Seven Driver Safety Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

For many of us, perhaps the best thing to say about 2020 is that it has now come to an end, allowing us to look ahead to a new year that offers glimmers of hope and resumption of normality!

What might lie ahead for driver safety in 2021? We have picked out 7 of the top trends that we believe will shape the industry this year.

The return of traffic

Global traffic levels in 2020 dropped by more than half on average due to COVID-19. In some countries like New Zealand and Italy, where the pandemic lockdown was most severe, traffic fell by 80%, according to the International Transport Forum’s Road Safety Annual Report 2020

Relaxation of lockdowns, combined with record demands for at-home deliveries and release of the pent-up demand for travel, means that at some stage in 2021 roads could be busier than ever. 

Rusty driving skills

Unsurprisingly, not driving regularly during the pandemic has led to many drivers feeling rusty with their driving skills. A survey conducted by Hyundai found that 20% of UK motorists had found it difficult to adjust to driving after lockdown. 

Of course, it’s not just lapses in muscle memory or routines that have led to a slide in driving habits. With emptier roads, we’ve seen many motorists driving recklessly, travelling at more than double the speed limit and “using the quieter roads as their own personal racetrack”.

Smartphone distraction

Not only does just about everyone have a smartphone with them at all times (about 3.5 billion worldwide in 2020), we are estimated to tap, swipe, and click a staggering 2,617 times per day

That’s a level of repetitive behaviour that creates addiction and can make it very hard to resist the temptation to engage with our smartphones whilst driving.

Safety as an HR tool

Workers are increasingly demanding that employers prioritise safety, security, and health, and according to a recent survey, these values are more important to them than even professional opportunities. 

Therefore, especially in jobs which necessitate spending hours each day on the roads, it will be more important than ever for companies to implement appropriate policies to keep drivers safe, and ultimately attract and retain top talent. And along those lines…

Greater recognition of workplace substance abuse and stress

With the mental and physical stresses of the pandemic, more people are depending on alcohol, opioids, cannabis, and other substances to cope. These issues were already major problems pre-COVID, but the pandemic has pushed them to new heights, and more companies are taking proactive steps to ensure employees are in a fit state to drive. 

Employers who offer proactive, supportive intervention programs will have both a commercial and compassionate edge.

Increased penetration of in-vehicle telematics

The global commercial vehicle telematics market was worth ~$5bn in 2019 and is expected to grow at ~8% p.a. over the next 5 years. Companies now have a broader choice of telematics options, including black box, OBD, embedded, and smartphone-based solutions, via which to monitor driver safety.

Of course, gathering driving behaviour data is just one element of a comprehensive and successful driver safety programme

Gradual emergence of autonomous vehicles

Despite the hype around driverless vehicles, a recent report from McKinsey estimates that only SAE Level 2 (partial automation) will gain material traction in the coming years (23% of new car sales in 2020 rising to 59% in 2025). SAE Level 3 (conditional automation) is estimated at 4% of new car sales by 2025, with SAE Levels 4 and 5 limited to testing and confined spaces.

Automated safety features should lead to a reduction in collision frequencies, but there are two notes of caution: first, the increased cost per incident due to expensive parts, and second the risk of driver complacency if they grow to expect the vehicle to prevent collisions and lose focus.

Wishing you all a healthy and prosperous 2021 from the whole Brightmile team!

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