We beat the drum regularly for safety in the fleet industry. For as long as I have been with Automotive Fleet, whenever we survey our readers about vehicle selection, safety is the No. 1 concern. And the flood of new technologies coming out has only made that trend more pronounced. But now that safety has entered the mainstream and become a huge topic of conversation beyond the risk manager’s desk, it’s time to take a more nuanced look at the options that are available in the market today.
At the recently completed American Automotive Leasing Association (AALA) Conference in Newport Beach, Calif., I had the honor of listening to a presentation by Adrian Lund, Ph.D., president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). We know the vehicle manufacturers go to great lengths to meet the IIHS standards, and will do whatever is economically reasonable to obtain the coveted IIHS Top Safety rating. But many aren’t aware that the IIHS has a virtual treasure trove of data available on vehicle crashworthiness. The IIHS also has a pipeline into all the major insurers, so they can see the Big Data trends often before the rest of us. Are all those new safety features that you are considering for your vehicles, really effective? The IIHS has lots of data on all of them.
One of the most interesting tidbits to come out of the AALA meeting was the effectiveness of adaptive headlights. This is a fairly simple technology that yields real measurable results. The simple act of being able to set headlights to point in the direction that the steering wheel is going has led to an almost 10% decline in accident claims for some manufacturers. The effect hasn’t been as pronounced across the board, but virtually every OEM that offers the technology has seen a measurable reduction in claims.
Frontal crash avoidance systems have also been shown to have a dramatic impact on reducing claims and saving lives. There are several different versions of these systems in place depending on the vehicle and the OEM. The most advanced systems currently in place are using LIDAR, RADAR, and auto braking, and are reducing claims by upwards of 30%. Even the basic systems that just flash a warning for the driver are having a 10% or more impact on claims. Clearly this is a technology whose time has come.
And just to show that not all safety features are created equal, IIHS data has shown that lane departure warning systems have had little effect on reducing claims. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, since most fleet drivers are probably like me in that the first thing they do when they get in a new vehicle is find out how to turn off the annoying haptic feedback system that makes the steering wheel or seat vibrate every time you get too close to a lane marker. I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem, but, perhaps, lane departure warning systems are just an answer to a question that no one has really asked.
There are a lot of safety options available for the modern fleet’s drivers. We can’t just put everyone in a Sherman Tank with a 25 mph speed limiter. And most of us are still focused on operating as efficiently as possible, while making sure we are doing all we can to protect our drivers. It’s time to do some research, look into the data that is available, and figure out what works for your fleet.