Friday 18 September 2020

Driving down alcohol use

Andrew Overton, CEO at fleet technology provider Connexas Group, says a proactive approach to tackling drink driving can bring significant benefits

Growing public concern about drink driving is encouraging fleet managers to review policies in this area, with a view to taking a more stringent and proactive approach. In doing so, some are finding that the use of innovative onboard technologies, such as alcohol interlock systems, can bring wider benefits.

Data obtained recently from the DVLA by road safety charity, Brake, has found that more than 5,000 drivers have been caught drink driving more than once in the last four years. To crackdown on repeat offending, the organisation is calling on the government to accelerate the introduction of alcohol interlock systems, for use as part of UK rehabilitation programmes.

As part of its Vision Zero commitment, the UK government is already considering a number of actions to improve road safety, which are set out in its road safety action plan, published in July. Among the proposals, is the wider use of alcohol interlock devices to tackling reoffending.

Policymakers at a European level are also focused on tackling drink driving. MEPs have recently voted for the introduction of new safety measures for all new vehicles by 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.

Transport operators are also placing greater emphasis on fleet and road safety. Since the start of the year, there has been a significant uptake in trials of alcohol interlock systems by commercial fleet operators, particularly in areas such as passenger transport.

Whilst they are sometimes overlooked, the benefits of taking a proactive approach in tackling drink driving can be far reaching. Importantly, the use of alcohol interlocks, which are designed to prevent drivers from starting their vehicles if breathalyser results reveal they are close to, or over the legal alcohol limit, can play a significant role in accident prevention.

As well as taking specific action to prevent drink driving, some forward-thinking fleet operators are going a step further by introducing new policies designed to discourage drink driving and promote driver health and wellbeing at the same time.

A programme of training to improve awareness of the effects of drinking even small amounts of alcohol on driver behaviour can help to instil the right behaviours and encourage a healthy lifestyle. In this context, the use of alcohol interlock systems is often viewed positively, as a proactive demonstration of the priority placed on driver and road safety.

When used as part of a driver monitoring programme, alcohol interlock systems can identify patterns of behaviour, as the results received by the operator reveal the presence of even trace amounts of alcohol in each sample of breath.

The use of on-board camera systems can also ensure the source of each sample is clearly identified. If the operator notices that a driver’s alcohol level has started to increase, they can contact the driver to check if anything is happening which could be causing this behaviour and offer support if needed.

There is also a financial upside to using preventative technologies of course. When used as part of a holistic driver and road safety programme, alcohol interlock systems can help to mitigate the risk of at-fault accidents and improve driver behaviour, reducing insurance premiums over time.

By tackling drink driving head on, operators can underline their duty of care to drivers and support the introduction of improved safety standards across the fleet industry.

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