Introduction: Scholar Transport Safety
The South African Medical Journal has revealed some rather “inspirational” data in their March Issue with regards to the improvement in driving among minibus drivers actively involved in the transport of scholars in the Western Cape.
The Arrive Alive website has been a strong supporter of the use of vehicle telematics to improve driver behaviour as well as self -regulation as an important tool to make roads safer. The article in the South African Medical Journal has paved the way for increased safety in scholar transport using modern vehicle tracking technology!
The article titled “Schoolbus driver performance can be improved with driver training, safety incentivisation, and vehicle roadworthy modifications” reveals and discusses findings of a project to monitor school transport drivers in the Western Cape.
The Safe Travel to School Programme has been developed by Childsafe is a collaboration with Discovery Insure. In this programme, a DQ Tracking device, like the one used by Discovery Insure clients, is installed in the minibuses of scholar transport drivers. The Drivers were incentivised to drive safely and monitored with the newest telematics technology on aspects such as speeding, braking, cornering, acceleration etc.
In South Africa (SA), the school transport industry provides millions of children with a means of travelling to and from school. The industry has, however, been reported to be plagued by widespread safety concerns. The consequent road traffic incidents have often been attributed to driver factors, including driving in excess of legal speeds or at inappropriate speeds; driving while under the influence of alcohol, while sleepy or fatigued; or driving without using protective equipment for vehicle occupants. There are currently very few SA interventions that specifically target this important industry role-player. The Safe Travel to School Programme was recently implemented by a national child safety agency, with a focus on driver road safety awareness, defensive driver training, eye-testing, vehicle roadworthy inspections with selected upgrades, incentives for safe performance, and implementation of a vehicle telematics tracking system with regular, individual driving behaviour information updates. This quasi-experimental study offers an evaluation of the initial impact on the safety performance of this telematics-based driver and vehicle safety intervention in terms of speeding, acceleration, braking, cornering, and time-of-day driving, and compares the school transport driver performance with that of general motorists. Despite concerns that some school transport vehicles are used for multiple purposes outside of school transport duties, at night, and for longer distances, overall these vehicles recorded lower percentages of speeding, lower harsh braking, and lower average harsh cornering and acceleration than general drivers.
S Afr Med J 2017;107(3):188-191. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i3.12363
The results were rather astounding!
Fig. 2. Percentage of time that speed exceeded 10% of the limit (n=102)
Fig. 3. Average monthly accelerations above g-force threshold (n=102)
Fig. 4. Average monthly braking above g-force threshold (n=102)
Fig. 5. Average monthly cornering above g-force threshold (n=102)
School transport driver safety performance: January 2014 - January 2015
The analysis of speeding, acceleration, braking, cornering and night driving performance suggests that the majority of Safe Travel to School Programme drivers were performing in an appropriate, safe manner, i.e. below the designated threshold for each metric. There were some exceptions observed, which may reflect: (i) habitual serial offenders for the review period; or alternatively (ii) use of the vehicle by more than one driver, therefore accounting for different driving conditions and multiple driver performance styles.
Habitual offending among the drivers was not limited to speeding and was also observed for accelerations, braking and cornering. However, observed trends in individual performance were confounded in some instances by excessive night-time use of vehicles, as it is difficult – if not impossible – to differentiate driving performance of school transport drivers during school runs from other forms of driving utilising the same vehicle outside the school transport hours and with different passengers. This confound is a consequence of the telematics device recording driving behaviour of a specific vehicle rather than that of a specific driver.
Safety performance of Safe Travel to School Programme drivers compared with insurance company policyholder drivers
When comparing the Safe Travel to School Programme drivers with the insurance company policyholder drivers from September 2014 to January 2015, it was found that the programme drivers performed significantly better (t=3.28, p<0.01) on the percentage of time at which their speed exceeded the speed limit by 10% (n=102).
With the exception of January 2015 (a vacation period) travel, the programme drivers were found to speed less often than the policyholder drivers. As speed is positively correlated with unsafe driving behaviours, the reduced speed for programme drivers could be argued to translate into safer driving behaviours compared with the comparison group.
The programme drivers also performed better than general drivers in terms of their recorded accelerations. However, these differences were not statistically significant (t=1.84, p>0.05).
Driver braking above a set g-force threshold was higher in September and October 2014, but lower in November - January 2015
The reasons for the notable decline in breaking above the g-force threshold between October and September 2014 are unknown, as data on the implementation of the individual Safe Travel to School Programme interventions were not available to test possible effects on driving performance. However, the lower levels observed from November 2014 to January 2015 could be explained by the likely long-distance travelling on vacation routes, for which braking is required less often than when driving in urban and high-density areas.
Safer driving performance of Safe Travel to School Programme drivers was also reflected in the average monthly cornering above the designated g-force threshold. These noticeable differences between the programme and general drivers could nevertheless be explained by differences in cornering thresholds for vehicle type, i.e. sedans compared with minibus vehicles.
Benchmarking for specific vehicle types is required for more meaningful comparisons.
On average, the programme drivers were found to engage in more night driving during weekdays and weekends than the comparison group. The marginally higher rates of speeding of >10% above the speed limit of drivers undertaking night drives suggest: (i) qualitative differences in driving conditions during this period compared with daytime driving; and/or (ii) different drivers for the same vehicle for daytime compared with night-time driving.
In summary, although the Safe Travel to School Programme vehicles may well have been used outside of school transport duties, at night and for longer distances, overall the vehicles participating in the safety programme recorded lower percentages of time speeding, lower harsh braking, and lower average harsh cornering and acceleration than general drivers.
Recommendations by the Research team
The results of this first evaluation of the Safe Travel to School Programme are promising. School transport drivers appear to perform relatively better than general motorists with regard to key driving performance indicators (speeding, acceleration, braking and cornering) for the particular review period.
- There is a need to collect information relevant to each driver, beyond demographic information, e.g. driver history and psychosocial characteristics.
- There is a good reason to suggest remedial action interventions based on observed performance of drivers and identified lapses in specific driving behaviours.
- Incentives should be awarded on good or improved driving behaviours over sustained periods of time.
- The findings of this study reflect the need for further holistic evaluations of driver performance, interventions directed at driver health, safety and wellbeing (in a competitive, unprotected industry), and rigorous screening of potential drivers.
The Arrive Alive website would like to commend all those involved in this programme and would like to encourage them to expand this to a nationwide programme. We believe that all our scholars deserve safe and reliable transport and every tool available should be used in the best interest of the safety of our young learners. This should include driver incentives, vehicle tracking technology and continuous driver training!
View the Report (click the link below):
Schoolbus driver performance can be improved with driver training, safety incentivisation, and vehicle roadworthy modifications
[A word of appreciation and Recognition to the Research team, Childsafe and Discovery Insure for this Research Report and the efforts to make Roads Safer]
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