Studies around the world have identified driver inattention as a leading factor in most incidents and near misses.
During a study by the USA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vehicles driven nearly 2,000,000 miles yielded 42,300 hours of data on 241 drivers. 82 (34%) drivers were involved in an incident and there were 761 near misses and 8,295 critical incidents.
The study found that nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event with distracting activities such as mobile phone use and drowsiness the primary cause of driver inattention.
A recent Australian Transport Safety Bureau report indicates that 43% of drivers answer their phones, 24% make calls, 16% read text messages and 8% send text messages while driving, confirming that the use of mobile phones when driving is a major road safety problem.
Given that nearly 50% of all workplace deaths occur while driving, there is an overwhelming need to minimise distraction during driving.
The most common distraction for drivers is the use of mobile phones although fatigue causing drowsiness was also found to be a significant factor in increasing the risk of an incident or near miss by a factor of four at least.
Below are 14 easy tips you can introduce to your fleet operations that will help protect your drivers and your organisation.
Driving when fatigued is dangerous and significantly increases incident risk. Supervisors should plan realistic schedules and drivers should be rested before departure, stop for appropriate rest breaks (every two hours, even if not feeling tired) and avoid driving during normal sleeping hours.
In general, driving more than 14 hours after the previous night’s sleep can impair a driver. For instance driving back from the airport after a day trip interstate may not be wise so alternatives, such as a taxi, should be considered.
Employees should not exceed the posted speed limits. However as the same speed limit can be set for completely different road sizes, widths and configurations, drivers should not blindly stick to the posted limits. There are occasions where it may not be safe or prudent to drive at the posted limit.
If conditions, such as slippery roads or restricted road width are present, then speed should be reduced to match the prevailing conditions.
3. Daytime Running Lights
All vehicles performing or acting on behalf of the company will employ DRL’s where headlights are illuminated, on low beam, during the day making vehicles more visible.
Seatbelts must be worn whenever a vehicle is being used.
5. Vehicle Safety Assistance Systems
These are systems which are designed to assist stability and manoeuvrability, thus preventing loss of control in severe manoeuvring, braking and/or adverse weather conditions. The company should therefore have a vehicle replacement policy where it will consider the purchase and use of vehicles having following safety systems.
6. Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Where available ESC will be considered as standard equipment for all company supplied or financed vehicles and all vehicles undertaking company business. Where such systems are available they must not be intentionally disengaged.
7. Anti-Lock Braking (ABS)
ABS must be standard on all company supplied or financed vehicles and all vehicles undertaking company business.
8. Traction Control
Where available, Traction Control will be considered as standard equipment and included in all vehicle acquisitions. Where such systems are available they shall not be intentionally disengaged.
Vehicles that do not have driver and passenger airbags will not be used on company business. Side (curtain or head and trunk) airbags, which offer significant occupant protection, will be specified on new vehicle acquisitions. Where not available on the first choice of vehicle, a case must be made and submitted to management for authorisation to deviate from this policy.
10. Lane Departure Warning
Where Lane departure warning is available it should be considered as standard fixture.
11. Alcohol & Drugs
While there is a legal alcohol consumption limit (BAC) for fully licensed drivers, studies have found that consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol impacts on the skills necessary for driving. It is therefore important that when employees are driving company vehicles, driving on company business or when approved families members are in charge of a company vehicle alcohol should not be consumed.
Furthermore, taking of alcohol in conjunction with other drugs is known to increase the risk of an incident. The taking of illicit or illegal drugs is to be strictly prohibited and will result in termination of employment.
Care should also be taken when driving under the influence of prescribed medications as many can affect alertness for driving.
12. Brake Assist
Where brake assist systems are available it should be considered as mandatory equipment.
13. Reversing Sensors
Where available reversing sensors and/or camera will be considered as standard equipment and included in all vehicle acquisitions.
14. Driver Distraction – Mobile Phones
The use of handheld mobile phones when driving is illegal and in no circumstances should this be done.
Employees who are ticketed for this behaviour will face disciplinary action by the company that could result in the loss of the company supplied vehicle and/or termination of employment.
Studies show that the use of mobile phones when driving, including hands free, cause driver distraction, therefore no mobile phone activity should be undertaken, either in voice or text mode, whilst driving.
Driver distraction is attributed to more than mobile phone use; changing radio channels or music discs can be just as dangerous. Any action that takes the driver’s eyes or concentration off the road has the potential to cause an incident. Such actions by the driver should be avoided at all times when the vehicle is in motion.
The following was originally published as part of AfMA’s fleet management guide, which is available as a free resource tool for all members. Click here for more information about AfMA Membership to see what benefits it could provide to your organisation.