London’s Mayor has an ambitious safety goal for his city. By 2030, Mayor Sadiq Khan wants zero fatalities in London from city buses. By 2041, the mayor wants all deaths and serious injuries from road collisions to be eliminated from London’s streets.
It’s a tall order for a metropolis of 8.8 million people, 2.6 million registered passenger vehicles, and 9,590 city buses. In 2016, 116 people were killed from road traffic collisions in London. Although down from 136 a year earlier, it’s still a distance from Mayor Khan’s goal, outlined in his Vision Zero initiative. London’s local government body responsible for the Greater London transport system, Transport for London, in November outlined a plan for getting to zero. The plan includes a host of technologies and design fixes, including automatic emergency braking, intelligent speed assistance, audible alerts, standardised brake pedals, and video cameras to help eliminate driver blind spots, among other things.
National Express, the UK’s largest coach operator, added another component to the equation—the human factor. In addition to rolling out safety technologies such as the DriveCam programme, the company also followed up with systematic coaching of its drivers. The combination of people and technology led to a 22 percent reduction in collision events and recently earned the company a commendation at the London Transport Awards in the Excellence in Technology category.
National Express’ Service delivery director Chief Operating Officer for the U.K. and Germany Kevin Gale credits the improvements to the company’s human-centric coaching efforts. “At National Express we place the safety of our drivers, passengers, and other road users first and above all else,” Gale said.
Without the human element, it would be difficult for technology in and of itself to improve road safety and advance London’s Vision Zero goals, said Del Lisk, Lytx’s vice president of safety services.
“Why? Because the driver is still ultimately in charge of the vehicle,” Lisk said. “You can have a host of technologies to assist you, but if the driver isn’t on board, it would be difficult to make progress.”
To illustrate,As the bus approaches the slowing passenger vehicle, the bus’s advanced driver assist system is beeping to warn the driver to slow down. The system beeps for several seconds before the emergency brakes kick in, throwing passengers into the windshield.
“The issue is that most people believe they are better than average drivers, but that everyone else on the road is average or below average,” Lisk said. “Complacency settles in, and they’re often not aware that some of their driving habits may be exposing them to more risk. The mindset is that I’ve done this countless times without incident, so it’s perfectly safe.”
This is particularly true for bus drivers, who often have static and repetitive routes, for instance. In a 2017 Lytx analysis of a subset of 103 million passenger transport miles, static trips were more likely than average to experience a collision or near collision, while trips with a variable route were less likely.
Many of the leading indicators for collision are related to human behaviour. For example, in a risk ratio analysis of preventable collisions presented at the Lytx User Group Conference in February, nearly half of them can be attributed to five driver behaviours:
- Lack of awareness at junctions and intersections (14.1 percent)
- Distraction (10.8 percent)
- Late response (10.6 percent)
- Neglecting to use mirrors (8 percent)
- Unsafe lane change (5.9 percent)
Breaking bad driving habits requires human intervention. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative intervention, said David P. Scott, who worked at UPS for 33 years and is now a senior safety specialist at WGL, a utility company based in Washington, D.C. In fact, Scott, who presented on a panel at the Lytx 2018 User Group Conference on effective coaching strategies, said the key to seeing his organisation’s safety metrics moving in the right direction was a driver recognition programme that relies on video-based driver coaching, positive reinforcement, and celebrating successes. If the driver was captured on video using defensive driving skills to avoid a collision, they’d receive a gift card. “And, if they allow us, we use the video (outside view only) for training across the company,” Scott said. “Another tool that has been readily accepted is intervening with drivers on the top 20 riskiest driver report. We sit down with them in a positive manner. I review their riskiest behaviours and we discuss how to correct them. When they get off the top 20 list they get rewarded with a gift card. That is very positive.”
Scott’s video-based coaching programme became so widely accepted that the company’s union leaders insisted that the programme be implemented across the entire fleet so all drivers can be assessed fairly.
“They wanted all-in,” Scott said. “That in and of itself is very rare, because you would think they wanted it out.”
An effective coaching programme, combined with video telematics technology, can help significantly reduce collision risks. National Express saw the following improvements in 12 months:
- 37 percent reduction in event frequency
- 39 percent reduction in event severity
- 28 percent reduction in near collision events
- 22 percent reduction in collision events
- 39 percent reduction in late responses
“We continually look for ways to refine and improve our safety procedures, which led us to the Lytx DriveCam Programme,” said Gale of National Express. “And we’re pleased that our team has embraced it as part of their ongoing commitment to making our company a safe place to work.”
While drivers might initially resist the idea of being coached, even experienced drivers are sometimes surprised by the risks associated with some of their actions, said Anthony Harding, driver systems support manager at Flogas, one of the leading suppliers of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), propane and butane in the UK.
“This information has always been there. But only with the DriveCam system have we been able to uncover it and use it to improve safety,” said Harding, noting the company reduced its collisions by 43 percent through its coaching programme. “We are able to help drivers change any risky behaviour before it leads to an incident.”
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