The automotive industry is undergoing rapid innovation, with exciting advances being made into technologies that we once thought either unachievable in our lifetime or just downright impossible. No, we’re not driving flying cars with venetian blinds as one prediction from 1942 suggested, but even that idea isn’t as distant as you might think, although the concept has moved away from the car as the base platform towards as-yet-undefined modes of personal transportation, such as this “new type of craft”.

Electric and autonomous innovations get the most column inches, which is understandable. Each new development is even more remarkable than the last, and it’s exciting to see how far this new technology can be pushed. But they’re relatively easy topics to understand and digest, making for good quick news pieces. The conversation around data, however, can often be heavy and granular, and whether we like it or not, data is completely revolutionizing the way we drive. Some of the most important recent advancements in this space have focused on the use of data to improve safety for drivers. Cars can check their own blind spots and alert drowsy drivers by simultaneously analyzing hundreds of data points. They can apply the brakes by themselves in an emergency situation, and turn on the hazard lights when sensors detect heavy braking. All of these processes collect and store data within computers inside the vehicle, which is great – but how can we take advantage of this data to implement safety improvements for drivers?

Fleet managers have access to actionable data to help make their fleet a safer one. And that’s exactly where we see companies moving. To determine how risky your fleet drivers are requires gathering information from several different data sources. And the data works together to help you identify the next steps in your risk management strategy. The goal is to integrate and analyze data from multiple devices to create a holistic view of what’s happening with the vehicle, the driver and your entire fleet.


But let’s take a step back and consider some of the other ways we can be safer drivers, away from the underlying data and the technology bearing down on us. What can we do to make our journeys a little safer?

Avoid distractions. Just remember, you’re behind the wheel of a machine that has the potential to be extremely dangerous if operated without due care. I’m not suggesting that cars are inherently dangerous, but anything that distracts you from the road ahead needs to go. Of course, cell phones are the number one distraction, but even an act as simple as reaching across the passenger seat to grab something can have grave consequences. And that fast food you just grabbed at the drive thru? It can wait! Many states in the U.S. have now completely outlawed the use of cell phones without a hands-free device, so make sure you know and abide by the laws where you live. And just for reference, texting while driving is illegal in almost every state, the only exceptions being Missouri and Montana – really guys?

Embrace good distractions. But you just said to avoid them? The monotony of driving, especially if you live in a big city with heavy traffic, can sometimes drag you down into an inattentive state. Have you ever been deep in thought, driving down the highway, and then you realized your body and mind had been on autopilot for the last half mile? Focus! Listening to music can help, but is it the right type of music? That may seem like a strange question, because is there really a right or wrong type of music? Well, according to a survey completed by a British insurance web site, different types of music can affect your driving style. Specifically, rock and hip hop are especially dangerous. “Music that is noisy, upbeat and increases your heart rate is a deadly mix. Fast beats can cause excitement and arousal that can lead people to concentrate more on the music than on the road.” While I can’t say I entirely agree with the results, I think that a switch up every now and then can help. I’ve recently started listening to comedy channels on the radio. Catching snippets of full set pieces allows me to dip in and out, and laughter is a great medicine for almost every problem.

Negative influences. I shouldn’t have to say that driving under the influence will negatively impact your ability to safely drive a vehicle, but it will. And it’s not just alcohol that counts as “under the influence”. No one knows the exact moment when sleep comes over their body. Falling asleep at the wheel is clearly dangerous, but being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t fall asleep. We’ve all seen the highway signs recommending that we take a break, but often it’s impractical to do so as we’ve got places to be and people to see. Pulling over for a six-hour nap is not something any of us are realistically going to do. But parking up and taking a five-minute stroll and getting some fresh air can really help. Rolling down a window to get some air can also work wonders, and if you’re a coffee drinker maybe stop and pick up quick cup somewhere.

