Your phone can help you be a safer driver

Safe-Driving-AppIn 2015, distracted driving accounted for nearly nine fatalities each day in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These distractions often stem from our smart phones. We’ve shared tips on how to reduce these distractions, by alerting friends and family that you will be unavailable, setting up your podcast or music before the wheels start rolling, or turning your phone off. Following these tips can help you and your passengers stay safe on the road, but that’s often easier said than done. Now the same technology that has been blamed for distractions behind the wheel is helping drivers be safer on the road, through new apps and built-in features.

Apple recently launched iOS 11, which includes for the first time a safe driving option. When initiated, the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature will detect when you are driving and will silence your incoming calls or alerts. It can even respond to calls and texts so that you can focus on the road. If you are an iPhone user and have not already updated to the new iOS, make sure to do so to try out Apple’s newest safety feature.

There are also apps on the market to help prevent distracted driving or improve driving behavior. All of the apps covered below have free versions and are available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Take a look at a few that may help you, your employees or your family stay safe on the road.

EverDrive

EverDrive is a telematics app that tracks driving behavior just like an in-vehicle monitoring system, but through a user’s phone. It helps users improve driving behavior by scoring five areas: phone distraction, braking, acceleration, cornering and speeding. Using your phone’s GPS, the app detects when you are driving and tracks your behavior behind the wheel. You can compare scores with friends, coworkers or your family for competition.

EverDrive is developed by DriveWell, which also offers a mobile app solution that can be paired with a mobile tag for your vehicle to give further insight into driver behavior, and includes collision detection.

FleetSafer

FleetSafer is a mobile app that detects driving and puts the device in a safe mode when the vehicle is in motion. Employers can view individual or team driving performance and they can also receive real-time alerts. FleetSafer works as a standalone app using GPS, or can be paired with hardware for greater analytics.

LifeSaver

LifeSaver uses your phone’s GPS to track when your car is in motion and then sets the phone in safe mode. It blocks incoming calls and texts. Parents can download a free driver portal to help track their children’s driving behavior. It alerts parents if their child disables the app while driving, and provides feedback so that parents can reward safe driving performance. LifeSaver also offers a fleet management solution with an available 30-day free trial.

TrueMotion

TrueMotion tracks your driving trips and its free family version allows you to see your family members’ trips as well. Users are scored and have the chance to earn rewards for their safe driving. TrueMotion also offers Mojo, a free app that awards points when you drive safely which can be redeemed for cash or prizes.

Remember that texting and driving is illegal in the state of Texas as of last month. Hands-free devices are allowed but Texas Mutual advocates phone-free driving, because research shows that hands-free devices are still distracting. Safe driving is something that we take seriously and we want to do our part to help you reduce the number of traffic-related claims. We have a no phone policy for our own employees and installed in-vehicle monitoring systems in our company fleet. You can find more safe driving tips for yourself, your family and your employees in the safety resource center of your texasmutual.com account, including e-Learning training modules on safe driving and defensive driving.

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Technology helps bring safer driving habits to Texas Mutual

You’re driving down the highway, minding your speed, when a truck flies by, cuts in front of you and slams on its brakes. You’re rightfully irritated and then you notice the truck has a “How’s My Driving?” bumper sticker. Do you take the time to pull over, call and report your experience?

driving car on highwayMore often than not, drivers don’t make the call. For years, Texas Mutual relied on these “How’s My Driving?” stickers to encourage safe driving among our employees, but with no real way to confirm if they were making a positive difference to improve driving behavior.

Safe driving is an issue we are especially aware of here at Texas Mutual. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of on-the-job injuries and death for our policyholders’ employees. It’s our mission to help our policyholders reduce these accidents and keep our own employees safe on the road as well.

That’s why in March 2015, we installed an in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) in more than 90 vehicles in our fleet. The IVMS uses telematics technology to transmit information about how someone is driving, which is used to identify potentially unsafe patterns.

For Texas Mutual, our IVMS is about more than just tracking driving behavior – it also offers peace of mind knowing those who travel for work on a daily basis stay safe by practicing good driving behaviors. We ask our policyholders to do all they can to ensure their workers are safe on the road, and we hold ourselves to the same standard.

How an IVMS works

The system, which takes less than one minute to install into your car’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, monitors real-time data. It tracks three risk indicators: speed, rapid acceleration and hard braking. Drivers and their department managers receive a weekly scorecard, similar to a school report card, which assigns an overall letter grade and a letter grade for each of the three risk indicators. The intent is to improve driving habits by informing employees of their driving behavior in a timely manner, and identifying potentially unsafe patterns of driving behavior. The reports are not used in performance reviews for disciplinary action or negative feedback.

The weekly scorecards also include distance traveled, driving time, idling cost and engine usage. To encourage friendly competition, you can also have the scorecards rank business groups within the company. Many businesses also use the technology to track deliveries and manage their fleet, and more sophisticated systems include on-board cameras that monitor the driver’s face and eyes for signs of fatigue and distraction. The cost of an IVMS varies with its complexity. Basic systems cost a few hundred dollars, while more advanced ones cost up to $1,000.

Safer drivers, fewer accidents

The IVMS technology provides reliable information and gives us insight into driving performance in a way we never had before. Since implementing our IVMS, we have seen a 61 percent decrease in preventable accidents. In its first week of implementation in March 2015, the average safe driving score at Texas Mutual was 90 out of 100, but that number has increased to 94.5 in the time since then. Our goal is for our employees to return home safely at the end of the day and the IVMS is a tool helping us meet that goal.

car-crash-emergency-workersWhen used as part of a comprehensive fleet safety program, in-vehicle-monitoring systems can help change the behaviors that contribute to traffic accidents, the number one cause of on-the-job fatalities. The technology allows you to monitor risky driving behaviors so that accidents are reduced and most importantly, employees are safe on the road.

