Despite Driver Safety Focus, Distraction Continues
A recent survey of 3,377 company car drivers in 20 countries revealed a trend among fleets: They’re putting an effort into driver safety. In fact, half of respondents said the companies they work for focus on driver safety.
The global LeasePlan Driver Survey, performed by TNS and commissioned by LeasePlan, a fleet management and driver mobility company, showed companies use a number of tactics to reinforce driver safety with their employees, including e-mails, driver safety training, and sharing of safe driving best practices.
In the U.S., 45 percent of drivers said their companies regularly send e-mails with tips and strategies about safe driving. Nearly one-third of surveyed drivers said they have the opportunity to attend courses and workshops on safe driving or take tests on the subject. Following closely behind, at 29 percent, were drivers receiving regular information and tips from employers on their driving behavior.
“The increased interest in safety and driver behavior comes down to three things: compassion, finances, and liability,” said Kristofer Bush, vice president, marketing at LeasePlan USA. “No one ever wants to receive the phone call that something has happened to one of their drivers. More and more companies view their employees as family members and treat them as such.”
Bush said finances also play a role.
“Accidents are expensive and many companies are realizing that the cost of prevention is much lower than the cost to repair,” he said. “And, finally, there is liability. This is where the real costs come into play. Companies have to educate drivers to do the right things behind the wheel or they will continue to expose themselves to risk and possible litigation.”
Although drivers report their companies are making an effort to educate them on driver safety, the question remains: are these drivers listening?
The LeasePlan survey suggests there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to distracted driving.
For instance, according to responses, 75 percent of drivers globally do some sort of communicating while driving, including calling, texting, and even checking social media sites. In the U.S., 57 percent of drivers admitted to making calls while driving.
Overall, calling ranked as the greatest distraction, with 73 percent of respondents globally reporting use of their cell phones while driving. Drinking and eating remain distractions, too, although to a lesser extent, at 42 percent and 37 percent, respectively. Likewise, the survey showed that most drivers still multi task when driving.
At LeasePlan USA, leadership takes distracted driving seriously: the company has a total cell phone ban while driving for anyone who has a company vehicle or mobile device.
“LeasePlan put a total cell phone ban while driving into place a few years back,” Bush said. “While we had already banned texting at the time, this was a big step and a big change for many of us who used Bluetooth devices and used road time for ‘productivity.’ From my own experience, I can easily say that it changed the way I view driving and the dangers on the road.”
Although drivers still report being distracted while driving company vehicles, there are a few positive trends that emerged for the U.S.
The LeasePlan Driver Survey showed North American companies take the lead in informing their lease drivers about safety, and 73 percent of U.S. drivers surveyed say their companies inform them on this topic. Only 16 percent of U.S. drivers said their company offers nothing with regard to driver safety. The survey also showed that drivers in the U.S. are more cautious, as they check social media and send messages significantly less compared to the other countries surveyed.
“The U.S. seemed to be at the head of the pack in terms of communicating the importance of safety and providing safety information such as newsletters. Other countries seemed to offer more opportunities to attend hands-on driving workshops,” Bush said. “It was surprising that, in Europe, many drivers stated they used social media when driving, while in the U.S. it was almost non-existent.”
While the LeasePlan Driver Survey suggests a solid focus on safe driving practices, there is still room for improvement. For those companies wishing to place a greater focus on driver safety, Dan Shive, vice president, risk management at LeasePlan USA, suggested a top-down approach.
“A culture is usually built on a client’s core values. When those core values include safety, it makes the transition to fleet safety much easier,” he said. “The best way to make safety a priority is to begin with the facts as it relates to loss ratios, injuries, and total cost of collisions to the organization (human capital and financial). By providing those facts, as well as a road map to changes and reduction in losses, a culture for fleet safety can be created.”
When thinking about the impact of an increased focus on teaching employees to be safer drivers, Shive said the impact can be significant.
“How many company drivers are there today? Possibly 5, 10, or 15 million, depending on who you count,” he said. “What if every one of those drivers was a 10-, 20-, or 50-percent safer driver on our roads? Can you imagine the positive impact on crashes, injuries, and even fatalities? Now imagine how drivers would feel about their employers if they knew they truly cared about their safety and well-being.”