Managing Driver Behavior for Better Road Safety

Discover the impact of driver behavior on road safety. This guide covers factors influencing driver actions, tips for safer driving, and advanced fleet safety and efficiency solutions.

What is Driver Behavior?

Driver behavior is composed of the actions and decisions a driver makes while operating a vehicle. Common examples of driver behavior include intentional actions, speeding, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and drowsy driving.

Factors Influencing Driver Behavior

Understanding driver behavior is crucial as it directly influences fleet and road safety and can be affected by numerous factors. Some of which are the following:

Driver Characteristics

  • Age and Experience: Younger drivers may take more risks due to inexperience, while older drivers might drive cautiously but face slower reaction times.
  • Gender: Male drivers are more likely to drive aggressively than female drivers.
  • Personality Traits: Certain personality traits like impulsivity and sensation-seeking can lead to riskier driving behaviors.

Environmental Factors

  • Fatigue and drowsiness can significantly influence driver behavior.
  • Excessive work hours may result in driver fatigue and distraction.
  • Weather, road conditions, and other environmental factors can affect driver behavior.

Vehicle Factors

  • Vehicle Type and Model
    • Size and Weight: Larger vehicles like trucks and buses require different handling than smaller cars.
    • Performance Capabilities: High-performance vehicles can encourage aggressive driving due to their speed and acceleration capabilities.
  • Vehicle Condition
    • Maintenance: Maintained vehicles have fewer unexpected breakdowns, letting drivers focus on the road.
    • Wear and Tear: Brakes, tires, and suspension impact vehicle response. Worn parts affect maneuverability and stopping distances, altering driver behavior.
  • Load and Cargo
    • Weight Distribution: Properly loaded cargo maintains vehicle stability and control.
    • Securing Loads: Securely fastened cargo prevents shifts that can affect vehicle dynamics.

Driver State and Attention

  • Emotional and Mental State: Emotions can significantly affect driver behavior, leading to aggressive driving or reckless decision-making.
  • Distractions: Distractions like using a phone or eating while driving can significantly impact driver behavior.

Impact on Road Safety

Statistics show that approximately 90% of road crashes are influenced by driver behavior. Here’s how poor driver behavior impacts road safety:

Human Cost

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), road crashes lead to 1.25 to1.35 million deaths annually. Many of these accidents are caused by driver error, making it one of the leading causes of death among young people.

Moreover, emotional distress from severe accidents can lead to lasting mental health challenges like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

Economic Cost

Countries worldwide lose between 2% and 7% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), amounting to over $2 trillion annually. These costs include medical care for injured individuals, repair and replacement of damaged property, lost productivity due to injuries and fatalities, and the legal fees associated with accident-related lawsuits and claims.

Societal Cost

Driver behavior has implications for the social realm as well. Unsafe driving practices can erode public confidence in road safety, increasing anxiety and stress among motorists and pedestrians alike. Communities may become wary of certain roads or intersections known for high accident rates, altering daily routines and community dynamics.

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Regulations and Parameters

To ensure road safety, most countries have regulations in place for drivers. Some common parameters that impact driver behavior include:

Distracted Driving Laws

  • Handheld Cellphone Use: Many jurisdictions, including 34 states in the United States, have banned handheld devices while driving.
  • Bans on Texting: Some countries have made texting while driving a criminal offense. In most jurisdictions, these are also primary enforcement laws.

Fatigue Management

  • Work Hour Limits: Regulations for professional drivers, such as truck and bus drivers, limit the number of hours they can drive consecutively without rest.
  • Mandatory Rest Periods: Required breaks to prevent fatigue-related accidents.
  • Work Diary: Recording work hours and breaks in a work diary helps monitor compliance with fatigue management regulations.

Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations

Fleet drivers in the US must abide by the Hours of Service regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This governs drivers’ weekly and daily hours and the minimum rest time required between shifts. The Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) Mandate requires fleets to record HOS data using approved electronic tracking devices.

Right-of-way, Speed Limits, Signaling and Turning Regulations

Laws regulating basic driving behaviors like yielding the right-of-way, obeying speed limits, using turn signals, and making proper turns help ensure the safety of all road users.

Seatbelt Laws

In most states, seatbelt use is mandated by law for drivers and passengers. Seatbelts are a highly effective measure for preventing injuries or fatalities in car accidents.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits

The legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels to prevent drunk driving vary internationally. In the US, the limit is 0.08% BAC, indicating intoxication if exceeded. In Australia, the limit is 0.05% BAC. Some places have stricter limits, like “zero tolerance” for teens and commercial drivers.

Graduated Licensing Schemes

Many countries have implemented license requirements for young drivers to help reduce novice driver crashes. These schemes typically include a learning phase, a provisional license phase with certain restrictions such as passenger limits and curfews, and, eventually, a full license after completing all requirements.

Advanced Solutions for Monitoring Driver Behavior

Given the impact of driver behavior on road safety and laws regulating it, it is essential to monitor and address reckless driving habits. Some solutions that can help with this include:

1. Telematics and Sensors

Telematics devices and sensors offer innovative solutions for fleet safety. They can monitor aggressive driving behaviors like speeding, harsh braking, and rapid acceleration and provide real-time feedback to operators.

2. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are electronic technologies that assist drivers in various tasks. It alerts drivers when they unintentionally drift out of their lane.

3. In-Vehicle Monitoring Systems (IVMS)

IVMS tracks various aspects of vehicle operation, including speed, location, and driver inputs. Fleet managers can set up customized alerts in this system and have a scoring mechanism to rate driver performance over time.

4. Biometric Monitoring

Wearables like smartwatches can monitor a driver’s physiological signs, such as heart rate and fatigue levels. Sensors in the vehicle can detect signs of driver fatigue, such as eye movements and head nodding, and issue warnings to take breaks.

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Best Practices

Provide Training and Education Programs

Regular training programs for drivers can significantly improve their skills and awareness. These programs should cover defensive driving techniques, hazard perception, and the importance of adhering to safety regulations.

Establish Safety Policies and Procedures

Implementing clear safety policies and procedures helps establish expected behaviors. These include distracted driving policies, fatigue management guidelines, and protocols for compliance with road regulations.

Teach Stress Management Techniques

Stress can negatively impact driving behavior. Providing drivers with stress management resources and training can help them handle challenging situations more calmly and maintain focus on the road.

Utilize Telematics and Monitoring Systems

Use telematics devices in vehicles to monitor driving behavior. Fleet operators can use this data to provide feedback and training to improve driver performance. These advanced technologies can also provide real-time alerts for risky behaviors.

Encourage a Culture of Safety

A workplace safety culture is vital for encouraging responsible driving habits. Employers should demonstrate their commitment to safety by valuing and rewarding safe driving practices.

Loida Bauto
Article by

Loida Bauto

SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Loida Bauto is a freelance content contributor for SafetyCulture and a self-published book author. She has written various articles about workplace safety, human disabilities, universal design, and sustainability. Her written works reflect her strong passion for quality, workplace incident prevention, and efficiency to empower businesses to improve their operations.