The article originally appeared in AFLA Fleet Forward Volume 14 Number 5 edition
It’s scary out there. We all know it. We all see it. The roads have gotten more dangerous since the beginning of the pandemic, and your fleet drivers need to be more vigilant than ever.
NHTSA is projecting 42,915 deaths on U.S. roads last year, which is up 10.5% from 38,824 fatalities in 2020. It’s also the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the biggest annual percentage increase in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
According to Sara Sweeney, Product Manager at Wheels Donlen, “Fleet managers play a pivotal role in roadway safety and helping to keep safety top of mind – at all times – is critical to getting employees home to their families at the end of each day.”
So, what’s going on and what can we do to keep our drivers safe? Phil Moser, Vice President of Customer Development at Driving Dynamics, offers these insights:
“There are numerous reasons why things have gotten so unsafe on the roads in the past couple of years, and here are a few of them:
* Driving is a skill, and like any other skill it will deteriorate without use. During the shutdown, people lost many of their good and safe driving skill and habits, and it can sometimes be difficult for drivers to relearn good and safe skill and habits. It will take effort and retraining in order for drivers to drive as safely as they did prior to the shutdown.
* When the roads were less crowded, drivers picked up the habit of speeding and they haven’t slowed down. That must be changed. For every 10 mph increase in speed after 50 mph, your chances of being involved in a fatal crash doubles.
* For many people, during the pandemic shutdown, their only connection to the outside world was through their electronics. Now people are driving and using these devices at an even greater level than they were before. If you are talking on the phone, hands free or handset, you are as likely to crash as an impaired driver with a .08 blood alcohol concentration. If you are texting, tweeting, checking messages or any other alpha-numeric activity, you are 23 times more likely to crash. Our phones are simply not worth the risk.”
When it comes to road safety, ADAS features can offer great advantages – but drivers also need to be careful not to over-rely on them:
“ADAS solutions help bring the driver’s attention to potential concerns, like other vehicles on the road, pedestrians, or distractions they may not be aware of,” says Sweeney. “When used correctly – which means they’re all turned on and their limits are understood – they are immensely helpful. I know this seems like an antiquated thing to do, but I really encourage drivers to read the owner’s manual for their vehicle to ensure they understand the ADAS features they have.”
“When the features are turned off, or when their limits are not understood, that’s when ADAS features aren’t helpful and might even be a hindrance to safety. An indication of how ADAS features should and shouldn’t be used should be included in your fleet policy.”
So, what broad steps can your fleet take? Well, for one, your safety training should always keep up with the times. According to Moser, “Safety training must evolve and remain relevant to current driver safety challenges.”
Let’s all stay safe out there!