David Crangle of Transpoco tells us about behavioural trends of driving staff and how we can improve safety performance in vehicles.
Driver education is something normally associated with learner driver programmes, usually as a precursor to obtaining a driving licence. Through a theoretical and an in-vehicle approach, learners get ready to pass an exam to become drivers, and that’s where the idea of education used to begin and end. In recent decades, though, the learning process of drivers has acquired greater emphasis and has become ongoing throughout life.
The fundamental aim of training is to improve the performance of drivers in order to decrease the chances of road accidents and mitigate the damage caused, but is also undertaken to meet environmental targets, reduce vehicle wear and tear, and ultimately cut costs and increase the efficiency of companies dependent on vehicles. The starting point of successful training is the observation and management of behaviour, which is today seen as the most effective strategy to create safer models of driver behaviour as well as forming a solid base for the establishment of assistance and safety systems.
Why focus on driver behaviour?
Underpinning the importance of observing conduct behind the wheel of those who are expected to drive for work is the stark fact that this commercial activity has been identified as one of the riskiest. The chances of being involved in a crash while driving a company car is 29% higher compared to driving a privately-owned car according to research carried out by Maycock et al (1996) or even as much as 49% according to Lynn and Lockwood (1998).
People that drive for work are influenced by a number of factors that impact on their driving style: stress and time pressure to meet deadlines or delivery times; fatigue and the tendency toward complacency or operating vehicles in a sort of “auto-pilot” mode; distractions—especially the ones brought on with the use of smartphones or tablets behind the wheel; last but not least—traffic and road conditions, or personality and health, can contribute to road rage that is potentially linked to infractions, minor collisions and erratic driving that is all part of the vicious circle leading to fatigue, stress and increased risks on the road as well as extra costs.
In one of the latest pieces of research about driving monitoring and assistance systems, published in June 2019, Khan and Lee identify the driver’s attention as the key element to be maintained in order to ensure safe driving is practised.
According to the same piece of research, some key driving behaviours, which can be summarised in the three categories of distraction, fatigue and aggressive driving, have been classified as contributing factors in more than 90% of total accidents. If we consider the first category: common distractions might include eating or drinking; looking at other road users, pedestrians or something of interest; texting or listening to a phone, with visual and cognitive distraction having the most impact on vehicle control.
With regards to fatigue, according to the European Transport Safety Council it is defined as something that “concerns the inability or disinclination to continue an activity” combined with a feeling of tiredness that compromise driving performance, caused by mental and physical fatigue, with drivers experiencing different symptoms.
Finally, aggressive driving includes types of improper behaviour that is not necessarily practised by an unhealthy or fatigued driver, such as speeding, rapid acceleration, harsh braking or cornering and not using indicators when turning.
The studies of driver behaviour and modes of driving style are gradually addressing unsafe driving (and will continue to do so in the near future) through a variety of assisted driving devices and technologies that help drivers not only become more aware of road situations but also in making quick decisions and taking prompt action.
Driver behaviour monitoring via specific software or in-vehicle data recorders have also proved successful in decreasing accidents by 20% (I.J. Wouters and John M.J. Bos, 2000), especially if followed up with driver training.
Vehicle and driver data and events are highlighted to foster driver improvement and positively influence driver behaviour, with drivers getting increased awareness of what their behaviour behind the wheel means not just in terms of safety, but also in terms of fuel efficiency and the size of carbon footprint.
If both companies and drivers receive that information, they are given guidance on how to properly address risks and achieve safer standards. A sound driver behaviour monitoring system combined with safe driving policies and supported by a strong safety communications programme able to get the message across and engage with drivers will do the rest; and companies that operate vehicles will certainly see the benefits if they decide to actively monitor driver behaviour.
Fleets and companies using vehicles for their daily activities now have the opportunity of controlling driver behaviour to evaluate their risks and global performance. Using that information to make the needed shift towards safer and more efficient driving is the way towards safer workplaces, safer roads and a more trustworthy generation of drivers.
The accident liability of car drivers: The reliability of self-report data. TRL Report TRL219. Maycock G, Lester J and Lockwood C R, 1996.
The accident liability of company car drivers (No. 317). Crowthorne: Transport Research Laboratory. Lynn, P., & Lockwood, C. R., 1998.
A Comprehensive Survey of Driving Monitoring and Assistance Systems, Muhammad Qasim Khan and Sukhan Lee, June 2019.