Texas Mutual has seen tremendous success from these systems. The majority of employees consistently receive a score of A, and habits are changing for the better, both on the clock and in their personal time.

In-vehicle-monitoring systems work best when it’s part of a comprehensive safe driving program. At Texas Mutual, it does not take the place of our ongoing effort to spread the message about safe driving. Take a look at how we are reshaping our company culture to put the brakes on distracted driving. We continue to educate our employees on safe driving, and those who are on the road as part of their job must still complete a defensive driving course every two years.

If you have any questions about using an IVMS, read more here or call the safety services support center at 844-WORKSAFE. Our safety service representatives can help you determine if this system would be a good fit for your business and help you keep your drivers safer on the road.

Putting the brakes on distracted driving

When you are behind the wheel, do you glance at your new texts or Facebook alerts? It only takes a second to lose focus on driving and mistakes behind the wheel can be fatal. While not all accidents can be prevented, at Texas Mutual, we’re putting the brakes on distracted driving by changing our culture.

Texting while driving using cell phone in carSmart phones give us the power to be constantly connected, but our new company policy requires that our employees eliminate the use of phones, even handheld devices, while operating any vehicle during work hours or when on a company trip. We’re asking our employees to wait to return a call or text until they make it safely to their destination or pull over behind picking up the phone and conversely, we should be mindful of our coworkers’ schedules. It’s about more than just putting the phone down. It’s about shifting our mindset about what safe driving looks like.

We invite you and your employees to adopt this same habit as well. The risk is just not worth the reward. By requiring your employees to drive distraction free, you can eliminate near misses, lower the number of driving accidents your workforce experiences and most importantly, help employees stay safe on the road and on the job.

Here are some tips on what you should do to eliminate distractions before you start driving:

  • If needed, alert any coworkers or family members that you will be unavailable while you are driving.
  • If you use your phone for navigation, make sure you have a safe docking solution so that you can stay focused on the road.
  • Pick your podcast, music or audio book before the wheels start rolling.
  • Put your phone in a center console or better yet, just turn it off.
  • Don’t contact employees when you know they could be on the road.
  • Let go of the expectation for employees to answer or return your message immediately.
  • Set an example for your workforce by adopting safe habits and letting your team know what and why you’re doing it.

For a sample policy from the National Safety Council, click here. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or EndDD (End Distracted Driving) for statistics and resources to educate your workplace on the dangers of distracted driving. Also, watch our 60 Seconds to Safe Driving series for practical tips to be safe behind the wheel.

Bottom line, when you are behind the wheel, you should be focused on one thing: driving. We want to make sure our company culture supports that mindset for employees, and we hope you will as well.

Dear Drivers: Please Use Extra Caution This Fall

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

I recently made a very public, painful admission on this blog: I’m not from around these parts.

I spent the majority of my formative years in the Lone Star State, but I begrudgingly admit that I was, in fact, born in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

My mother remembers that as a student driver, she was taught a few things that aren’t in the curriculum in warmer parts of the country:

  1. Add 30 minutes to your morning commute. That’s about how long you’ll need to shovel your car out of the snow.
  2. Carry flashlights, blankets and other essentials. It’s not a matter of if you end up in a snow drift; it’s a matter of when. And you don’t know how long you’ll sit there before someone comes by and pulls you out. Remember, this was before cell phones.
  3. And finally, drive cautiously on rural roads, where deer are likely to cross.

The odds that a driver will have a claim from hitting a deer, elk or moose are 1 out of 169, according to an Insurance Journal article. The likelihood more than doubles during October, November and December.

To put that in perspective, you have a 1 in 36 chance of being a Price is Right contestant, a 1 in 175 chance of being audited by the IRS, and a 1 in 12,000 chance of finding a pearl in an oyster.

Not bad, but before you write off close encounters with deer as a risk you’re willing to accept, consider this: A full-grown buck is perfectly capable of totaling your vehicle and seriously injuring you.

Here are some tips for sharing the road with our four-legged fellow travelers this fall, courtesy of our partners at the Insurance Council of Texas:

  • Remember that deer activity is highest during dusk and dawn.
  • Drive defensively when approaching wooded draws or creek bottoms that intersect highways, especially in agricultural settings.
  • Be on the lookout when travelling newly constructed roads through deer habitat.
  • Use extreme caution when you see highway traffic signs indicating deer crossings, especially in the early morning and evening.
  • Scan roadways for deer, looking for eye reflections at night. Enlist passengers’ help.
  • Remember that vehicle headlights often daze or confuse deer. If you encounter a deer, slow down and maintain control. Steer straight rather than risk losing control and colliding with oncoming traffic or hitting objects off the road. Use your emergency flashers, or pump the brakes to alert vehicles approaching from behind.
  • Understand that deer are social animals that often travel in family groups. If you see one deer, there’s a good chance more are following.
  • Do not exit your vehicle to go check on a deer that has been hit. You are putting yourself at risk of being hit by a passing vehicle or attacked by a wounded animal. Stay in your vehicle and call emergency services.
  • Practice the basics: Wear your seatbelt, avoid distractions, stay alert and control your speed.

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