Focus on driver distraction may be misplaced

June 2, 2010
While distracted driving among motorists and truck drivers is getting a lot of attention from safety groups and government agencies alike, such efforts are not addressing the major driver behaviors that cause crashes – especially among truckers—contends a global driver risk-management firm That’s the view expressed by  DriveCam Inc., after it analyzed its database of over 17-million “driving events” recorded via in-cab video and other data streams collected from over two billion miles of vehicle operation

While distracted driving among motorists and truck drivers is getting a lot of attention from safety groups and government agencies alike, such efforts are not addressing the major driver behaviors that cause crashes – especially among truckers—contends a global driver risk-management firm

That’s the view expressed by DriveCam Inc., after it analyzed its database of over 17-million “driving events” recorded via in-cab video and other data streams collected from over two billion miles of vehicle operation.

According to Del Lisk, DriveCam’s vp- safety services, “distraction” only ranks number three on its list of the top five driver behaviors that can lead to crashes. By contrast, “Following too close” and “Not looking far ahead” were far bigger driver issues than distraction, at least in the long-haul trucking Industry.

“It’s not that the regulatory/government focus on distraction is too high; that’s still a very important issue,” Lisk told FleetOwner. “But fleet managers cannot lose sight of the other issues, such as ‘not looking far ahead’ and ‘following too close.’ They need to train their drivers to be continually aware of what they are doing on the road and how they’re driving.”

He said a closer look at the “distraction” events in DriveCam’s database revealed that handheld cell phone use is the most common distracting behavior among long-haul truck drivers.

“To correct the driving habits, you need to get to the root cause of the behavior,”Lisk remarked. “ To do this, we believe you need to see what’s going on in the vehicle – to make the driver aware of the behavior and then showing him/her how to correct it.

“Driver training is important, but it only helps for the moment,” he continued, “You need something that is more lasting, that involves on-going coaching. This is reinforced by data from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which released a study funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) showing that risky driving is reduced by up to 52% when a video-based event recorder is used with a driver risk management [program].”

Delving a bit deeper into its data, DriveCam examined “collision rates,” which refers to collisions per vehicle in service, comparing long-haul distribution trucks to local distribution vehicles. Lisk said that despite the difference in number of miles driven each year, the collision rates are surprisingly similar – 5.9% for long-haul distribution trucks and 5.8% for local distribution vehicles.

“We were surprised by this similarity,” he said, noting that DriveCam’s conclusion is that local distribution trucks typically operate in more heavily congested locations.

“The types of accidents that occur are different; this is due to local distribution trucks driving in more populated areas with more people, more vehicles and more intersections, which is where most accidents occur,” Lisk added.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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