Common driving mistakes all fleet drivers make

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Even the best drivers can have off-days. All it takes is a buzzing phone on the seat next to you, poor road signage, or a sudden change in the weather conditions for a driver’s attention to be diverted away from the road. And as we know, it only takes a split second for an accident to happen.

Just as a good workman never blames his tools, a good driver never blames the vehicle. More often than not, when an accident has occurred, it is the driver who is at fault, not the vehicle they were driving.

Safety is at the heart of any business – that includes vehicles, operations, maintenance, and the drivers themselves. Fleet drivers may be experienced behind the wheel and have clocked up thousands of miles but they can still make mistakes.

There have been huge steps forward in terms of technology to improve safety, but no technology can safeguard against driver error. According to data from the Department for Transport (DfT), the top four most common causes of road traffic accidents in the UK are:

1.       Drivers failing to look properly
2.       Drivers failing to judge the direction or speed of oncoming traffic
3.       Drivers being careless, reckless or in a hurry
4.       Drivers making a poor turn or manoeuvre


These figures also reveal that while 86% of reported accidents are due to driver mistakes, just 2% of road accidents in Great Britain are the result of vehicle defects.

Here are seven of the most common driving mistakes that all fleet drivers have made at some point (and if they say they haven’t we wonder if they’re being 100% honest).

 

1 Breaking the speed limit

Not following the speed limit is a mistake made by a large portion of fleet drivers. We’re not talking about hurtling down the motorway 20 miles over the national speed limit, it’s more about those few miles per hour over a 20-speed limit. Even though the majority of people would agree that speeding is bad, many of us are guilty of it – fleet drivers included.
A 20 mph warning road sign
 

2 Distracted driving

It is an offence to use a mobile phone to make calls or send texts while you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle. This year, legislation around distracted driving will go a step further preventing drivers from taking photos and videos, scrolling through music and browsing online.

However, a survey by the RAC revealed that despite these laws, 23% of drivers admit to using their phone whilst driving. And most worryingly, 15% of those questioned said that the new penalties hadn’t deterred them from using their phone while driving in future.

Using a device while driving has a negative impact on reaction time, speed, distances between the vehicle ahead and lane position. But it’s not just electronic devices that are behind distracted driving. Paying too much attention to the sat nav, the radio or listening to a passenger are all common distractions and should be avoided by fleet drivers.


 

3 Driving when tired

Driving while tired is another mistake fleet drivers make; it can be as deadly as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When fleet drivers are up against tight deadlines and keen to keep to a schedule, there can be a temptation to get behind the wheel without having had enough rest beforehand.

This is a huge mistake. Tiredness is a key cause of many otherwise preventable road accidents and it is essential that fleet drivers get the information and support they need to get adequate rest when they need it.


 

4 Braking too harshly – and accelerating too quickly

Another common mistake on our roads is drivers who slam on the brakes too abruptly or pull away from a stationary position too quickly. Not only do these actions cause accidents, they are also guaranteed to guzzle petrol.

A common technique driving instructors use when teaching new drivers is telling them to imagine a glass of water sitting on the dashboard and driving smoothly enough that the glass doesn’t spill. It’s a technique fleet drivers should remember – and one we should all bear in mind…

A car speeding on a motorway at sunset
 

5 Middle-lane driving

Who can honestly say they’ve never been guilty of hogging the middle lane at some time? Probably not that many of us. Middle-lane hogging is often cited as one of the most annoying things motorists do on our roads.

Analysis by the DfT showed that casualties from crashes caused by slow drivers had increased a third in just one year. It is something police are attempting to clamp down on. Since 2013, police have had the power to hand out £110 fines and three penalty points to drivers cruising in the middle lane – something every fleet owner would rather avoid.


 

6 Following too closely

There is a minimum distance vehicles should stay behind the one ahead: the three second rule. Not to be confused with the length of time it is OK to eat food that’s fallen on the floor, the three second rule states you should stay a minimum of a full three-seconds behind the car in front of you, regardless of the speed you are travelling.

