Safety & Compliance

Study Says Video-Based Safety System Could Cut Fatalities 20%

May 08, 2014

By Deborah Lockridge

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If every commercial vehicle over 10,000 pounds were equipped with an in-cab video-based driver safety system, about 800 lives could be saved each year and more than 38,000 injuries prevented, according to a new study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for Lytx regarding its DriveCam system.

Despite the results, the company is not advocating any type of government mandate.

The study, commissioned by Lytx, was conducted by Jeffrey S. Hickman, the group leader for the Behavioral Analysis and Applications Group under the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. It reviewed data reported from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Del Lisk, vice president, safety services, for Lytx, explained in an interview that the study was a follow-up to 2009 research done by Hickman and Virginia Tech for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

That research installed the DriveCam system in two trucking fleets, which used the associated coaching program. One fleet reduced risky driving behavior by 37%, the other by 52%. And the occurance of "severe critical events" (basically near-misses), was cut 75.5%, Lisk said.

This follow-up took those original findings and compared them to a large national crash database called the General Estimates System. This GES database included information about the vehicle, injuries and fatalities, violations, and contributing factors for a sample of crashes during calendar years 2010 to 2012.

After some types of crashes were eliminated (ones where the other driver was at fault, where crashes were caused by weather, medical incidents, mechanical problems, etc.), the final data set included 10,648 fatal truck and bus crashes and 213,000 crashes that resulted in injuries.

Number-crunching found that trucks and buses equipped with the DriveCam program had the potential to reduce an average of 727 fatal truck and bus crashes (20.5% of the total fatal crashes) and save 801 lives (20% of the total fatalities) each year.

In addition, the system was found to have the potential to eliminate an average of 25,007 truck and bus injury crashes each year (35.2% of the total injury crashes) and prevent 39,066 injuries (35.5%) each year. (Click image at right for full infographic.)

Lisk believes that even more injuries and fatalities could be prevented that weren't quantified in the study – those where the commercial driver not wearing a seatbelt was a factor.

"In some of those fatalities where they weren't the commercial motor vehicle's fault, the fatality of the truck driver may have occurred because they weren't wearing their seatbelt – because that does happen a lot," he explained. "Our program does a stellar job of brining seatbelt compliance up significantly. When we get a new fleet on board, they find out that probably 30% of drivers are frequently not wearing their seat belt, and now they have a mechanism to improve that compliance, usually to near 100%."

“Motor vehicle crashes are often predictable and preventable," said Hickman in the study. "Yet, many drivers choose to behave in ways that put themselves and others at risk for a vehicle crash and/or serious injuries. The most efficacious onboard safety monitoring systems use in-vehicle video technology to gather driving behaviors that can be addressed and corrected, thereby reducing future crash risk.”

Lisk said the study results were what he expected after working closely with fleets that have adopted the technology. "Both personally and as a company, we see how big an impact it has on improving driver behavior," he said, noting that his own son recently turned 16 and he's seen the improvement using the technology in his car has made in his son's driving abilities.

However, Lisk said he and the company would be against a mandate of such technology.

In the report, Hickman cautions that the results assume all truck and bus safety personnel adhere to the training and instructions in the DriveCam Program. "Simply installing an event recorder in a truck or bus without following the DriveCam program will not yield the results shown in the current report," he says.

If such a technology were mandated, Lisk told HDT, there's no guarantee those vital driver coaching steps would be taken.

"It's not just sticking a camera in the vehicle," he explained. "That isn't going to do a lot to move the needle in terms of safety."

The system works by capturing video in front of the vehicle and in the cab continually – but it only records a short loop when something potentially unsafe happens, such as a hard stop or sudden swerve. That triggers a brief video clip, which is then uploaded and reviewed by Lytx personnel. If they determine risky driving was involved, they flag it and bring it to the attention of the client. Then the company or organization can use that information to coach the driver to avoid such behavior in the future.

"That first step is always going to be there," he explained. "But if that second step never happens, if that company never brings the driver in and gives him the ability to see what happened and improve on it, you're really only going to have a crash recorder, not a driver improvement tool."

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations had very different reactions to the study, according to USA Today.

Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the study "relies on faulty methodology and leaps to conclusions based on inaccurate assumptions and wording regarding truck crashes," saying the study "apparently attempts to substitute technology for thorough driver training and experience."

However, Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, said the study "could serve as a model for other crash reduction research efforts."

"Though most serious truck crashes are not preventable by the truck driver since they are initiated by other motorists, this research shows that driver monitoring systems hold great promise for mitigating the remaining preventable crashes," Graves said.

