How dashcams reduce distracted driving

Outfitting commercial fleets with video technology can save lives and protect your business.

On 10 August 2016, the Houghton family was returning from a camping trip in two cars: Mark Goldsmith and his son Jake in one car and the rest of the family – Tracy and her sons Ethan and Joshua and Aimee, Mark’s daughter – in another right in front of them. 

While sat in traffic along England’s A34 artery, disaster struck: Truck driver Tomasz Kroker ploughed into Mark’s car, igniting a horrific chain reaction. Mark’s car was shunted into the vehicle containing the mother and three children, who all died instantly when their car was forced underneath a truck in front, compressed to a third of its normal size.

Dashcam footage showed that Kroker had been scrolling through music selections on his mobile phone at the time, so distracted that he barely looked at the road for almost a kilometre. Kroker, who was traveling at 80 kmph, received a jail sentence of 10 years.

While it may be tempting to judge, who among us hasn’t let our attention wander while behind the wheel? It’s important to realise that things like this could happen to any one of us – with tragic, irreversible consequences – unless we do everything we can to curtail distracted driving.

What do we mean by distracted driving?

According to the NZTA, distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents and contributed to 10 fatal crashes and 133 serious injury crashes in 2019, yet many fleets have no stipulations around distracted driving articulated in their safe driving policy.

In a nutshell, distracted driving falls into four broad categories:

  1. Taking your eyes off the road
  2. Taking your hands off the wheel
  3. Being distracted by noises
  4. Being mentally elsewhere (e.g., daydreaming, fatigue)

These first two will be most familiar and are the ones that occur most often on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, they’re also the easiest to correct. Examples include:

  • Mobile phone use
  • Interacting with radios, CDs, iPods, or GPS devices
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking while driving
  • Reaching for items
  • Conversations with other passengers
  • Admiring scenery

Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile phone use is by far the biggest contributor, as four of the most common distracted driving activities can now be done on a smartphone: texting, talking, using a navigation system, and adjusting music.

600x400 cameras driving

How serious of a problem is distracted driving?

In recent years, New Zealand’s road toll has been steadily increasing, from a low of 253 deaths in 2013 to 377 in 2018, prompting the NZTA to launch its “Let Driving Distract You” campaign. The figure dropped slightly to 353 in 2019.

Vehicular accidents are a leading cause of workplace injury and death, and one in four company vehicles are involved in a crash each year, costing companies around $15,300 per vehicle. The truck-related death toll is between 50 and 60 a year, and about 80 percent of these deaths are other motorists and bystanders.

Compounding the problem are statistics that don’t reflect how serious the problem really is. While road traffic accidents were identified as the leading cause of work-related deaths in Australia, where they accounted for 31 percent of worker fatalities, New Zealand’s rate was just 16 percent.

“[WorkSafe] doesn’t actually record truck-related deaths as workplace ones, even though they clearly are,” says Jared Abbott, transport, logistics and manufacturing divisional secretary for FIRST Union. “I think there would be a lot more focus on these important issues if they were recorded this way. What gets measured gets done, so let’s get measuring.”

Exactly how do you measure distracted driving? Fleet managers and other PCBUs are legally responsible for managing driver and vehicle safety, but neither the NZTA nor WorkSafe offers advice on how to integrate work-related driving into an organisation’s H&S culture. Fortunately, telematics solutions like EROAD’s Ehubo2 and the EROAD Clarity Dashcam provide the answer.

tow truck towing a broken down car on the street 600x400

How does driver behaviour change with a dashcam?

Recent studies show that continuous feedback is fundamental to changing driving behaviour. 

With Ehubo2, drivers and fleet managers have access to a wealth of information, including overspeeds and harsh braking, but the device still doesn’t provide the full picture that a dashcam can: specifically, what happened immediately before, during, and after an incident, both in terms of in-cab driver behaviour and external factors beyond their control. 

1155574 dashcam 600x400Fully integrated with Ehubo2, EROAD Clarity’s dual-facing camera is on whenever the truck is, but only a harsh driving event will trigger a video to be automatically sent to the MyEROAD online platform for review. 

While it’s natural for drivers to feel some trepidation around being visually monitored, once they understand that dashboard cameras are proactive, not punitive – and there for their own protection from liability, injury, and death – getting onboard will become a no-brainer.

The goal is education, prevention, and in cases where an accident has happened, proof of the facts. Footage from the last 40 hours of driving can also be retrieved as needed, and the driver can record and send video on demand at the push of a button. 

Retrospective review of footage – including examples of commendable defensive driving – can help drivers become more aware of how they’re driving and what they can do to improve. That’s where MyEROAD Replay comes in handy, allowing you to combine driver performance data with video footage. With greater awareness, your drivers can make better decisions at critical moments that could mean the difference between life and death. Or avoid them in the first place. 

Now that you can actually see driver distractions in action, you can implement a safe driving policy that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, known by the acronym “SMART” in employee-performance management. 

By outfitting your fleet with dashcams and making incident footage review part of regular team coaching, you can demonstrate ahead-of-the curve compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) and cement your reputation as a company committed to safety. With the passage of time, we can expect that cameras will increasingly be recommended, if not required, by insurers. 

See what’s going on with your fleet, only when you need to.

Add a new dimension to your EROAD experience with the EROAD Clarity dashcam.