As the 2021 Road Safety Week is happening this week, with the theme of speed, it’s a good time to push aside the discussion away from external factors - like speed limits and road quality - and refocus more on driver behaviour as a way to effectively improve road safety.
When our customers want advice on how to improve safety in their fleet, I always begin with driver behaviour as the first step. While every driver is as different as your fingerprints, I do believe that if we all became aware of our own behaviour on the road, we would come to realise that many of our habits could use some improvement from a safety perspective.
According to WorkSafe, vehicle incidents have been the leading cause of fatalities across all industries in New Zealand (29 from October 2019-September 2020). This is in line with data from WorkSafe's 2018/2019 Annual Report which showed that 73% of New Zealand’s work-related fatalities were linked to vehicles.
To break it down even further, eleven people were killed on NZ roads between Christmas Eve 2020 and 5 January 2021. Four people were killed in the same period the previous year. In other words, the trend is going the wrong way.
Shifting the Focus
I’m not alone in wanting the focus to be on improved driver behaviour. Both Motorsport legend Greg Murphy and Nick Leggett, CEO of Road Transport Forum, think it’s time for New Zealand drivers to get better training when getting their drivers licence to make them more aware and prepared for what can really happen on the roads.
NZ Transport Agency recently did a survey where they found that 13% of drivers had trouble staying awake at least once in the last year while driving to or from work, and 10% while driving as part of their work. There are several reasons why collisions happen, but this shows that fatigue does play a role.
When it comes to professional drivers, employers have an important role to play in monitoring fatigue and making sure workhours and break schedules are compliant. When you drive for a living, you can get in the habit of taking risks and feeling overconfident on the road. Although professional drivers are mostly excellent drivers, they are still sharing the road with less experienced drivers who cannot read situations on the road as well as others.
Giving drivers the tools to drive themselves out of trouble must be top of the list if we want to get serious about reducing the road toll. To quote Nick Leggett, CEO, Road Transport Forum: “The road network is the trucking industry’s primary place of work and as such, the sector is committed to improving road safety. We believe there is generally not enough focus on driver behaviour and distractions, which are the main causes of accidents. Changing driver behaviour is a long-term game and relies on an in-depth look at what’s going wrong on the roads, licencing, and ongoing driver education”.
Solutions to effectively deal with dangerous driving behaviour and reduce vehicle-related incidents can be found in telematics technology. Companies usually invest in fleet management systems for safety and compliance, and I look at the link between the two in the following way: how do we make drivers safer for their own sake, as well as everyone on the road. In turn, that will ensure they’re compliant.
Increased Safety through Technology
Fleet management systems and the data it provides in real-time can help to manage driving behaviour. Through instant alerts and audio-visual feedback, it can tell if drivers are going too fast, have accelerated excessively, braked too hard, or even cornered dangerously.
The realities of fatigue, speed and other risky behaviours don’t become clear until it’s too late. With the help of driver safety technology, fleet managers and business owners can take a step toward protecting their employees and, ultimately, make the roads safer for all New Zealanders.
When used in a commercial space, telematics can save costs as well as saving lives. When you drive safer, you use less tyres, you use less fuel, you use less brakes so the servicing costs come down. The bottom line is safety, and while it does save money, educating drivers on safer driving is the most important aspect.
Chris L’Ecluse, Solutions Specialist at Teletrac Navman, has amassed a range of safe driving and teaching skills, and a deep understanding of driver behaviour and the importance of driver education during his career. He has used his body of knowledge, experience and passion to speak to people within all levels of business and the industry. He’s also reached a wider audience by engaging with secondary school students and giving interviews to media outlets in both New Zealand and Australia.