Our employee’s safety is paramount to us, and the return on investment is significant whereby the SafetyFirst program is an integral tool assisting us to reduce our losses related to motor vehicle accidents. (Electrical Services and Construction Firm)
  • The strength of the SafetyFirst Driver-Monitoring Program is that it gets people thinking and talking about their driving behavior PRIOR TO AN ACCIDENT. (Arborist)
  • I have to confess that I had some initial concerns about the program; the reduced accident numbers being projected seemed overly optimistic, and I was worried that my field management staff would fail to support the program and maintain it properly. Now that we have worked together for several months, I want to report that my concerns were overcome by your team’s effective communication with our field managers.  To summarize our results within our 400 unit fleet:  our accidents are down 15-20%; the field has bought into the program (measured by closeout of reports and coaching of drivers); we are rewarding drivers for proper performance. (Bulk Gases Distributor)

 Come learn how we can tailor a package that will reduce your claims, increase your insights, and help streamline the recordkeeping process.  We even blend your current vendor partners with our systems. (www.safetyfirst.com)NEw logo