This article first appeared in the September edition of Commercial Fleet.
Fleet operators and their drivers are being urged to share dashcam footage with police to help prosecute dangerous drivers and improve road safety.
More than 10,000 clips have already been uploaded to the National Dash Cam Safety Portal since its launch last year. The platform allows road users to report serious road incidents and securely upload video footage to the appropriate police force.
In-cab camera manufacturer Nextbase, which developed the portal, told Commercial Fleet more than half (52%) of the uploads have been followed up by police, with drivers being taken to court, having to attend awareness courses, sent warning letters or fined.
“This demonstrates the success of the platform in identifying the most severe incidents and linking motorists with police in a bid to crackdown on this behaviour,” said Nextbase’s Bryn Brooker.
“The whole idea behind it (the platform) was to make the roads a safer place; it was built to remove the most dangerous drivers from our roads.”
Drivers uploading a video must first tick a box that says ‘I am willing to go to court and testify’ if required. Brooker explains this “filters out those people uploading a video of their neighbour running a red light, for example, and ensures that focus is on only the worst of the worst motorists”.
TRL – formerly the Transport Research Laboratory – wants to increase the role of dashcams, and other filming devices such as smartphones, in a bid to reduce the amount of dangerous driving on UK roads by encouraging drivers to upload footage.
Dashcams can provide crucial evidence to TRL’s expert witness and investigations team, but senior consultant Victoria Eyers told Commercial Fleet that working in collision investigation, the “ultimate aim is improving road safety”.
She believes commercial fleet operators using the technology could play a vital role in improving road safety by sharing video footage of dangerous driving, which is witnessed by their drivers.
Eyers explained: “It’s about volume; the more miles of driving you record, the greater the chance of recording examples of bad driving.
“Fleet operators that are covering much higher mileages than a private motorist have the potential to record more instances (of dangerous driving).
“They could, potentially, be a vital source of footage as long as it can be dealt with within the 14-day limit for some offences.”
Auto Windscreens began using the technology across its commercial fleet in 2016 with 340 commercial vehicles and 59 cars fitted with devices from sister company VisionTrack.
Group fleet manager, Shaun Atton, said: “We use the 24/7 managed service; there is a team which specifically reviews our footage and events. If one of our vehicles is involved in an RTI (road traffic incident) then the team raise the FNOL (first notification of loss) with our insurers. This allows us to control costs by having early access to the footage and sharing with relevant parties.”
Furthermore, Auto Windscreens’ drivers can make use of an alert button should they witness any kind of event, which automatically uploads a video for the teams to review.
Currently, the majority of police forces – 33 of 45 in the UK – have signed up to the Nextbase initiative, with many individual forces also having their own portals on individual websites.
They have been promoted through Operation Snap, in an effort to encourage more people to upload examples of dangerous driving.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), in a recent report on roads policing, said that video footage recorded on dashcams and helmet cameras was a “cost-effective way” in which forces can deal with road traffic offences.
However, it found examples of forces that had adopted the scheme without enough consideration of potential demand and the resources needed to meet it.
In some forces, it said, “support functions were overwhelmed by the number of submissions”.
This resulted in some being unable to meet the legal requirement to notify registered keepers of vehicles of potential prosecutions.
In others, the process for submitting footage was difficult and there was little or no contact with the people who had been motivated enough to provide it.
The report concluded: “There are obvious benefits to the scheme, but it must be properly resourced and there should be clarity on how and when submitted footage will be used.”
Eyers agrees that resourcing is an issue, despite the National Dash Cam Safety Portal reducing the amount of time it takes police to process clips. Nextbase estimates it saves an average of eight-10 hours of police time for each case.
“If resources could improve in the future then the police could potentially increase the number of prosecutions that result from them,” said Eyers.
Responding to findings of the HMICFRS report, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, said: “Forces are working hard to target those who use our roads dangerously or to commit crime, but we know there is more to do.”
The presence of vehicle technology in general has increased significantly in the past decade, with telematics now said to be in more than 60% of commercial vehicles.
“This data can be used effectively to improve driver performance and reduce claims costs by identifying higher risk drivers so interventions can be provided to change driver behaviours and reduce risk,” explained Jon Dye, director of underwriting for Motor at QBE Europe.
“Now we see technologies merging together to the new trend of video telematics. This provides the fleet with a single box solution, and for the insurer it provides a wealth of valuable data for risk management and claims purposes.
“The hope is that as the use of the technology improves, we can drive down the frequency and severity of claims.”
Dashcams have fundamentally changed the way motor claims can be handled. Dye said: “In the past, we had to take the driver’s word for what happened in an incident, which presents challenges. We were often confronted with a pencil sketch of road layouts and positions of third-party vehicles, which also had its challenges.”
Dashcam footage, however, allows insurers to view the incident exactly as it happened, applying the industry’s technical expertise to consider road conditions, speed of travel, visibility, reactions and behaviour of drivers.
“This is factual primary evidence which enables us to make accurate and fair liability decisions,” said Dye. “Dashcam footage also provides additional insights such as parties involved, passenger numbers and speed of impact so we can consider injury likelihood and extent which gives us an added layer of counter-fraud claims management.
“In seconds, we can often see exactly what happened and who was at fault, which means we can settle claims significantly faster and, therefore, at less cost.”
By using video telematics technology, Dye says QBE’s customers also raise the “effectiveness of their fleet and gain valuable intelligence about their employees’ driving”.
“This can be used to inform driver training, improve fuel economy, reduce wear, reduce accident risk and enhance productivity.”
Furthermore, it can be reflected in lower premiums, bringing additional savings to a fleet’s bottom line.