Road safety charity Brake is encouraging fleet managers to ensure their drivers commit to being ‘sustainable, sober, secure, silent, sharp and slow’. Here Andrew Ryan looks at how to get these messages across
Brake launched its Pledge initiative 15 years ago to help fleet managers communicate key road safety messages to at-work drivers.
Developed with input from academics and fleet operators, it has this year been selected as the theme of the road safety charity’s Road Safety Week, which began on Monday (November 21) and runs until Sunday (November 27).
The initiative aims to get drivers to pledge to become safer behind the wheel and covers six separate pledges:
- Sustainable (journey planning and eco-driving).
- Sober (driver impairment through drink and/or drugs).
- Secure (vehicle maintenance and passenger security).
- Silent (driver distraction).
- Sharp (fit to drive, including driver eyesight and fatigue).
- Slow (speed).
Brake says the safety messages can be delivered through interactive group workshops, one-to-one sessions with individual drivers, full day training, or in shorter sessions throughout the year.
“When you plan a session, I would link it as much as you can to your company’s strategy and vision so, although they may be doing a Brake Pledge, they know it is about their business,” says Tracey Fuller, Brake Pledge course leader.
Here we look at the six pledges, why they are important and techniques fleet managers can use to get the safety message across to drivers.
The Pledge: I’ll minimise the amount I drive, or not drive at all. I’ll get about by walking, cycling or public transport as much as I can, for road safety, the environment and my health.
Why is it important? Minimising the amount we drive, and walking, cycling or using public transport instead makes communities safer and does the best we can for the environment and individual health.
Get the message across: “This can be whatever you want it to be,” says Tracey Fuller, Pledge course leader for Brake. “It can be about minimising how much you drive, or making the route as safe as possible.
“This area can include some eco elements about driving efficiently, you can make it about car sharing, or reducing the amount of business journeys by supporting video- and teleconferencing.
“Think about your audience and whether your company supports initiatives such as car-sharing. For example, advice could be on wellbeing, such as switching to cycling or walking for short journeys is better for staff and their communities.”
She says fleet operators could also think about the positive effect travelling less could have on the safety of vulnerable road users.
The Pledge: I’ll never drive after drinking any alcohol or taking drugs – not a drop, not a drag.
Why is it important? Having even one drink before getting behind the wheel can affect your ability to drive. Department for Transport figures show that in 2013 one in 10 (11%) drivers/motorcycle riders killed in a crash had alcohol present in their body, even though they weren’t over the legal blood-alcohol limit. One in seven road deaths are at the hands of someone who has driven while over the limit.
Get the message across: Morning-after drink-driving can be caused by drivers by not knowing how many units of alcohol they consumed during the night before.
It generally takes one hour for one unit of alcohol to leave the bloodstream, while Brake recommends drivers should then leave a further hour before getting behind the wheel.
“I’ve got a short quiz in which I have a bottle of cider, a bottle of ale, a pint of lager, a large red wine, a small red wine and a shot of whisky, and I get people to put them in order of strength of drink,” says Fuller.
“Very rarely do people get it right because they can’t work out the relationship between volume and strength.
“People, for example, are influenced by the strength of whisky and say that if I get you a double shot of whisky, which is 40%, it must be the strongest. They don’t think that the large red wine at 13.5% is more units.
“It’s quite a good, visual way of engaging people.”
Fuller says the Brake website has a morning-after calculator which can be used to determine when someone can drive after drinking, while drinkaware.co.uk sells cardboard unit/calorie calculator wheels for 45p each.
“They’re really great things to give out,” she adds.
The Pledge: I’ll make sure everyone in my vehicle is belted up on every journey and children smaller than 150cm are in a proper child restraint. I’ll choose the safest vehicle I can and ensure it’s maintained.
