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Why telematics is the answer to distracted driving

How telematics can support both active and passive safe driving policy enforcement

Matt Howard

Whether it’s corporate finance data from ERP systems, sales forecasting information from CRM systems, or Web analytics data from Google, companies all over the globe have an insatiable appetite for empirical data to help them measure and manage their businesses.

But what about data from vehicles? Are corporate managers doing enough to collect and analyze data from fleets of company-owned cars and trucks?
Do companies and government agencies have adequate analytics to improve fleet efficiency and safety?

At first glance, an informed industry observer (and certainly any reader of this blog) might be quick to answer this question with a resounding YES.
After all, just look at the myriad of telematics service providers who currently offer a variety of solutions designed to collect and measure important data pertaining to employee use of company vehicles.

It’s a story that fleet owners and operators are all familiar with.
Need to track vehicle whereabouts? No problem.

Need to monitor vehicle fuel consumption and idle time? Easy enough.
Need to monitor aggressive driving behaviors and hard braking events? Gotcha covered.It all makes perfect sense.

With telematics, it becomes simple for employers to collect valuable data to monitor and manage driver behavior as it pertains to gas pedals, brake pedals, and steering wheels. (For more on telematics and fleet management, see ‘Cloud computing and fleet management’ and ‘Telematics and mobile resource management: Boosting the bottom line’.)

What’s distracted driving got to do with it?

Now let’s shift gears, and look through the telematics lens to examine the issue of distracted driving.

It’s an issue that is getting a ton of attention these days, and one that has become increasingly important to fleet managers over the past 12 months. (For more on distracted driving, see ‘Telematics and the socially networked car’ and ‘Driver distraction: The battle over in-car apps’.)

It’s a story that goes like this…

Need to prevent employee use of phones while driving to minimize liability? Come again?

Need to enforce compliance with newly established government regulations and legislation? Say what?

Need to stop employees from texting while driving to offset insurance costs?

Huh?

The truth is, employees who use their phones to text, email, or browse the Web while driving are a ticking time bomb in terms of corporate liability, regulatory compliance, and insurance costs.

(For more on insurance telematics and fleets, see ‘How to make insurance telematics work in the fleet space’.)

So what’s a company supposed to do? How can fleet operators manage this complicated risk?

Companies that have already deployed telematics collect a small mountain of data every day about their fleet.

Hidden within this mountain is a rich natural resource that can be leveraged to automatically enforce (actively or passively) compliance with defined cell phone use policies.
At first blush, you might wonder how telematics can help solve the distracted driving problem.

What do speed, location, and other vehicle events have to do with use of cell phones while driving?

Simply stated, it’s the power of data, and utilized in the right context, telematics events can support both active and passive safe driving policy enforcement.
Active policy enforcement can be accomplished by exposing telematics event data (ignition on/off, MPH, PRNDL) to third-party mobile phone applications that proactively prevent employees from texting, emailing, or browsing the Web while driving a company vehicle.

Passive policy enforcement can be accomplished by exposing telematics trip data to third-party Web services that incorporate cell phone usage data (call detail records, sms detail records, etc.) to empirically measure and manage employee use of phones while driving.

Knowledge is the power by which fleet owners can successfully promote safe, legal, and responsible use of mobile phones while driving.

The knowledge itself derives from vehicle event data, which, as we all know, derives from telematics.

And that, my friends, is why telematics is the answer to the distracted driving problem.

Matt Howard is co-founder and CEO of ZoomSafer, which provides software to promote the safe, legal, and hands-free use of mobile phones while driving.

For all the latest telematics trends, join the sector’s thought leaders at Telematics Detroit 2011 in Novi, MI on June 8 and 9.

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