Human error is a frequent contributor to road traffic collisions, understanding the human factors provides a deep insight into road-user behaviour

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How much does the company influence an employee’s driving behaviour?

In recent years there has been a great deal of emphasis placed on an organisation’s responsibilities towards the health and safety of its employees. In terms of driving, this has led to the Health and Safety Executive developing legislation to ensure that employers have the appropriate policies, procedures and training in place to ensure the welfare and safety of their employees when driving.

So, how much do the organisational climate and employer attitudes influence the driving behaviours of employees? A number of psychological studies have examined this relationship. So, can different approaches to driver training, and health and safety implementation, actually lead to employees driving in a safer way?

Recently, a review of driving safety at work was conducted by Australian researchers Sharon Newnam and Barry Watson, in the light of evidence showing that driving incidents are the most common reason of injury and death in the workplace. One aspect they considered was the organisational procedures, which was found to have three key components:

  • holding a crash reporting database
  • procuring/maintaining vehicles
  • the recruitment and training of drivers.

Newnam and Watson concluded that the interventions instigated and implemented by senior management were essential to successfully increase safe driving behaviours. They also suggested that employees report safer driving behaviours when they have supervisors and fleet managers who encourage safety-related discussions and interventions. This shows the importance of adopting an organisational climate that is driving safety-aware at all levels, from the company directors right through to the company drivers themselves.

A research group in Finland, headed by Bahar Oz, asked 230 professional drivers to complete two questionnaires. One asked about their own driving behaviours and the other asked about the organisational culture of the company they work for. They found that the organisation’s culture divided into two key aspects: work orientation and employee consideration. Each aspect was differently associated with employee driving behaviour.

People who worked for companies with high work orientation scores, companies that actively promote the effective running of a company, were likely to report fewer intentional driving violations and more positive driving behaviours. In contrast, people working for companies that have high levels of employee consideration reported higher levels of unintentional driving errors, but lower levels of intentional driving violations. This finding is both interesting and important, as it highlights that companies which are openly considerate of their employees’ needs are likely to be rewarded by safer employee driving behaviours, and consequently less associated time and financial loss.

Research conducted at Cranfield University in the UK has also shown that driver training can increase safe driving behaviours. They compared the driving behaviours of drivers who had received professional training with those who had not. In a driving simulator they found that those who had received that training had better lane positioning, slower driving speeds and generally safer driving behaviours.

The research clearly shows that a company’s attitude to driving for work can change or influence an employee’s driving behaviours. In order to create the most advantageous organisational climate, companies need to pay particular attention to showing consideration to their employees and the training they provide. Such a climate leads to employees driving in a safer way, whereby they have fewer traffic incidents and violations. This in turn leads to savings for the company and better health and well being for the employee. In these difficult financial times many companies are searching for ways to save money so investing in driver safety is likely to provide long term benefits financially.

Dr Victoria Bourne (BA Hons, DPhil)

Counsultant to Driving Risk Management

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