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Road accidents are an unfortunate reality and have a devastating socio-economic impact. However, using vehicle telematics and an in-vehicle video camera to monitor and alter driving behaviour within fleets can help create a safer environment for all road users.

According to the Department of Transport’s January to June 2020 State of Road Safety Report, in 2019, South Africa recorded 10 381 fatal road crashes, which resulted in 12 503 fatalities. The total cost from major, minor and damage-only road crashes amounted to an estimated R170.6 billion. While road, environmental and vehicle factors can and do play a role, almost 85% of all fatal crashes have human errors as the major contributory factor.

Preventing road accidents will not only save lives but also save the country billions of Rands every year. Since crashes are mainly caused by human error as a result of reckless or impaired driving, encouraging a change in driver behaviour can have a significant impact.

Law enforcement offers a deterrent to irresponsible driver behaviour when it is visible. However, it is impossible to be visible throughout the vast road network in South Africa. Also, law enforcement is normally reactive to a misdemeanour. Proactive, preventative enforcement coupled with consequences for misdemeanours, as opposed to reactive and punitive measures, will improve the situation drastically.

Vehicle telematics is already playing a role, for instance, rewarding good driving behaviour, based on factors such as speed, acceleration and braking, with lower insurance premiums. However, an in-vehicle video camera solution allows for early detection of bad driving habits and associated risks, and steps can be taken to engage in proactive and targeted driver coaching.

Video-based driver monitoring technology has existed for over 20 years and enables fleet managers to encourage responsible driving because video footage can be paired with constructive feedback to correct unwanted behaviours. In some cases, just having the camera installed has lead to less risky driving behaviour. However, many of the legacy solutions are reactive and require fleet managers to analyse hours of video footage to identify and correct misdemeanours. This comes with inefficiencies and the potential to miss an incident.

Improvements in technology, with automation on the device, take video monitoring to the next level. These systems incorporate artificial intelligence software on the device to automatically record video footage before and after an event based on pre-configured capture triggers, and forward real-time alerts to fleet managers with these segments of footage. They are coupled with driver analysis and scoring, plus a live look-in service.

They also continually monitor driver attentiveness through facial recognition and alert the driver in real-time through a speaker, in response to triggers like drowsiness, distraction, safety belt usage and mobile phone usage. This helps drivers stay alert on the road and reduces accidents by avoiding an event that could lead to a potential incident.

“Time spent on South African roads as well as the distance travelled by fleets is increasing significantly year on year, which correlates to a higher on-road risk and contributes towards a higher propensity for accidents to occur,” says Kobus Visagie, Executive: Business Solutions at Tracker South Africa. “Technology that identifies and interprets human driving behaviour, generating critical data to improve driver performance, can save lives.”

“The most obvious benefit of artificial intelligence-enabled dashcams is incident management. However, add facial recognition on the edge, i.e. within the camera, available exclusively through Tracker in South Africa, and you have a solution that provides immediate improved safety for drivers through real-time alerts. If implemented across delivery and public transportation fleets, to avoid driver misconduct and correct poor driving as it happens, the end result is a reduction in road incidents and ultimately safer roads for all to travel on,” concludes Visagie.