Handling collisions the right way

by Sonia Straface

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. –  Being in a collision or accident is always a startling and stressful experience. Considering no one is seriously injured, drivers have to rack their brain trying to remember what exactly happened to cause the situation, the police are involved, premiums are raised as soon as a phone call is made to insurance and damage to your vehicle means you just lost some money in the bank.

And in the case of the professional driver, that stress is multiplied considering they just got into a accident on the job, where the name of the game is safety.

Today, the way motor vehicle incidents are handled is changing thanks to technology. Today, some trucks can be equipped with dash cams, or video technology that can record the moments leading up to, during and after a collision.

To talk about the topic at the Fleet Safety Council’s 25th annual educational conference at the Centre for Health and Safety Innovation last week, was Hernan Medina, director of enterprise sales at Lytx and Dr. Terry Flynn of McMaster University.

Medina talked about the benefits of having video installed on trucks as well as some common misconceptions about video technology to attendees.

He spoke first about how video allows fleets to identify risky behavior within the cab, so executives can adjust driver behavior before it develops into an accident.

“We really need to work at the brain level of the driver because as well all know it is hard to change human behavior,” Medina said. “And that’s exactly where video comes in. It goes inside the brain of the driver…what a lot of companies do today, the ones who are not using video technology, they go bottom down. They start with the collision, and then try to understand what happened to cause the accident in the first place. But with video, we go the other way around. We are proactive and don’t wait for the accident to happen before we react.”

Medina reminded attendees that commercial vehicles are safe on the road for the most part. According to research from the American Automobile Association Foundation, 75% of accidents involving class 8 vehicles are not the fault of the professional truck driver. So another benefit of the video system is that it could exonerate a driver in the event of a collision.

But though there are a lot of benefits to putting video in your trucks, like preventing insurance claims, keeping your drivers accountable, promoting ongoing driver training, and overall saving the company money, drivers are Lytx’s biggest obstacle.

“The biggest challenge is how do we sell this to drivers?” said Medina. “Many think it’s big brother watching them, but it’s not that. We have selectively chosen not to have that technology because we want the driver to be in control.”

Medina said that the Lytx drive cam only collects 12 seconds of recorded data and only if it is triggered by an event. So if there is an accident, fleet executives only have access to the first 8 seconds leading up to the collision and four seconds after the collision. Because it is only 12 seconds, Medina says this also solves the other common complaint he hears from drivers that cameras are an invasion of privacy.

“It’s not meant to be an invasion,” Medina said. “It is exception based…only used to improve safety and nothing else.”

Ironically, once implemented, drivers become the camera’s biggest fan as they see the results. Medina played several testimonials from real drivers who said the camera helped exonerate them in the event of a collision and showed them some behavior that had to be fixed.

“Drivers become our best advocates,” Medina said. “As soon as they understand what (the video system) is and how it is going to be used.”

What to do with the media

Dr. Flynn spoke to attendees about what to do if a driver in your fleet does get into a collision in terms of communicating with the media.

He said having this sort of a crisis communication is new for fleets because of how technology has changed around us. Today there are millions of people being citizen journalists because they have access to typing a single 140-character Tweet that could ruin the reputation of business.

“Our behavior is being monitored at every moment,” he explained. “We didn’t have to worry about this 30 years ago. If there was an accident, there was a process for communication. But now, how are your crisis response protocols are dealing with this new arena of communications? Because the game has changed.”

Dr. Flynn explained that fleets need to start thinking about how quickly their reputation can be ruined and how to communicate effectively with the media when disaster strikes. He explained the seven deadly sins of crisis communication: unpreparedness, absence, ignorance, silence, distance, fabrication, and naivete.

“When an incident happens, first responders are in control,” he said. “So you will not be able to interject, but that doesn’t mean that in the hours after, you’re not going to be asked questions. Don’t think of a response as a news release or speaking to the media. (Responses) should go on for a long period of time especially If it’s a fatal incident.”

He added that staying silent is one of the worst things you can do in the event of a crisis.

“By not communicating, you’re actually communicating,” he said. “You’re telling everybody else you don’t care about what happened and people’s concerns…if you don’t tell the story, someone else is going to tell the story. So you have a choice, you can either try to be part of the story and frame how people receive that information or someone else is going to say, ‘That guy cut me off, that company… they’re dangerous, they should be thrown off the highway.’”

He said that to start your own crisis communication protocols, parameters need to be set out, such as having responses in place for when an incident happens.

“One bad kilometer can ruin a reputation,” he warned. “Misconceptions that are formed will stick with people forever. Your job in those moments are to communicate the facts in a trustworthy way and in a way that resonates with people.”

Finally, he added that fleets should think about appointing a spokesperson for the organization in case a crisis occurs.

“You also should think about who should be the spokesperson for the organization,” he said. “You have to really think about that. You want somebody that is caring, empathetic, understands the business, appreciates the media and knows that relationship with the media is something they can built upon. You don’t want to send someone who doesn’t like the media and who doesn’t like to communicate.”




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