This is something every fleet driver will already know, but there’s no harm in refreshing your memory. Measure that distance by selecting a stationary object on the roadside (a tree or lamp post) and count the length of time between the rear of the vehicle ahead passing that object until the front of your vehicle reaches the same point.


 

7 Overconfidence

The final mistake on our list is overconfidence. Being a confident driver is a definite advantage, but being overconfident can put a driver – and those around them – at risk.

The majority of people behind the wheel (fleet drivers included) rate themselves as having ‘above average’ driving skills. However, according to data from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoPSA), human error is a factor in 95% of all road accidents.

Judging by the figures, above average drivers still make mistakes, so make sure your drivers know that overconfidence gets you nowhere.

Keeping your fleet drivers safe is all about giving them the information and support they need to make smart decisions behind the wheel. It’s also wise to get fleet insurance as part of your wider commercial insurance cover.

At Insurance Choice we arrange reliable commercial insurance for businesses around the UK. Get in touch to find out what we can offer you.

 

Frequently asked questions

 

How can comprehensive driver training programs help fleet drivers safety driving practices?

Comprehensive driver training programmes are instrumental in enhancing fleet drivers' safety driving practices. By offering structured and detailed instruction on defensive driving techniques, these programmes equip drivers with the skills necessary to anticipate and respond effectively to potential hazards. Additionally, such training emphasises the importance of vehicle maintenance and adherence to traffic regulations, thereby reducing the likelihood of accidents. Regular refresher courses ensure that drivers remain updated on the latest safety standards and innovations. Overall, these programmes foster a culture of safety within fleets, ultimately leading to fewer incidents, reduced operational costs, and enhanced public safety.

How can a fleet managers make sure fleet vehicles are up to driving standards?

Fleet managers play a crucial role in ensuring that fleet vehicles are maintained to the highest driving standards. The longevity of this maintenance largely depends on the implementation of rigorous and regular inspection schedules, coupled with prompt repair and maintenance actions. Providing drivers with training on vehicle care and safe driving practices contributes to maintaining standards. Ultimately, through proactive management and adopting best practices, fleet managers can ensure vehicles meet driving standards indefinitely, contingent upon the vehicles' operational lifespan.

What are common fleet management mistakes?

One prevalent mistake in fleet management is neglecting regular maintenance and vehicle checks, which can lead to increased operational costs and decreased vehicle lifespan. Another common oversight is inadequate training for drivers, leading to poor driving habits that can affect fuel consumption and vehicle wear. These missteps can significantly hinder the effectiveness and efficiency of a fleet management operation.

What are the biggest challenges for fleet drivers?

With cities becoming increasingly crowded, drivers often find themselves spending a substantial amount of time in traffic, which can lead to delays in deliveries and pickups. Fleet drivers must stay abreast of the latest rules concerning driving hours, vehicle maintenance, and cargo securement to ensure they operate within legal parameters. These challenges collectively underscore the demanding nature of fleet driving in today's fast-paced environment.

Does driver performance decrease with a lack of sleep?

A lack of sleep undeniably impacts driver performance, posing significant risks not only to the individual behind the wheel but also to others on the road. Sleep deprivation impairs cognitive functions, including attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving. These faculties are crucial for safe driving, as they affect a driver's ability to make quick decisions and react promptly to sudden hazards. Therefore, ensuring adequate rest before driving is imperative for maintaining optimal performance and safety on the roads.

Why is safety the number one consideration for all fleet management businesses?

Safety is the paramount consideration for all fleet management businesses due to the inherent risks associated with vehicle operations. Ensuring driver safety not only protects lives but also mitigates financial losses from accidents and legal liabilities. A fleet manager must prioritise driver and vehicle safety protocols and regular training to maintain a high standard of operational security. This proactive approach reduces the likelihood of incidents, thereby preserving the company's reputation and operational efficiency. In essence, a strong focus on safety ensures both the well-being of drivers and the sustainability of the business.