Leveraging Data, Driver Experiences to Improve Road Safety
The automotive industry is undergoing rapid innovation, with exciting advances being made into technologies that we once thought either unachievable in our lifetime or just downright impossible. No, we’re not driving flying cars with venetian blinds as one prediction from 1942 suggested, but even that idea isn’t as distant as you might think, although the concept has moved away from the car as the base platform towards as-yet-undefined modes of personal transportation, such as this “new type of craft”.
Electric and autonomous innovations get the most column inches, which is understandable. Each new development is even more remarkable than the last, and it’s exciting to see how far this new technology can be pushed. But they’re relatively easy topics to understand and digest, making for good quick news pieces. The conversation around data, however, can often be heavy and granular, and whether we like it or not, data is completely revolutionizing the way we drive. Some of the most important recent advancements in this space have focused on the use of data to improve safety for drivers. Cars can check their own blind spots and alert drowsy drivers by simultaneously analyzing hundreds of data points. They can apply the brakes by themselves in an emergency situation, and turn on the hazard lights when sensors detect heavy braking. All of these processes collect and store data within computers inside the vehicle, which is great – but how can we take advantage of this data to implement safety improvements for drivers?
Fleet managers have access to actionable data to help make their fleet a safer one. And that’s exactly where we see companies moving. To determine how risky your fleet drivers are requires gathering information from several different data sources. And the data works together to help you identify the next steps in your risk management strategy. The goal is to integrate and analyze data from multiple devices to create a holistic view of what’s happening with the vehicle, the driver and your entire fleet.
But let’s take a step back and consider some of the other ways we can be safer drivers, away from the underlying data and the technology bearing down on us. What can we do to make our journeys a little safer?
Avoid distractions. Just remember, you’re behind the wheel of a machine that has the potential to be extremely dangerous if operated without due care. I’m not suggesting that cars are inherently dangerous, but anything that distracts you from the road ahead needs to go. Of course, cell phones are the number one distraction, but even an act as simple as reaching across the passenger seat to grab something can have grave consequences. And that fast food you just grabbed at the drive thru? It can wait! Many states in the U.S. have now completely outlawed the use of cell phones without a handsfree device, so make sure you know and abide by the laws where you live. And just for reference, texting while driving is illegal in almost every state, the only exceptions being Missouri and Montana – really guys?
Embrace good distractions. But you just said to avoid them? The monotony of driving, especially if you live in a big city with heavy traffic, can sometimes drag you down into an inattentive state. Have you ever been deep in thought, driving down the highway, and then you realized your body and mind had been on autopilot for the last half mile? Focus! Listening to music can help, but is it the right type of music? That may seem like a strange question, because is there really a right or wrong type of music? Well, according to a survey completed by a British insurance web site, different types of music can affect your driving style. Specifically, rock and hip hop are especially dangerous. “Music that is noisy, upbeat and increases your heart rate is a deadly mix. Fast beats can cause excitement and arousal that can lead people to concentrate more on the music than on the road.” While I can’t say I entirely agree with the results, I think that a switch up every now and then can help. I’ve recently started listening to comedy channels on the radio. Catching snippets of full set pieces allows me to dip in and out, and laughter is a great medicine for almost every problem.
Negative influences. I shouldn’t have to say that driving under the influence will negatively impact your ability to safely drive a vehicle, but it will. And it’s not just alcohol that counts as “under the influence”. Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgement, yet many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving. Driving drowsy is something else that we should all try to avoid. No one knows the exact moment when sleep comes over their body. Falling asleep at the wheel is clearly dangerous, but being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t fall asleep. We’ve all seen the highway signs recommending that we take a break, but often it’s impractical to do so as we’ve got places to be and people to see. Pulling over for an unplanned six-hour nap is not something any of us are realistically going to do. But parking up and taking a five-minute stroll and getting some fresh air can really help. Opening up a window to get some fresh air can also work wonders, and if you’re a coffee drinker maybe stop and pick up quick cup somewhere.
I’ll leave you with an astonishing fact: 94% of all road incidents are caused by driver attitudes and behaviors rather than a lack of knowledge. You probably knew all of the above already, but maybe this article reminded you of some of the ways in which we can be proactive in regard to our own safety. And if we can combine this knowledge with a data-driven safety program, then even better. Imagine a world where you could use data to proactively identify and mitigate risks before they happen. A data-driven approach to safety can help companies better predict the level of driving risk, and for more information on this topic – check out our eBook on data-driven safety.
About the author
Kristofer Bush serves as vice president, product management for LeasePlan USA and has been with the organization for more than 19 years. He recently took on this new assignment with a focus on product management. His team is responsible for the development of products such as Safety, Connected Vehicles and client portal tools like the MyLeasePlan driver app. While he believes that he is an excellent driver, many of the tools that LeasePlan provides their clients’ drivers have proven to him that he still has a lot of room for improvement.
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Graph 1: fleet management activities
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José Miguel Fernández Gómez
I´m a Fleet Management expert, and the manager of Advanced Fleet Management Consulting, that provides Fleet Management Consultancy Services.