Request a copy of the study


  1. 1. haller [ May 09, 2014 @ 07:03AM ]

    The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is pushing a product manufactured in China sold by Lytx formerly Drive Cam based in San Diego. So Cam Drive, excuse me, Lytx is trying to sell their product to anybody they can to increase their bottom line. So Lytx if you really want to make a ton of money "every existing car and every new car on American highways should be equipped with your product"... By the way, was money donated by Lytx to Virg. Teck. Inst. ?????

  2. 2. rob [ May 09, 2014 @ 01:50PM ]

    Another safety pusher pushing their safety product. Yup spend money here buy my program and you will have ectasy in your cab, you betcha. Remember all caveats they added about how you need "to have the whole program" not just the camera. It needs our superb sophisticated staff to "interpret" them camera images, you betcha. I know where I would be sticking that camera after 30 seconds in the cab, up the buyers you know what so he/she can can have it up close and personal, you betcha.

  3. 3. Steve [ May 09, 2014 @ 09:50PM ]

    I don't know anything about this particular brand, but I became a believer in dash cams as a police sgt. about 20 years ago when a dash camera kept one of my officers from going to prison.

    When I retired and started my trucking company, I put cameras in my trucks and they kept me and my drivers from suffering several false accusations (it's amazing how fast the other guy's story changes when you point up at the camera in the windshield!)

    I disagree with many of the rules - even though they now provide my bread and butter (if IRS rules were just, I wouldn't need my CPA... and if DOT rules were just, nobody would need me!), but the bottom line is that we agreed to follow the rules when we became professional drivers. If you aren't willing to follow the (current) rules, then start working to have them changed or find another career! (easy to say, hard to do - but that's the difference between a peaceful society and anarchy).

    I think dash cameras are great... if you are honest. A lot of people (including me!) don't like having an electronic God looking over your shoulder... but until we have a truly JUST society where the facts outweigh emotion and "political correctness", these darned cameras are about the best thing an innocent driver can hope for!

    I know, a lot of you disagree with me... that may put you in the majority.

  4. 4. Terry [ May 10, 2014 @ 03:27AM ]

    When they figure out that the trucker is the safest driver on the road and start looking at the real dangers the four wheeler. If all semis and 4 wheelers had external cameras then maybe the cop would start charging the people who are causing the ascendents. What good is a camera in the cab other than to take my rights away.

  5. 5. haller [ May 10, 2014 @ 09:21AM ]

    So Steve retired and then started his trucking co. and now believes in an "electronic god aimed at some of his employees" further more "the best thing ever" sounds like a lot of BS Steve. Give us your DOT # so we can check on you !!

  6. 6. Dick Gaib [ May 10, 2014 @ 09:38AM ]

    It's interesting to read Steve's and then Terry's reply to the story. As I read it, the cameras record both the truck driver and also the other traffic in the areas near the truck. That said, it seems that it is a win, win for all, because, we as drivers have all been close to a accident, or had one, when cars cut us off, or do other stupid things. Steve, appears to look at facts in a way of weighing both good and bad. Terry seems to feel that its taking away his rights. I hope the reason is he just that he missed that point of helping the trucker, to defend his driving. At 73, and 3 million plus on accident free miles, and 1 ticket in the last 20. We must realize that it's not like the old days, when it comes to the ability of car drivers to be, as good as the old days.

  7. 7. Barja [ May 10, 2014 @ 12:26PM ]

    I have two different types of these camera DVR's installed in my truck. Two looking towards front, one watching me and out the side windows, and last one watching everything behind the cab from the catwalk to everything behind the flatbed trailer. For me personally it did not affect risk installing these because no risk existed beforehand. What this does do for me is to record everything that took place before and if it ever happens, during and after an accident. It's piece of mind insurance. Recently a tractor-trailer hauling trash to a landfill was coming towards me on a tight two-lane with no shoulders with both of us going 55-mph plus. As he got within two-hundred feet he began slowly leaving the road edging off into the dirt embankment and I thought for sure he was gone because it was an eight foot drop-off on both sides of road. When he was 75'-feet away from me he grabbed the steering wheel and jerked the truck back to the road and I thought for sure he was coming at me head-on. I knew what was getting ready to happen, relaxed my body, removed my feet from pedals and held the steering wheel tight for a head-on frontal collision which would've meant instant death for both us drivers. Luckily he missed me by only inches. Had we made impact, we both would've been killed and my crash cams would've been the only evidence to prove how the accident happened and who was at fault. I was ready for death but luckily it didn't happen but having those camera's is like peace of mind because if anything should happen, they can tell the story for me and they do not give me the feeling that big brother is watching because he's not, I am the one in control of those camera's but the fact that a picture or video in this instance can tell the story even in my absence means alot. I recommend these for all commercial vehicles because they are your best insurance policy. They record GPS and metadata information to prove what my unit was doing. It's priceless.


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