Viewpoints

Proactive safety technology: protect citizens and save

By Josh Botnen

Vehicle collision claims cost municipalities billions of dollars each year. Because a shocking 90 percent of accidents are caused by driver error, that means they’re preventable. That also means that cities and counties are under enormous public pressure and scrutiny whenever an incident does occur, and will quite often incur great costs.

Uncovering the Hidden Costs and Causes of Collisions

In addition to the hard costs of accident reconstruction, injuries and other claims — which can easily total millions of dollar annually — there are less tangible costs such as the reputational damage that cities can suffer when one of their employees is involved in a crash that results in injury or even death. Other such costs include high driver turnover rates and “mystery damage” resulting from collisions or incidents where liability is unknown.

With citizens’ safety at stake and claims costs rising annually, municipalities are hard pressed to make use of all available resources and technologies to not only reduce accidents, but prevent them altogether. Fortunately, recent advancements have led to new technology-based solutions to identify the risky driving behavior at the root of so many collisions and improve driver performance. However, not all technologies are created equal.

For example, on-board technologies, such as telematics, are important safety tools that can capture critical data on what’s happening in a government vehicle, and provide real-time driver correction and collision reduction. The problem is that while they can help show what is actually happening during a collision (i.e., there was a hard brake at 3 p.m. on Main Street), they don’t address the root-cause driving behavior such as not paying attention or following too close. Nor do they provide a way to improve driver performance, so whatever happened before will very likely happen again.

The Value of Video-Based Driver Risk Management

Video-based driver risk management solutions make it possible to capture risky events and identify their root causes in order to help drivers avoid these behaviors in the future. The power of video combined with predictive analytics provides the data needed to analyze and predict collisions — before they occur. Combining this data with a behavior-based coaching program can improve driver performance and prevent collisions over time.

Of course, safety isn’t built on technology or data alone; it is based on a strong commitment to a consistent program and best practices that help establish a culture of safety and accountability in the organization.

A strong, behavior-based driver safety program consists of:

1) Establishing formal safety and compliance policies and guidelines

2) Identifying key risky driving behaviors

3) Providing consistent coaching to help improve risky driving behaviors and to reward good driving behavior

4) Evaluating performance continually to identify behavioral trends

Best Practices for Implementing a Strong Driver Risk Management Program

Orange County, Fla., was facing an increase in auto liability claims throughout its fleet of 2,200 vehicles. A deep-dive exploration of what was causing this increase led them to focus on their drivers, rather than outside elements. With the help of an in-cab video-based driver risk management program, they experienced a 40 percent reduction in accidents and a 74 percent reduction in total cost of accidents — all while gaining union and driver acceptance.

To achieve results like these, fleets are well advised to follow these best practices before, during and after implementation of a driver risk program including video-based driver risk management services:

1) Communication with the drivers to set proper expectations and address any misperceptions or concerns. Orange County effectively communicated the benefits of the program across all parties, such as how government fleets across the country are using driver risk management programs to recognize their safest and most fuel efficient drivers.

2) Consistent feedback to the drivers. The county was able to focus efforts on consistently coaching drivers on their poor driving behaviors, resulting in a 90% reduction in coachable incidents.

3) Continuous tracking of key performance indicators such as collision rates, claims costs and behavior trends. This provides insight into the riskiest behaviors in a fleet and how to correct them.

Josh Botnen is senior product manager for San Diego-based Lytx (formerly DriveCam). With 15 years of experience in data analytics and statistical modeling, Josh helps industry leaders in trucking, transit, waste, utilities, and municipal governments identify risk in their fleets and prevent future collisions.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

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Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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