18th November 2018

Spotlight on the latest statistics and initiatives as Road Safety Week 2018 arrives

Road safety is one of Trak Global Group’s primary aims and focusses, evident through our products including Carrot Insurance and Appy Fleet, and we eagerly anticipate the theme of each year’s Road Safety Week from Brake, arguably one of the UK’s leading campaign groups.

A perennial debate

Brake certainly works tirelessly to keep road users, cyclists, pedestrians and others safe, and with the advent of darker days a few weeks ago, the organisation publicly called on the government to adopt a Single/Double Summer Time (SDST) system to address recurring statistics1 showing that pedestrians in particular are immediately more vulnerable in darker evenings, seventeen more losing their lives a month after the clocks went back in October 2017. Brake also highlighted an estimated CO2 reduction of 447,000 tonnes annually by switching the UK to SDST.

Simple but ingenious

On the subject of pedestrians and cyclists, we were encouraged by seeing transport minister Jesse Norman promoting the government’s review of the Highway Code to include additional measures in order to keep cyclists safer. The ‘Dutch reach’ is a safety tip that our young driver brand Carrot Insurance has promoted on social media in recent times, with drivers using their left hand to open the door to maximise the chance of seeing a cyclist approaching from behind – guidance we’re delighted to see incorporated into the new Highway Code.

An integrated approach to safety

Speaking to Fleet News2, Jesse Norman explained that “cycling and walking are increasingly being understood as crucial parts of an integrated approach to issues of health, obesity, air quality and town and city planning. But this will only happen if people feel safe on the roads” and it’s unarguable that significant steps from the government along with a raft of local initiatives helping cyclists and pedestrians will certainly encourage a healthier UK.

A serious matter

On the 14th of this month, Brake ran a free webinar on drink and drug-driving, aimed at fleet managers, road safety professionals and employers. The charity’s senior fleet officer Sarah Plumb described driving under the influence of such substances to be ‘one of the biggest killers on our roads’. We agree wholeheartedly with her comment that employers and fleet managers have a legal duty of care to educate their at-work drivers of the dangers, at a time when more than 25,000 drivers, many on work journeys, are arrested each year for drug-driving3.

The importance of alertness

Figures from the AA Charitable Trust came as great concern earlier this month4, with 13% of the 20,561 drivers surveyed admitting to having dozed off while driving – a statistic that eclipses the government’s official findings from 2016 which estimated that falling asleep behind the wheel contributes to up to 25% of fatal RTAs. It was encouraging to see the AA Charitable Trust launch a video campaign warning motorists of these dangers, including the hard-hitting fact that a car can travel the length of a football pitch even if the driver’s eyes are closed for merely a few seconds. Thirty-three percent of the respondents blamed journey monotony for feeling excessively tired behind the wheel, and it is perhaps plausible to moot the idea that the seemingly endless sections of 50mph motorway roadworks zones could be a contributing factor.

As a group synonymous with telematics products for fleet drivers and young drivers, it’s interesting that sleep expert and author Dr Katharina Lederle cites 14:00-to-16:00 as one of the prime times for experiencing fatigue. Excessive screen-time in the evening is one of the exacerbating factors Dr Lederle mentions in relation to young drivers, and she recommends all drivers should take regular breaks – something that fleet managers can therefore endeavour to factor into their driver schedules, and that drivers aged 18-to-24 could also perhaps be more mindful of5.

Road safety in the winter months

Now technically in the season of winter, albeit with no snowfall or other wintry conditions experienced this year in the UK quite yet, a Volvo-sponsored road safety tips for winter driving article on Telegraph.co.uk6 contains some excellent advice for fleet managers and all drivers from at-work to private motorists.

After reminding company car operators that DfT statistics identified 29 road deaths and 2,500 injuries due to weather conditions last winter, Volvo’s editorial partner, Euro Car Parts, shared its research that points to a lack of knowledge on the part of drivers over how to use brakes properly in wintry conditions, while 36% of the 1,000 surveyed don’t know how to react to skidding, and 72% aren’t confident about which gears to use.

In the same article, Green Flag provides various useful pieces of guidance on driving in the winter, addressing this obvious lack of driver confidence. As a company that works closely with fleet operators, notably through our Appy Fleet telematics solution, we certainly agree with the comment: ‘Cold weather affects vehicles as well as people, so proper vehicle maintenance is a crucial consideration for drivers and fleet managers.’