I’ll leave you with an astonishing fact: 94% of all road incidents are caused by driver attitudes and behaviors rather than a lack of knowledge. You probably knew all of the above already, but maybe this article reminded you of some of the ways in which we can be proactive in regard to our own safety. And if we can combine this knowledge with a data-driven safety program, then even better. Imagine a world where you could use data to proactively identify and mitigate risks before they happen. A data-driven approach to safety can help companies better predict the level of driving risk, and for more information on this topic – check out our eBook on data-driven safety.

About the author: Kristofer Bush serves as vice president, product management for LeasePlan USA and has been with the organization for more than 19 years. He recently took on this new assignment with a focus on product management. His team is responsible for the development of products such as Safety, Connected Vehicles and client portal tools like the MyLeasePlan driver app. While he believes that he is an excellent driver, many of the tools that LeasePlan provides their clients’ drivers have proven to him that he still has a lot of room for improvement.

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Most company car drivers probably judge the "goodness" of their driving by how many tickets they've received or how many crashes they've been involved in. But when you look under the hood, you realize there are a lot more criteria involved in being a good driver. Risk and safety are very important components but there are financial and compliance factors as well.

To that end, most drivers are simply performing their daily, weekly, monthly routine without a lot of thought into if they are doing the right things as a company car driver. But, if drivers had a way of knowing whether they were doing right and were educated on what to do to be better, would they change their ways? This was the genesis of OneScore, LeasePlan's driver scorecard.

As a company car driver myself, I know I need to get my oil changed. I may not fully understand that it can prevent bigger repairs down the road or even improve the resale value of my vehicle at the end of the lease, but I know I need to get my oil changed. As a driver, OneScore helps me better know when to get my oil changed and where to get my oil changed. The when is simple since most people are already programmed to get their oil changed every so many miles. But OneScore clearly tells me the optimal window to get my oil changed.

The where, however, can be trickier. Maybe I'm more about convenience and want to go to the place near my home or want the fast oil change that might cost a good bit more. It's not my money after all. Or maybe my brother-in-law owns a shop and that's where I prefer to go. But if I plan appropriately, I can get great service in a fair amount of time while saving my company money by going to a preferred National Account vendor.

The other way I can save my company money is by achieving a reasonable miles per gallon (MPG) from my vehicle. What's reasonable? Well OneScore compares my vehicle to others like it in the LeasePlan fleet so I have a benchmark. Then I can get to work on maintaining or improving that number.

Maybe I have a lead foot or accelerate too quickly at red lights. It's possible that I'm carrying around extra weight in my vehicle that is unnecessary and that is weighing down my results. At the end of the day, a little improvement goes a long way across a fleet of vehicles.

Let's move on to compliance. I was kind of a rebel when I was young. Tell me I have to do something and I'll never want to do it. I know that's silly and I'm way too old to feel that way anymore, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who had that streak in them.

But when it comes to my company car, I know what I have to do and I generally know why I have to do it, thanks again to OneScore. Whether it is recording my business and personal miles at the beginning of each month or submitting documents when it's time to have my registration renewed, I'm always reminded of what I need to do. I've never had this issue but, if LeasePlan is missing license plate information for my vehicle, I would be prompted to provide that as well. I understand that part of being a company car driver is fulfilling my obligations. And, as long as those obligations are clear, I'm happy to do so.

Finally, let's touch on the risk and safety portion. I should never be surprised by my motor vehicle record (MVR) or incident components of OneScore. They are the direct result of my actions. That being said, it never hurts to have a little reminder to hopefully prevent past mistakes in the future.

So after a close review of my OneScore – it's a 98 by the way – I would say I'm a pretty good driver. And I also know what I need to do to push that score to 100.

Want to learn more about OneScore? Click here. And check out next week's blog where we cover OneScore from the fleet manager perspective.

About the author
Kristofer Bush serves as vice president, product management for LeasePlan USA and has been with the organization for more than 19 years. He recently took on this new assignment with a focus on product management. His team is responsible for the development of products such as Safety, Connected Vehicles and client portal tools like the MyLeasePlan driver app. While he believes that he is an excellent driver, many of the tools that LeasePlan provides their clients' drivers have proven to him that he still has a lot of room for improvement.

