Solving the Puzzle of Distracted Driving

November 10, 2021

Addressing distracted driving and driver safety is not accomplished by any one action or approach. As Corey Woinarowicz of NoCell Technologies puts it, “It is not one person’s job, it’s not solved by a silver bullet solution, it is a big puzzle to keep drivers safe.”

To be effective, a driver safety program must have not only the buy-in from your administration, but accepted and practiced at all levels. “It is not just a priority but is something that must be ingrained in the fabric of your organization,” he says. You’re hiring quality employees, so how do you keep these employees safe? How do you protect your investment? How do you keep your drivers from being a liability to your company? That is the great puzzle. According to Woinarowicz, this puzzle consists of several pieces that all come together to create an effective driver safety program.

Have an effective cell phone policy. The first piece of the puzzle starts with an effective cell phone policy that is not only comprehensive, but also tailored to your company’s operations. It then must be successfully implemented and enforced at all levels. Woinarowicz says that according to some insurance companies, it is riskier to have a cell phone policy and not enforce it than to not have one at all. While a cell phone policy is important, it is only one piece of the puzzle.

Conduct driver training. “Driver training is just not on the first day or the first week, it is something that is continuous. It is something that you review — and review the training for it,” says Woinarowicz. He noted that the “forgetting curve” is high as we tend to forget information very quickly after we receive it. Reinforcing training keeps the information fresh and the constant exposure imprints the training in the drivers’ minds.

Utilize telematics. Telematics makes up the third piece of the driver safety puzzle. With each passing year, telematics gets stronger and stronger, providing more information to keep our drivers safe. It is a valuable part of the puzzle as it takes vehicle data and presents pertinent information quickly to a fleet manager. Obviously, telematics can be used to track driver behavior, alerting fleet managers to drivers who are braking harshly, speeding, or issues which put the driver at risk for their own well-being or others. By identifying these at-risk drivers and providing corrective training, your organization can improve safety by reducing the chances of rear-end collisions, reducing wear on brake pads and other vehicle parts and reinforcing the standards set by the organization.

Have score cards. The fourth piece of the puzzle involves the use of scorecards to “grade” your drivers over a selected period of time. Woinarowicz says it is a useful to identify the 20-60-20: the top 20 percent (achievers), the middle 60 percent (those striving for success), and the bottom 20 percent (ones needing additional training). There does need to be a reward system in place for the top 20 percent for this to be effective or the middle group will have no reason to improve. A scorecard system uses telematics data to score driving behaviors. However, it can also be used to verify the effectiveness of a training program or to identify shortcomings that would make it more effective. The scorecard can also be used to defend a driver in case of litigation. A driver who repeatedly scores high will have a much stronger defense than a low-scoring driver.

Install cameras. The fifth piece of the puzzle is also the most controversial piece as it involves installing cameras in the vehicles. No one wants to be watched while working and even Woinarowicz admits that “you will get kickback, until someone gets exonerated.” In-cab cameras have the ability to show exactly what happened without the influence of opinion or belief. Not surprisingly, drivers tend to be more concerned about being embarrassed about their actions in the vehicle than being able to document an unforetold event. This is what causes the reluctance to adopt in-cab camera systems. However, cameras are not limited to documenting an incident. With the integration of motor vehicles and artificial intelligence, cameras are now able to detect and alert drivers to unsafe actions such as falling asleep at the wheel, phone use, and other risky behaviors through audible alerts which hopefully correct a driver’s behavior before it becomes more serious.

Use proactive technologies. The final piece of the puzzle is the use of proactive technologies that prevent the driver from being distracted. There are many technologies available today which work to remove distractions from the driver. NoCell Technologies has a system, for example, which blocks the usage of unauthorized apps from being used while the vehicle is moving.

When researching these technologies, two questions need to be asked: 1) Can this technology give my worker or colleague the ability to do their job effectively and safely? and 2) How can this technology be used to enforce or support our driver policy?

A good driver safety program does not just rely on technology for information; it is a fully integrated program that begins with hiring good people and continues with monitoring to ensure they and their vehicles can perform their jobs safely. There is not a single approach, but is multi-faceted like pieces of a puzzle that come together to create a complete program fully ingrained in your organization.

By Wayne W. Westerholm, MSE, CAFM. Wayne H. Westerholm, MSE, CAFM, is deputy director of Harding University’s Public Safety Office of Parking & Transportation. This article is an excerpt—look for the full article in FLEETSolutions Nov/Dec 2021 edition.