Keeping the roads’ heroes safe

Highways England and other motoring organisations like the AA, Green Flag and RAC are undisputable heroes, keeping the UK’s roads flowing as smoothly as possible, often in appalling conditions, so we wholeheartedly empathise with their collective petition7 to Jesse Norman MP earlier this month for the introduction of enhanced motorway safety rules to protect their hard-working personnel. It comes in the wake of the death of an RAC roadside technician along with two other recovery drivers.

The trio is calling for a specific THINK! campaign to be launched by the DfT to better protect patrols after numerous recovery drivers have had their vehicles seriously damaged and themselves been placed in dangerous and sometimes injury-sustaining situations in recent months, which we agree is a lamentable situation that must be alleviated as quickly as possible.

Technology’s role in making roads safer

Alongside educational initiatives and road safety campaigns, technology continues to play a key role in helping keep the UK’s drivers increasingly safer – and telematics, one of Trak Global Group’s core strengths, is at the forefront.

In a mid-November article in Fleet News8, associate professor of driver behaviour at Cranfield University, Lisa Dorn, crystalised the technology’s benefits succinctly, saying: ‘Telematics data is effective in encouraging behaviour change among drivers to improve fleet safety… If they are not aware of the danger they are in, how can they be expected to change behaviour? Telematics data is a good way for fleet managers to provide evidence to address the risk.’

The rewards of telematics

Anonymous gamification of safe driving behaviour is increasingly gaining recognition as a highly effective way of encouraging a culture of responsibility behind the wheel and is a win-win for fleet operators, with drivers receiving incentivised rewards on the one hand and organisations enjoying reduced insurance premiums, vehicle downtime and fuel bills in many cases on the other.

Thinking big but realistically

The next significant stage in significantly improving road safety and reducing deaths and injuries as far as possible will be the advent of autonomous vehicles, which studies typically predict will eliminate 90% of road accidents that are otherwise caused by human error9. We agree with the Allianz Centre for Technology’s assertion that “especially in the beginning when we will have mixed traffic we will see accidents and it is very important we learn from those accidents” in relation to when both semi and fully-autonomous and driven vehicles sharing the road initially, which will unarguably be a challenging and revolutionary time for insurers.

In the meantime, though, we are pleased to see ADAS having a sizeably positive impact, from autonomous emergency braking reportedly set to save 1,100 lives and reduce UK road casualties by over 120,000 over the coming decade. OEMs are increasingly fitting various ADAS as standard, which is a very encouraging move. Thatcham Research voices a realistic outlook over the phasing in of autonomy levels 1 to 5, though, when Matthew Avery, the firm’s head of research, told Fleet News that “it is this transition phase between conditional automation (Level 3) and high automation (Level 4) which is the “dangerous bit” – but again, an immensely exciting time in automotive development.

Road Safety Week 2018

Of course, roads are used by horse-riders, pedestrians, children playing, joggers and others at times, and certainly by motorcyclists and cyclists, so Brake is as usual to be commended for highlighting an important focus through Road Safety Week, this year’s theme being BikeSmart. It will certainly be most welcome to see initiatives like this contribute towards reducing the 100+ riders that are injured across the UK on a daily basis.

The future for road users is certainly encouraging thanks to the proliferation of driving tips and advice, road safety campaigns and technology from hardware and smartphone app-based telematics to ADAS and autonomous systems.

 

Sources:
1. https://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/123601/darker-evenings-spell-danger-for-road-safety
2. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/fleet-industry-news/2018/10/18/highway-code-review-focuses-on-cyclist-and-pedestrian-safety
3. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/fleet-industry-news/2018/11/09/brake-offers-free-webinar-on-tackling-drink-and-drug-driving
4. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-6344377/One-eight-drivers-admit-falling-asleep-wheel-survey-suggests.html
5. https://inews.co.uk/essentials/lifestyle/cars/car-news/1-in-8-drivers-has-fallen-asleep-at-the-wheel/
6. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/sme-library/fleet-management/winter-road-safety-tips/
7. https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/news/motoring-news/enhanced-road-safety-rules/
8. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/fleet-management/driver-management/drivers-encourge-behaviour-change-with-telematics
9. https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/fleet-management/risk-management/autonomy-the-road-to-zero-collisions