Why is it important? Using a seatbelt reduces the chance of dying in a crash by 50%, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Get the message across: “You can ask ‘what do you think of seatbelt use as a driver? As a driver, you are legally responsible for passengers 14 and under, so you could be prosecuted. Over 14s can be fined on the spot’,” says Fuller.
“You can ask the drivers to make it their mission to ensure everybody has their seatbelt on.”
Secure can also cover head restraints, loads and vehicle maintenance checks, says Fuller.
To communicate the importance of a correctly adjusted head restraint, fleet managers can use an illustration which shows the effect of a collision on the neck as the head is swung violently backwards and forwards.
“Whiplash is nasty: you might also want to ask if anyone in the room has had whiplash to encourage debate,” says Fuller.
Items carried in the back can be like a ‘loose missile’, she adds.
“A policeman told me about a guy who died in a collision, not from the impact, but from his golf clubs coming through the boot and hitting him in the back of the head,” says Fuller.
“Tell people that if they have heavy items in the boot and are not carrying people in the back, to connect rear seatbelts as this will stop the seats coming down and anything flying forwards in a collision.”
The Pledge: I’ll never take or make calls, read or type when driving. I’ll put communication devices out of reach and stay focused.
Why is it important? Drivers who perform a complex secondary task, such as using a mobile, while at the wheel are three times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers, reports the US Department of Transportation.
Get the message across: Fleet managers need to take into account their company policy when delivering the message on the dangers of driver distraction.
“As well as speaking on the phone, it also applies to things like operating sat-navs, texting and social media,” says Fuller.
“Brake wants everybody to pledge to not make or take any calls or texts when driving, but we appreciate different company policies may give you a challenge. You have to educate, educate and educate drivers on the dangers.”
Fuller says a useful exercise to do with a group is called ‘catch and count’.
“This sees people standing in a circle passing a ball around while counting, and at the same time I throw something randomly at them,” she says.
“It’s basically trying to demonstrate that you can’t do two things at once, you have to stay completely focused on the road.”
The Pledge: I’ll stay focused on safe driving. I’ll take regular breaks and never drive if I’m tired, stressed or on medication that affects driving. I’ll get my eyes tested every two years and wear glasses or lenses at the wheel if I need them.
Why is it important? RSA Insurance Group reports that road crashes caused by poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year.
Get the message across: “This is not too difficult as a message, but is one where education plays a vital role,” says Fuller.
Fleet managers should be able to access plenty of research which highlights the correlation between crashes and factors such as tiredness and stress, and this can be used to raise awareness.
For example, a report entitled Sleep-related vehicle accidents found the peak times for fatigue-related crashes are between 2am-6am and 2pm-4pm when drivers are naturally more sleepy.
“A driver policy should include taking regular stops,” says Fuller. “We say that on a working day of 12 hours, driving should make up no more than 50% of that.”
A Brake and Direct Line survey of UK drivers found that 71% had lost concentration at the wheel in the past year due to stress or annoyance. Thirty-nine per cent of these said this was work-related stress.
The Pledge: I’ll stay under speed limits and slow down to 20mph around schools, homes and shops to protect others. I’ll slow right down for bends, brows and bad weather, and avoid overtaking.
Why is it important? According to Department for Transport figures, breaking the speed limit or travelling too fast for the conditions is recorded by police at crash scenes as a contributory factor in more than one in four (27%) fatal crashes in Great Britain.
Get the message across: Fleet managers can take a positive approach when talking about speeding to ensure drivers are receptive to the message and not instantly put on the defensive.
“You can say ‘do you know what, we’ve got a really good population of drivers, we don’t go out and intend to speed. There is a small number who are at risk, but we can just slip into some bad, unintentional habits where we speed’,” says Fuller.
“You can engage drivers by saying something about the number of speeding fines your drivers have, or could ask if anybody knows how many employees have six or more points on their licence. It could be an interesting fact to put out there.
“I would recommend showing one of our safety films if you are treating speed as a section on its own. It’s a powerful way to end.”