Driver Safety trends to watch out for in 2022

Last year saw Covid variants continue to flourish and – despite fewer miles being driven – an increase in road accidents. In the US, Ken Kolosh, a researcher at the National Safety Council told the LA Times: “US roads are less safe than they were pre-pandemic.” The article concluded that “after decades of safety gains, the pandemic has made US drivers more reckless – more likely to speed, drink or use drugs and leave their seat belts unbuckled.” Experts put this driving behaviour down to reflecting “widespread feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression.”

If we add in the repercussions of Brexit, supply chain issues and shortages, inflationary pressures on fuel and maintenance costs and the continuing quest for sustainability, it’s looking like a tough road ahead. So, what does 2022 have in store for driver safety?

1. Covid remains a factor

It seems that Covid will continue to have an impact on driver risk management and safety. This means that policies and procedures will need to evolve as we seek to protect employees while they are carrying out their work, but also protecting their families and friends as they return home. Companies with car fleets may, for example, choose to introduce plexiglass screens and to initiate regular deep cleans, while manufacturers are investigating the use of antimicrobial materials with nanotechnology that germs can’t survive on. 

2. Further clampdown on smartphone use 

Drivers are still too eager to pick up their mobile phones while driving and even the smallest distraction can lead to an increase in collisions and injuries. In the UK, the laws around mobile phone use while driving are to be tightened to make any use of a hand-held phone illegal. This will cover taking photos or videos, scrolling through playlists or playing games while driving or stationary at a traffic light. However, use of a mobile phone ‘hands-free’ will still be allowed – even though research suggests it is equally distracting.

3. Repair costs will continue to rise

The coming year is likely to see increased demand for driver safety programmes to help address rising repair costs. These are being driven, in the UK at least, by difficulties in obtaining parts post-Brexit and rising inflation. However, repair costs are increasing more widely as a result of labour shortages. But perhaps the biggest factor is the increased complexity of vehicle repairs – something which is only going to get worse. Fleets with electric vehicles may also bear the brunt of longer, more expensive, repairs as they are sent to specialist repair centres.

4. Electric vehicles will be everywhere

As the sustainability drive continues to develop, fleet owners should be well aware of the need to improve their drivers’ handling of vehicles and the need for ‘eco-driving’. However, as we’ve noted above, electric vehicles tend to have higher repair costs – so drivers new to EVs will also need to be instructed about the near-instant torque and regenerative braking as they adjust to a new style of driving. This article from Forbes offers an insight into how businesses can keep pace with the rapidly developing EV market.

5. A wake-up call for drowsy driving 

To combat driver drowsiness, driver monitoring systems (DMS) use in-car cameras to ensure that drivers are awake, alert and paying attention to the road. The system scans data points on the eyes and the face and would typically employ a series of escalating actions, starting with a driver alert or warning and progressing to slowing or stopping the car if the driver is no longer able to operate the vehicle. “DMS will soon become a standard safety feature,” says TechCrunch. “It is already in use and every major car manufacturer in the US has plans to implement it.”

6. 2022, the year of greater privacy concerns

As AI and advanced technology seep into every aspect of our lives, the more it is embedded in vehicles the greater the potential for driver privacy concerns. Fleet managers will increasingly need to ensure their suppliers prioritise driver privacy. A connected vehicle faces the same information security concerns as any Internet of Things item, but with higher stakes. Fleets will therefore need to conduct a data protection impact assessment and look to employ state-of-the-art encryption.

7. Driver distraction (and frustration) will increase in cities

The pressure to be greener is not only leading to the introduction of more electric vehicles, but also more cyclists (and cycle lanes), e-scooters and pedestrians who are choosing to stretch their legs rather than sit on congested buses or crowded trains. This will result in a host of potential distractions for drivers to add to clean-air zones, pedestrianised areas and parking restrictions. There also legislative changes in the UK, for example, that give more rights to pedestrians and cyclists. Employers will need to factor in the complexities of being a driver in 2022.

With so many evolving risks, fleet managers will need to avoid complacency at all costs. One thing we can be sure of is that 2022 will be a challenging year for anyone involved in driver safety. The pressure will be on like never before to improve your drivers’ behaviour behind the wheel and to reduce your overall business risk.


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