Distracted Driving Blog

Aegis Mobility's Distracted Driving Blog

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A market tipping point occurs when the severity of a problem and the efficacy of solutions intersect. The year 2013 will provide such a tipping point for distracted driving.

The severity of the distracted driving problem due to mobile device use has been understood for many years by research organizations, educational institutions and governmental regulators. From the Department of Transport's ban on texting and hand-held cellphone use by commercial drivers at the end of November, 2011 to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Report of March, 2012 to the 39 states that ban texting while driving and the growing list of states that ban handheld cell phone use while driving, the societal awareness of the problem is clear.
 
In aggregate, the cost due to accidents resulting from mobile device use while driving is estimated to exceed 50 billion dollars annually. Even more tragic, than the economic impact, is the fact that thousands of lives are lost each year due to mobile device related accidents.
 
So, if the problem has been well understood for some time and the economic cost is so high, why hasn't the situation improved?
 
It is not for lack of effort on the part of lawmakers but enforcing laws is very challenging. Additionally, while individuals believe that it is unsafe for others to use mobile devices while driving, they continue to use their own devices while driving. When you combine this deeply ingrained psychology with the fact that our mobile devices continue to increase in capability and usefulness, it's easy to see why the situation has become a true epidemic.  
 
Having outlined the severity of the problem, what has changed on the landscape of solutions to make 2013 such an important year?
 
There are three primary factors that drive the tipping point in 2013:
 
1. Distracted driving solutions have matured
  • Until mid-2012, there were no effective software-only solutions that provided the accuracy and battery life required for an excellent end-user experience. Technology has evolved to solve those problems and the end-user experience is now, in the words of one of our large customers, "flawless".
2. Distracted driving solutions have broadened
  • Large enterprise fleets have diverse needs with respect to vehicles, devices, work conditions and appropriate policy. Prior to 2012, there were "point solutions" available but no single portfolio that could address the full range of enterprise needs optimally. Such broad portfolios now exist.
3. Leading enterprise organizations are taking action
  • Executives, concerned about their employees' safety and their company's societal obligations, have said "enough is enough". The safety risks are clear and the ROI (Return on Investment) is compelling. The first large (multi-10Ks units) deployments are underway.
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At Aegis, we are excited to have been a market pioneer in addressing the distracted driving issue. Our mission is to make our roads safer and to support the success of our customers. We look forward to significantly advancing both of those goals in 2013!
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Talking while texting while driving... the irony is thick with this one.

--Source

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This guest post was authored by Matthew Curtis, Software Alliance Manager at TomTom Business Solutions and was originally published here.

The advantages of mobile devices and smartphones to companies and mobile workers are significant. Technicians can instantly receive Work Orders, search for inventory, communicate via voice, email and text and even navigate with turn-by-turn directions.

Mobile apps such as vWorkApp offer elegant solutions to leverage mobile technologies such as credit card processing, signature capture, barcode scanning and customer forms to enhance the productivity of mobile workers.  Even more impressive is how vWorkApp is integrated with TomTom’s telematics and connected navigation solution to help guard against the significant risks associated with employee use of smartphones while driving on the job.

What smartphones cannot do is replace the value of a hard wired black box. By permanently installing a black box into the power and ignition wires of a vehicle, businesses are assured of knowing where their vehicles are and what they’re doing. TomTom’s LINK 510 (black box) contains a GPS, accelerometer, cellular and Bluetooth connectivity. Every minute the vehicle is running, the device is sending location and driver behavior data to the cloud.

So what can a telematics black box do that a smartphone can’t? Its tamper proof! Workers can’t turn it off, throw it out the window, run it out of batteries, leave it on the kitchen counter or talk and text on it. A modern black box also monitors when a vehicle is idling (wasting fuel) and when a secondary motor (PTO) is in use (great for monitoring unauthorized use). Notification that your vehicle is moving when the engine is not running can help you track down your vehicle in the event it is unexpectedly towed or stolen.

