Charity calls on employers: take advantage of technology to protect pedestrians and cyclists

Thursday 28 May 2015

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk 

A report released today (28 May 2015) by Brake, the road safety charity, and Licence Bureau, has found many employers with vehicle fleets are not taking advantage of new technologies to protect vulnerable road users. Despite the potential to help drivers see pedestrians and cyclists and reduce casualties, only one in five HGV operators surveyed (20%) have rear-facing cameras on all vehicles, one in 12 (8%) have side-facing cameras on all vehicles, and one in eight (12%) have side sensors on all vehicles.

Brake is appealing to employers to follow best practice advice and implement the latest safety technology suitable for their vehicles, to protect other road users and deliver the business benefits of reduced crashes, bumps and scrapes and lower insurance premiums.

The report found HGV safety technologies that are mandatory under European law, such as underrun protection and wide-angle lenses, are present on almost all vehicles. Hence Brake is calling for more comprehensive regulation to ensure the widespread take up of technologies such as automatically moving mirrors, side-view cameras and side sensors, which can be of benefit in preventing needless death and injuries yet are currently only present on a minority of vehicle fleets.

With at least a quarter (24%) of road deaths and serious injuries involving a vehicle being driven for work [1], there is a clear need for employers to do more to improve the safety of their vehicles. HGVs specifically make up only 5% of vehicles on UK roads, yet are involved in a quarter (23%) of cyclist deaths and one in seven (13%) of pedestrian deaths. In 2013, 78 people on foot or bike were killed by HGVs.

The report also indicates that while safety management technologies such as telematics are becoming widespread, there is scope for employers with fleets of all vehicle types to make far greater use of them. Half of operators surveyed (49%) do not use telematics at all, and many of those who do report not making full use of their systems. Brake is highlighting that while there is an initial cost for such measures, effective safety technology like telematics pays for itself through reduced incidents and insurance premiums: many report recouping costs within a year and seeing long-term gains.

The report also highlighted the negative impact of certain forms of technology, particularly the worrying prevalence of hands-free mobile phone kits in employer vehicles. Hands-free kits were present in some, most or all vehicles in two thirds (68%) of HGV fleets and four in five (80%) cars fleets surveyed. Only 4% of employers make use of apps that prevent mobile phone use behind the wheel. Brake warns that using a mobile at the wheel, even with a hands-free kit, has a similar effect on reactions to drink driving [3], and makes you four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury [4].

Employers can access Brake’s expert guidance by ordering a copy of the report, which includes advice for companies, and becoming a member of Brake Professional at http://www.brakepro.org/survey2015pt1

Dr Tom Fisher, senior research and communications officer at Brake, said: “Employers whose staff drive for work have a duty of care both to their own employees and other road users. While not a panacea, technology can play a big part in helping them improve safety and exercise that duty, so it is disappointing to see that so many are not taking full advantage of new safety technologies on offer. Blind spot devices and safety management kit like telematics have huge potential to reduce crashes and casualties, and bring down associated costs for the operator. Brake urges all fleet operators to go beyond the bare legal minimum to ensure their vehicles and drivers are as safe as possible, especially in safeguarding our most vulnerable road users. We can offer support and advice, through our Brake Professionals scheme, on how best to do this. Brake is also urging government to put in place more comprehensive minimum safety standards, as it is clear this is the most effective way to ensure the widespread adoption of vital safety technologies.”

Les Owen, compliance consultant at Licence Bureau, said: “The Brake survey provides fleet operators with lots of good data and advice. Surely it is obvious that the cost of a crash (average in the UK is over £800 for all vehicles) makes it sensible to consider fitting some of the safety technology items. The key features for fleets must be to avoid drivers using mobile phones; telematics to provide fleet managers with data they can sample (rather than look at every one) to offer driving advice where needed; and safety standard mirrors with items for HGVs to reduce risks to vulnerable road users. One serious crash or fatal collision can lead to a lifetime of problems for drivers and managers alike so doing more to avoid them is a no-brainer. Finally, implementing good policies, which are reviewed with drivers to provide learning opportunities and reminders of company objectives, is good practice. Writing a policy and not doing anything with it is just as bad as not having one.”

Brake’s advice for employers

Technology alone is not a panacea for road safety; safe driver behaviour and risk management policies and procedures are essential within fleets. Yet technology can form a vital part of the road risk management mix, and greatly aid safe driving, vehicles and journeys.

Fleet operators should be aware of and comply with laws to help protect vulnerable road users. Under EU law, trucks weighing more than 3.5 tonnes are legally required to have some safety devices fitted, including extra mirrors and under-run guards. Similar requirements exist in many other jurisdictions worldwide.

Where safety devices are not legally required, fleet managers should still consider fitting them to ensure their vehicles are as safe as possible.

Wide-angle and blind spot mirrors, CCTV, rear, front and side sensors, automatic side mirrors, and reversing alarms are available for various types of vehicle. Fleet operators should implement devices suitable to their vehicle types.

When selecting vehicles to lease or buy, or advising employees who use their own vehicles for work, fleet managers should select vehicles with smaller blind spots or blind spot-minimising technology fitted, and features designed to minimise the harm to vulnerable road users in a collision.

Fleet managers should keep up-to-date with the latest technology in this fast-moving area, and implement new technologies where available and appropriate. Information on the latest research and developments is available through Brake’s fortnightly Target Zero email newsletter to subscribers, and in Brake’s research library.

Brake’s survey report gives further guidance and information on technology. Employers can order the report at http://www.brakepro.org/survey2015pt1.

Brake advises and supports companies to manage their road risk through its Brake Professionals scheme. The survey report is available for free to members, or can be purchased for £5 by non-members. Special offer: the first 25 non-members to request the report through our online form get a copy for FREE.

About the report

The survey results come from Brake and Licence Bureau’s Fleet Safety Survey Report Part One: Technology, released today (Thursday 28 May 2015). 131 organisations that employ drivers completed the online survey, representing nearly 26,000 vehicles and 40,000 people driving for work.

Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on Twitter or Facebook. Follow Julie Townsend on Twitter.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

End notes

[1] Reported road casualties Great Britain 2013, Department for Transport, 2014

[2] Ibid

[3] Using a hands-free mobile whilst driving can be more dangerous than drink driving, Transport Research Laboratory, 2009

[4] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study , University of Western Australia, 2005