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Risky Distractions—Steer Your Fleet Safely Through Them

February 8, 2018

Everyone in fleet management knows that distracted driving is a clear and present danger. It is so serious a concern that it prompted legendary  film director, Werner Herzog to make a 35-minute film on the subject.

From One Second to the Next was sponsored by cell service provider AT&T, and it is a relentless look at the harsh consequences of texting while driving—the liabilities, suffering and fatalities. Hundreds of thousands of young pupils have seen it at school screenings.

Fleet managers have to assess the risk, then address it.

Distracted driving is instantaneous and it is sporadic, unlike aggressive driving which shows as a definite pattern of violations over a certain period of time. Lack of attention, or inattention, is seen as a sudden error caused by a distraction which is instantly followed by a corrective action. A 100-vehicle study developed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) gathered 42,000 hours of data over a year through sensors and showed that 78% of the accidents recorded and 65% of the near-accidents were on account of driver inattention.

Now, what really does this term 'driver inattention' cover? There are two principal classifications under it—there’s driver distraction and there’s driver fatigue.

Alert or astray? When does your fleet manager come to know?

Driver Distraction—this is something that happens when the driver’s attention that is required to carry out the activities needed for safe driving is drawn away by another parallel activity. Distracting activities could be of many kinds—a person, a billboard or an event on the road could divert the driver. A driver could be eating or drinking while at the wheel. They could be on a call over a mobile phone or, as the Herzog film shows, texting—they are typing, sending or reading an SMS.

As per the NHTSA classification—distractions come under four categories, though a particular distracting activity could be a combination of two or more of them. The four types are visual distraction, auditory distraction, cognitive distraction, and biomechanical distraction.

Are your company’s policies in place? Are they driver-friendly?

Even entertainment systems, ranging from a simple radio to a gaming console, can be highly distracting. Mobile phones are a major source of distraction to drivers, and this has been a concern in many countries. The message that multitasking is not compatible with road safety is being propagated by NGOs, police, hospital, civic authorities and the auto industry. Driver-focused fleet management solutions are addressing this issue, such as Azuga’s DriveSafe.

How and where does driver fatigue show up? Fatigue manifests itself through reduced performance and driver drowsiness. A driver who’s fatigued will have a bout of yawning, show sluggish reflexes and slowed down response, closing eyelids, irritability, and a tendency to stray from the driving lane or off the road due to loss of concentration. A fatigue prone driver is someone who’s become unable to continue driving after a certain number of hours which is their threshold.

Fleet Management is about engaging drivers, not enraging them

Fatigue driving accidents also happen mostly in the night when weaker lighting conditions are difficult to cope with for drivers who are sleepy. Sleepy drivers are estimated as being involved in 15-20% of all vehicle accidents. Real-time monitoring and alerts about hard braking helps avert these situations. Many of Azuga’s clients have reduced their overall fleet risk in a matter of months where they have seen significant reduction in the number of negative incidents like sudden acceleration and hard braking.

Azuga has ushered in a new approach where drivers do not develop resentment towards excessive monitoring. They are invited to collaborate in achieving a better safety score for the fleet, reducing its risk, and to help in lowering insurance costs. Azuga’s unique Rewards platform for recognizing and rewarding drivers, along with its trailblazing quarterly Safe Driver Awards, is helping fleets to engage their personnel better and achieve better productivity while curbing wastage.

Just a couple of months ago, a major recognition came Azuga’s way, it has featured in the Top 5 Fleet Management Solutions—the Reviewers Choice award from the Gartner Group’s leading websites.