More importantly, a smartphone can’t monitor driver behavior, which is a significant driver of operational costs. Imagine sitting in the passenger seat of all your drivers. Every time they sped significantly over the posted limit, took a sharp turn, slammed on their brakes or sat in the driveway with the engine idling for 15 minutes; you were there? Do you think they would driver smarter? It’s your fuel, insurance, maintenance costs and reputation on the line, not your drivers.

The LINK 510 provides these types of driver behavior to the business owner, and with TomTom’s line of connected navigation devices, Active Driver Feedback is presented in real-time to the driver using the PRO series navigation devices. Notification via visual and audible alerts are presented to the driver and back office in real-time, as well as through reports on both the device and TomTom’s WEBFLEET interface.

Still want to stay connected with your workers while they’re driving? No problem, our PRO series navigation devices enable you to dispatch Work Orders directly to your driver, enabling them to accept and navigate to the job site without breaking any laws or stopping their vehicle. They can also pair their smartphones with their navigation device for safe and legal communication.

Conclusion: Smartphones are amazing tools, but should not be used for Over The Road driver and vehicle management. There is clearly a place for smartphones in the daily operation of your mobile workforce, but that use case is not driving.

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Resolutions to change behavior and live healthier lives are common at this time of year. And according to a story in today's New York Times, employers are getting in on the act by adopting policies aimed at weaning employees off mobile devices.

Huh?

I thought mobile productivity was good for business? I thought smart phones and tablets exponentially increased worker productivity? So why on earth would companies want to moderate employee use of mobile devices?

Here's three reasons why:

  1. A recently released study conducted by Daimler, found that "switching-off" after work is critical to being a balanced and productive employee.
  2. A separate study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that while mobile phones were valued as a way to stay productive, there were significant downsides to being tethered to your work at all times.
  3. Evidence shows that companies face significant liability stemming from employee use of mobile devices while driving.

Despite the fact that some forward-thinking companies are beginning to understand the need to balance mobile productivity with employee health and corporate risk concerns; many others still expect employees to answer the phone or respond to the email at any hour of the day under any circumstances, even while driving.

So where does corporate America go from here, you ask?

The answer isn't 100% clear, but Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T. and author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other,” offers a glimpse into the future.  Ms. Turkle predicts that more and more companies will simply ask the question, "how do we help our employees make healthy choices with regard to use of mobile devices in the context of work?"

Healthy Choices

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In May 2012, a jury in Texas handed down a $21 million verdict against Coca-Cola for damages arising from an August 2010 distracted driving crash involving one of its employees using a mobile phone while driving. As we head into 2013, here are three important lessons commercial risk and fleet managers can learn from this historic case:

  1. When it happens to you, the plaintiffs will sue:  Thomas J Henry, the lead plaintiff's attorney said in a press release, "From the time I took the Coca-Cola driver's testimony and obtained the company's inadequate cell phone driving policy, I knew we had a corporate giant with a huge safety problem on our hands."  Furthermore, he said, "I hope the verdict sends a message to corporate America that you can't have employees on a cell phone and endanger the motoring public."The lesson is simple: plaintiffs are watching and waiting to sue employers whenever employees crash due to a cell phone related distractions.
  2. A written cell phone use policy is not enough:  The plaintiff successfully argued that Coca-Cola’s cell phone policy for its delivery drivers was “vague and ambiguous” and it wasn't enforced in any meaningful way. Simply stated, if written policies are not enforced, then written policies will not minimize employer risk and liability.
  3. Policy enforcement is critical: Case law in the US clearly shows that employers should expect to be held accountable for damages that occur when employees drive distracted. Therefore, to truly reduce risk in the eyes of a jury, a company should consider utilizing technology best practices to actively or passively encourage safe and legal use of mobile devices while employees are driving.

As we close out 2012 and head into 2013, the year ahead promises mobile devices than ever in the hands of employee drivers.

Whether employees use the devices in a safe and legal manner while driving is entirely up to the employer. Fleet operators who stand by and do nothing will be sued and vicariously implicated by juries when the inevitable crashes occur. Fleets who adopt policies, conduct training and utilize best practices to encourage compliance will save lives and dramatically reduce risk and liability.

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