The Importance and Acceptance of Driver-Facing Dash Cams
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By Accident Fund Senior Loss Control Specialist Jonathan Lee
Onboard cameras, or dash cams, are becoming more widely adopted by many companies engaging in transportation activities – like long haul trucking companies, private fleets, mass transit companies, delivery companies and even some construction trades. One of the primary reasons these companies install dash cams is for the ability to exonerate a driver in a situation where they may erroneously be determined to be at fault for an accident.
For example, imagine a driver employed by ABC Company is traveling through an intersection and strikes another vehicle. Both drivers claim they had the green light, and no witnesses were present. A dash cam provides indisputable evidence as to which driver had the right-of-way. The video could prove the driver for ABC Company was at fault, but most companies who invest in dash cams believe their driver selection process, screening criteria and training program results in safer drivers than the motoring public. More often than not, the dash camera would prove their driver was not the at-fault party in an accident.
These cameras were traditionally known as forward-facing cameras, as they would be mounted on the windshield and capture activity happening in front of the vehicle. These systems have advanced dramatically and now include driver and passenger side-view cameras, blind spot cameras and rear-view cameras. All of these configurations focus on what’s happening outside the vehicle, which is great for determining fault and potential liability, but it’s not a proactive way to improve the safety performance of drivers. If a company wants to truly improve driver safety and reduce the likelihood of vehicle accidents using cameras, they’ve got to have the ability to see the driver.
Installing driver-facing cameras can be a tough decision for a company to make for many reasons, with concerns about privacy and resistance from drivers topping the list. Companies that have successfully installed these types of systems typically do an outstanding job to alleviate common fears and misconceptions. They may educate their drivers on why the cameras are important and involve drivers in the selection/implementation process. One way to do this is to invite senior drivers with the company to be involved in determining which system to use. When the company’s experienced, respected, top-performing drivers buy in to the value of cameras, it’s much more likely the rest of the driving force will as well.
Another way to engage drivers is to survey them to understand their primary concerns about front-facing cameras. A common fear is that the camera is recording all the time, even during off-duty hours when a driver may be trying to sleep. The vast majority of camera systems are on only when the truck is running, and they only record when a critical event is triggered, such as a hard brake, sudden acceleration or other movement captured by the sensors. A period of time before and after a triggering event is saved and footage can be sent immediately to a fleet safety manager to review. Otherwise, the video footage is not saved, nor is there someone watching the video feed 24/7.
One final way companies can communicate the advantage of driver-facing dash cameras to their drivers is through positive reinforcement. When it’s anticipated that a change like this will result in negative reinforcement, such as disciplinary action, the response is not typically favorable. In addition to the expected instances of someone driving while distracted or not wearing a seatbelt, there are bound to be many more instances of drivers successfully identifying a hazard and reacting in a manner to avoid an accident. Recognizing behaviors through awards, financial incentives, gift cards, company swag or even a notification to all employees can go a long way toward a more positive acceptance of using dash cameras. One of the companies I’ve worked with has made it a point to share footage of safe driving behaviors on an ongoing basis. They select at least one event per month of a driver avoiding a collision or making a safe decision while behind the wheel and share it during safety meetings and on the TV in the break room. The safety manager has received good feedback from this program, and the drivers who have been highlighted are proud to be recognized and applauded by their peers.
Dash cameras alone cannot be relied upon to be the only component of a fleet safety program, but they can be a valuable tool. When combined with other effective accident prevention measures, such as thorough screening of applicants, hands-on evaluation and training and telematics, dash cams can have a big impact on improving fleet safety performance.
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