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    Preparing Drivers for the Roadways of Tomorrow

    By Jeff Martin, Vice President of Global Sales Strategy, Lytx®

    Despite fewer miles being driven these days, fatalities appear to be on the rise. According to recent records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, traffic deaths are hovering near record highs even with less miles driven. The records show that traffic deaths spiked 18% when comparing 2022 to 2019, while miles traveled dropped by 3%.

    The perception of roadways today may shed some light on this trend.

    Distracted, impaired, and aggressive driving remain high-ranking concerns for both commercial and non-commercial drivers. According to a 2021 survey published by AAA, 92% of drivers felt that texting, emailing, or reading on a hand-held device was very or extremely dangerous. Ironically, despite these perceptions, 26% of drivers reported having sent a text or email while driving within thirty days of taking the survey. Similarly, around 30% of respondents reported that they’d engaged in driving 15mph over the speed limit on a freeway within the previous month despite the known dangers that aggressive driving can create. This dichotomy of perception vs action is at the core of what makes this such a challenge to overcome.

    Technology can help, but it’s no replacement for vigilant driving

    There have been many technological advancements in commercial vehicles to promote safety. Blind spot monitoring and seatbelt alerts for all seats are great steps forward for safety. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) for autos and trucking include things like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-assist systems, and more. They truly can help improve safety on the road and reduce human error.

    Lytx products work with existing installed ADAS to help uncover previously undetected risky driving behaviors, prevent collisions and severity of accidents, improve compliance, and more.

    But drivers should be careful not to mistake these innovations as replacements for alert and vigilant driving. Relying on these monitors alone is not enough.

    Similarly, just because there are hands-free options for cell-phone use in a vehicle does not mean a driver will stay cognitively alert. Hands-free can often mean mind-free, as in, your mind is diverted from the task at hand when you’re talking on the speakerphone or using voice-to-text options. Likewise, newer vehicles are now equipped with full touchscreens with very few touch-knobs, further creating another way to divert attention while a driver locates the right area on a screen to touch. All these things can lead to distracted drivers, and ultimately, the need for more defensive driving on the road.

    But as the increased fatality rate of 2022 shows us, there’s much more that needs to be done to keep all drivers safe.

    Solutions to keep drivers prepared

    The solution should start with awareness campaigns as they are essential to combatting distracted, aggressive, and impaired driving. For commercial drivers, video technology solutions are also a key piece of the puzzle, offering insight into driver behaviors. It also provides the opportunity to recognize and celebrate great driving behaviors and habits.

    Technology paired with a safety program brings all the pieces together. Behavior-based safety programs of today rely on technology and telematics to help fleet managers have the right conversation with the right person at the right time. It can help deliver the desired outcomes by putting the managers in a position to quickly tee up a focused and productive conversation with the riskiest drivers, as well as the drivers who are demonstrating great defensive driving and other positive behaviors. Technology is the conduit to making this connection from manager to driver.

    Drivers can also heed these best practices to do their part in keeping the roadways safe:

    • Stow their mobile devices.
    • Put devices on Do Not Disturb mode.
    • Avoid using drive-time to catch up on phone calls and send texts.
    • Tell your employer that when you’re on the road, that means the phone is off-limits.
    • Store any loose items before setting out.
    • Plan to eat before or after your trip or take a break to do so.
    • Plan your route before departure to avoid distractions from typing in destinations to your navigation system.
    • When you’re a passenger, ask your driver to try and heed these same practices.

    Aggressive, impaired, and distracted driving are each deadly on their own, but when combined, the likelihood of severe accidents increases significantly. By arming your fleet with awareness of these issues along with solutions to adopt fleet-wide, your team can stay prepared for what’s ahead and help contribute to a safer culture on the roadway.