By Andrew Overton, CEO of Connexas Group.
Commercial fleet managers should be prepared to lead the way in tackling drink drive behaviours following the release of shocking statistics about the incidence of fatal collisions involving an over-the-limit driver.
Statistics released by the Department for Transport (DfT) revealed last week that the number of drink drive fatalities on Britain’s roads rose to an eight-year high in 2017.
According to the data, the total number of fatalities in accidents where one driver or rider was over the alcohol limit was between 230 and 270 in that year.
With drink drive-related fatalities on the rise, policymakers are turning their focus to road safety, and tighter legislation is already in the pipeline.
Following a recent vote by MEPs, a raft of eleven safety measures will become mandatory for all new vehicles from 2022.
These include alcohol interlock installation facilitation, alongside other safety features such as intelligent speed assistance, driver drowsiness and distraction detection, emergency stop signal, reversing detection and event data recorders.
Adding to the push to crackdown on drink driving specifically, the Government’s Road Safety Action Plan, published in July, included proposals to make it mandatory to fit alcolock devices to the vehicles of convicted drink drivers in a bid to cut reoffending.
Instead of waiting for legislative change, operators should be reviewing their fleet policies with drink driving and road safety in mind.
As well as allowing them time to spread the cost of retrofitting existing fleets, introducing more stringent safety controls, including alcohol interlock devices, could bring unexpected benefits.
For example, installing the latest alcohol interlock technology as part of a package of other onboard safety measures, would clearly demonstrate the operator’s commitment to prioritising driver safety and help to retain experienced personnel.
The latest alcohol interlock technology will prevent the driver of any type, or age of vehicle, from starting the ignition if they are over the pre-set alcohol limit.
Unlike standalone devices on the market, these advanced alcolock devices can be fully integrated with the existing telematics system, giving the fleet manager access to real-time alerts and information about failed breath tests and detailed reports via an online platform.
The data-based system also allows fleet managers to analyse breathalyser results in order to predict and prevent potential future drink drive incidents.
This type of information could also be used to prompt the need for training to increase driver awareness of the issue.
With the current alcohol limit set well below that of many other European countries, there is plenty of scope to tighten legislation in this area.
The legal limit for drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is currently 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath, and 22 microgrammes per 100ml in Scotland.
Lower limits apply in many other European countries, including France, where the alcohol limit is 9 microgrammes per 100ml of breath for bus and coach drivers.
With the number of fatal accidents involving an over-the-limit driver on the rise and tougher legislation on the way, there is no room for complacency and operators should be prepared to lead the way in tackling this issue.
By investing in technology that provides access to real-time information and insights into behavioural trends, they have an opportunity to improve safety performance for the benefit of drivers and other road users.