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General George S. Patton is attributed with saying, "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week." I took some serious liberties with that quote and transformed it into "knowing something is great, but doing something is better." But I whole heartedly agree that doing it good [sic] today is better than doing it perfect next week.

On that note, we're going to cover off on some basic (in my opinion) and well known (I think) tips for being better drivers. My inspiration is the closing line from a very touching safety video recently produced by the LeasePlan Marketing department. It shows a father walking into his house to greet his daughters while the narrator states "because the last trip of the day is the most important." How true. As a dad of two girls myself, this really hit home. But all the other trips between the first and the last of the day are equally important to get to that last trip. Let's get to it.

Important tip number 1: Always start your trip in drive
Or stated another way: never begin a trip in reverse. I first got this tip many years ago from a gentleman whose life passion was influencing drivers to be safer. We have lost touch but I would bet my last dollar he is still passing on this knowledge to anyone that he shares a car with. And the data says that many drivers simply aren't listening. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), there are at least half a million backing accidents of some type every year in the United States. Ironically enough, two of the top five incident descriptions in LeasePlan's data is hitting stationary objects and reversing into adverse parties. It's a simple change that can easily become a habit. And don't forget to pass it on.

Important tip number 2: Put the phone, book, hairbrush, food, etc. away
I often put this tip into the "no duh" category, like buckling your seat and not drinking and driving. Yet I'm continually amazed at how many vehicles I encounter driving erratically only to pull beside them and see a phone in their hands. I'm not going to bore you with stats or stories. I will stress though that it's not just about holding and manipulating a device. There are many distractions that are finding their way into our vehicles. I know we all still do it sometimes but if I need to convince you that driving distracted is bad, I doubt you're really interested in this blog, sorry for the harshness.

Important tip number 3: Drive defensively
I was fortunate that relatively early in my driving career, I took a professional course that taught you how to drive defensively. While they taught me what a vehicle can (and cannot) do, they also taught me to anticipate other drivers' actions to avoid incidents and collisions. While it's not a fool-proof method, being aware of your surroundings and other drivers enables you to anticipate that previously "unexpected" lane change, pulling out into traffic or the always scary turning across incoming traffic.

I lost track long ago of how many crashes this has kept me out of, even though they would not have been – technically – my fault. In LeasePlan's own incident data, we have seen a year over year decrease in incidents per million miles, yet we're seeing year over year increases in preventable incidents. Imagine the impact we could make if we get that trend going the other direction.

Important tip number 4: Chill out
I get it, you're busy. So am I and so is everyone else. But unless you have a legit emergency, relax, chill out and leave yourself plenty of time to get to your destination without having to drive like a racecar driver to get there. Is it really worth your impatience hurting yourself or someone else? Okay, I'm officially off my soap box.

If you'd like to watch the video I referenced earlier, please click here. I know it sounds sappy but every time I watch it I want to be a better driver and, in turn, a better father as I'll pass these tips along to my daughters (many years from now when they start driving). Let me know what you think.

And if you would like more information on safety, check out our new eBook on data-driven safety.

About the author
Kristofer Bush serves as vice president, product management for LeasePlan USA and has been with the organization for more than 19 years. He recently took on this new assignment with a focus on product management. His team is responsible for the development of products such as Safety, Connected Vehicles and client portal tools like the MyLeasePlan driver app. While he believes that he is an excellent driver, many of the tools that LeasePlan provides their clients' drivers have proven to him that he still has a lot of room for improvement.

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You may have seen we recently rolled out a new logo. But that's not all. LeasePlan introduced a new brand promise and a new attitude to go with it.

At our core, we are still the world's leading fleet management company with 1.7 million vehicles under our care in more than 30 countries. Our new brand promise – What's Next? – combined with our new logo, illustrate a forward motion, a drive toward innovative fleet and mobility management. And, we are as much about the journey and the road ahead as we are the destination.

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