Forty risk and safety professionals gathered recently to explore the implications of safety issues in shaping fleet policy and direction. The 40-member group, representing 26 organizations, participated in the Fleet Response Safety Summit, held at the company’s Independence, Ohio headquarters.

The forum was sponsored by AlertDriving, Driving Dynamics, Bobit Business Media (publisher of Automotive Fleet), and Ford Motor Company.

The summit agenda included speakers from AlertDriving, Bobit Business Media, Bridgestone/Firestone, Driving Dynamics, Ford Motor Company, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Millisor & Nobil, and the National Safety Council (NSC).

James Solomon, NSC director of program development and training led the event’s program with a presentation on "Dynamics of Safe Driving." Following his evaluation of popular fleet vehicles, Solomon explored in-depth safety checks fleet managers can perform, such as making sure drivers are qualified to operate the vehicles, having control over accident management operations, and making sure driver training is properly implemented.

Daniel O’Brien, principal for Millisor & Nobil Co., and a specialist in risk and claims management and insurance consulting, explained the implications of negligent entrustment for fleets, presenting case studies of real-world examples.

Ford’s safety strategy and communications manager, Tom Artushin addressed vehicle safety features. Beginning with a colorful presentation of factors that influence accidents, he charted typical crash and injury statistics. Artushin also reviewed current and upcoming safety features on vehicles, including the benefits of electronic stability control (ESC).

Other topics covered during the summit included crash testing, tire safety, risk management system development, and overall tips for safer drivers.

In his opening event remarks, Scott Mawaka, Fleet Response president and COO, described the summit’s intent. "Our hope was to bring together organizations from across the country, not only to learn from industry experts, but also to network and learn from each other. The agenda was intended to provide insight and assist attendees in their organization’s fleet and safety policy development," said Mawaka.

Mike Antich, editor of Automotive Fleet magazine, presented the opening address, discussing why safety should be a fleet’s number one priority.

According to Antich, most fleet managers view fleet safety as their No. 2 concern, right after the cost of fuel. "One reason for the increased concern about fleet safety is driver distraction. More and more fleet managers are reporting an uptick in preventable accidents. The primary cause is driver distraction, which accounts for 25-30 percent of all auto accidents. Driver distraction is increasing because drivers are multitasking while driving," said Antich.

Although cell phone use is the primary cause of driver distraction, texting is becoming a growing (and more dangerous) factor. "Drivers who engage in mobile texting spend 400 percent more time taking their eyes off the road and are 70 percent more likely to swerve out of their lanes," said Antich. "If you’re traveling 65 mph, taking your eyes off the road for three seconds while texting is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field. Texting represents a major liability exposure for fleets."

In addition to presentations, the summit featured a four-hour condensed version of Driving Dynamics’ one-day behind-the-wheel" training for attendees to experience and learn new driving strategies.