The automotive industry is undergoing rapid innovation, with exciting advances being made into technologies that we once thought either unachievable in our lifetime or just downright impossible. No, we’re not driving flying cars with venetian blinds as one prediction from 1942 suggested, but even that idea isn’t as distant as you might think, although the concept has moved away from the car as the base platform towards as-yet-undefined modes of personal transportation, such as this “new type of craft”.

Electric and autonomous innovations get the most column inches, which is understandable. Each new development is even more remarkable than the last, and it’s exciting to see how far this new technology can be pushed. But they’re relatively easy topics to understand and digest, making for good quick news pieces. The conversation around data, however, can often be heavy and granular, and whether we like it or not, data is completely revolutionizing the way we drive. Some of the most important recent advancements in this space have focused on the use of data to improve safety for drivers. Cars can check their own blind spots and alert drowsy drivers by simultaneously analyzing hundreds of data points. They can apply the brakes by themselves in an emergency situation, and turn on the hazard lights when sensors detect heavy braking. All of these processes collect and store data within computers inside the vehicle, which is great – but how can we take advantage of this data to implement safety improvements for drivers?

Fleet managers have access to actionable data to help make their fleet a safer one. And that’s exactly where we see companies moving. To determine how risky your fleet drivers are requires gathering information from several different data sources. And the data works together to help you identify the next steps in your risk management strategy. The goal is to integrate and analyze data from multiple devices to create a holistic view of what’s happening with the vehicle, the driver and your entire fleet.

But let’s take a step back and consider some of the other ways we can be safer drivers, away from the underlying data and the technology bearing down on us. What can we do to make our journeys a little safer?

Avoid distractions. Cell phones are of course the number one distraction, but even an act as simple as reaching across the passenger seat to grab something can have grave consequences. And that fast food you just got at the drive thru? It can wait! Many states in the U.S. have now completely outlawed the use of cell phones without a handsfree device, so make sure you know and abide by the laws where you live. And just for reference, texting while driving is illegal in almost every state, the only exceptions being Missouri and Montana – really guys? If you’re riding shotgun with someone easily distracted by their phone, here’s some great inspiration from New Zealand’s Transport Authority – watch the video here.

Embrace good distractions. But you just said to avoid them? The monotony of driving, especially if you live in a big city with heavy traffic, can sometimes pull you into an inattentive state. Have you ever been deep in thought, driving down the highway, and then you realized your body and mind had been on autopilot for the last half mile? Focus! Listening to music can help, but is it the right type of music? That may seem like a strange question, because is there really a right or wrong type of music? Well, according to a survey completed by a British insurance web site, different types of music can affect your driving style. Specifically, rock and hip hop are especially dangerous. “Fast beats can cause excitement and arousal that can lead people to concentrate more on the music than on the road and to speed up to match the beat of the song.” You can read more of the details around that study here, as well as a short list of particularly dangerous songs to avoid! While I can’t say I entirely agree with the results, I think that a switch up every now and then can help. I’ve recently started listening to comedy channels on the radio. Catching snippets of full set pieces allows me to dip in and out, and laughter is a great medicine for almost every problem.

Negative influences. I shouldn’t have to say that driving under the influence will negatively impact your ability to safely drive a vehicle, but it will. And it’s not just alcohol that counts as “under the influence”. No one knows the exact moment when sleep comes over their body. Falling asleep at the wheel is clearly dangerous, but being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t fall asleep. We’ve all seen the highway signs recommending that we take a break, but often it’s impractical to do so as we’ve got places to be and people to see. Pulling over for a six-hour nap is not something any of us are realistically going to do. But parking up and taking a five-minute stroll and getting some fresh air can really help. Rolling down a window to get some air can also work wonders, and if you’re a coffee drinker maybe stop and pick up quick cup somewhere.

I’ll leave you with an astonishing fact: 94% of all road incidents are caused by driver attitudes and behaviors rather than a lack of knowledge. You probably knew all of the above already, but maybe this article reminded you of some of the ways in which we can be proactive in regard to our own safety. And if we can combine this knowledge with a data-driven safety program, then even better. Imagine a world where you could use data to proactively identify and mitigate risks before they happen. A data-driven approach to safety can help companies better predict the level of driving risk, and for more information on this topic – check out our eBook on data-driven safety.