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Hazard Perception for Fleet Drivers

by | Oct 27, 2021 | All Articles, Fleet Management | 0 comments

The Importance of Hazard Perception with Dr. Victoria Kroll & Dr. David Crundall

Did you know that regular Hazard Perception training and testing could have significant benefits for your business?

Dr. Victoria Kroll – CEO co-founder of Esitu Solutions and Dr. David Crundall – also co-founder of Esitu Solutions explain why commercial fleets should be looking to embrace it as part of their on-going driver training and assessments.

TFA: Before we begin, if you’d just like to introduce yourselves for our readers

VK: I’m Dr. Victoria Kroll and I’m Co-founder and CEO of Esitu solutions – we’re a UK based company specialising in the development, validation and distribution of digital driver training and assessment tools. I’m also a published Traffic & Transport psychologist and I’ve helped develop hazard tests for a range of external organisations.   

DC: I’m Dr. David Crundall and I’m a Professor of Psychology at Nottingham Trent University and co-founder of Esitu Solutions. I’ve got over 25 years of research experience in the field of hazard perception and I’ve had over 100 articles and edited contributions on Traffic and Transport psychology published.

TFA: Ok so before we look at the role Hazard Perception can play for commercial fleets specifically – can you just explain a bit more about what Hazard Perception actually is?

VK: Hazard Perception is actually a multifaceted skill. Many people think that Hazard Perception is just the speed of drivers’ responses to hazards. While this is indeed the measure that is recorded as part of the Hazard Perception test provided by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) – the response time is only a part of what’s actually going on.

DC: It’s a whole process. It starts with drivers first knowing where to look for the most likely hazards according to the situation. Drivers must identify hazardous precursors (e.g. the parked vehicle that might hide traffic coming out of a side road; the seemingly innocuous pedestrian who looks over their shoulder towards you…) and then place these precursors in order of likely danger.

VK: The driver must be aware of all the different sources of potential hazard, whilst spotting subtle characteristics that identify an imminent change into a developing hazard, before making a timely response. All these factors contribute to how quickly a driver responds during a hazard perception test, often without being aware they are doing so, like automatic responses to the situation they are in.

TFA: How effective is the DVSA Hazard Perception Test?

DC : Overall the introduction of the Hazard Perception test has been a success since it’s introduction to the driver licensing procedure in 2002. In 2008, a study carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory found that the test lowered the crash-risk of newly qualified drivers. Since then, it’s claimed that the test saves the UK around £90m per year by preventing over 1000 injury collisions, and over 8,000 damage-only collisions.

VK: Whilst extremely important, the current DVSA Hazard Perception Test isn’t perfect. For instance, it doesn’t measure how drivers might mitigate the danger through deceleration or lane positioning. There are also some concerns that the scoring windows might be too severe in some cases. If you check some of the online forums, they’re full of self-proclaimed “excellent drivers” who claim that they spotted the hazard too soon. Overall, the evidence suggests that actually, the test has been hugely valuable, but it isn’t without it’s flaws.

DC: It’s worth noting as well that the DVSA test also forms part of the Driver CPC for learner lorry and bus drivers. This version of the test is slightly different as it has more clips for the drivers to judge. In the CPC version, there are 19 clips containing 20 hazards – one of the clips contains two hazards. Drivers must score a minimum of 67/100 to pass -that’s compared to the 15 clips that regular leaner drivers see, and with a 44/75 pass mark. Other than that though, the tests and the clips that drivers see are identical – regardless of whether you are a learner driver or a highly experienced driver seeking to become a professional driver.

TFA: So what can hazard perception testing and training bring to businesses with fleets of vehicles?

DC: There are lots of ways in which hazard perception can benefit commercial fleets. That said, aside from the use of the DVSA hazard perception tests in the Driver CPC, Hazard Perception training and testing has yet to really feature as much as it perhaps should in on-going fleet training and assessment. But really, the benefits are potentially massive to a commercial fleet.

“recent estimates claim that the test saves the UK around £90m per year by preventing over 1000 injury collisions, and over 8,000 damage-only collisions.”

VK: In terms of the benefits themselves, one of the main benefits of Hazard Perception is that it’s a very useful assessment tool when recruiting new drivers. Research shows that a good hazard test can help predict the likelihood of drivers having a collision. Now obviously when it comes HGV fleets – where there is a chronic need for new drivers – there might be less emphasis on this at recruitment stage, but for less specialised fleets – e.g. with van drivers – then Hazard Perception testing at recruitment stage could be of huge benefit. Statistically, it is often a relatively small number of the same drivers within a company who account for the majority of road-safety related costs. Identifying these at-risk drivers before employing them can save a lot of money for your company.

DC: Hazard Perception tests can also be used to identify individual training needs. Many companies deliver generic group training –understandably in some cases because it’s just easier to deliver en mass. A more targeted approach though can reap larger rewards.

VK: This is a really important point actually. With the advent of eLearning, modules can be tailored and based around the specific hazards that a particular driver finds the most challenging.

DC: Hazard Perception Tests are also an integral part of training. It’s proven that mere exposure to hazards in a hazard perception test can improve drivers’ awareness of what might happen on the road. Research from around the world has demonstrated that hazard perception training, when done correctly, can make drivers safer.

TFA: So as well as making drivers safer, are there any other benefits for businesses by investing in Hazard Perception training and testing?

VK: Absolutely – The increased awareness of hazards has many benefits for business fleets. It often results in fewer instances of harsh braking and harsh acceleration, providing a smoother drive with the added benefits of reduction in pollution, reduced fuel costs and reduced wear & tear. 

DC: Recent research also suggests that hazard perception training makes drivers less likely to carry out distracting activities, like using a mobile phone.

VK: It’s really interesting actually because drivers are more likely to do things like use a mobile where they think the road ahead is safe. Hazard perception training though almost re-trains this thinking. 

DC: Once a driver has had some engaging, well-planned hazard training, they become aware that roads which they previously considered benign are awash with potential hazards, and thus become less inclined to take attention away from the road. This obviously enhances the safety aspect, and again helps prevent needless collisions.

TFA: So despite the accessibility of testing and training materials – and if there are so many benefits for businesses to use Hazard Perception training and testing – why are the corporate fleet sector so slow in embracing it?

DC: We believe there’s a few reasons for it. In part it’s due to some myths and pre-conceptions that have evolved around hazard perception, mixed with some genuine problems that render it inappropriate for the fleet market. 

Recent research also suggests that hazard perception training makes drivers less likely to carry out distracting activities, like using a mobile phone.

VK: A common problem is that some people instantly think “Hazard Perception? It’s just like a video game!” This view implies a couple of things really. First, that it’s resemblance to a video game means that the it’s more about getting a “high score” rather than experiencing a “real world” performance. Yet the evidence suggestions otherwise. The first research into Hazard Perception tests date back  to the 1960s, and there has been a continued growth of evidence supporting it in the intervening 50 years. And whilst not every study has found positive results in support of hazard perception tests, the overwhelming majority of evidence is in their favour. These tests certainly do not set out to assess all the skills that are required to have a crash-free driving career, but they capture an essential part of the safe-driving task. So does it really matter that some people regard this as too similar to a video game? If anything, we’d say it helps. Serious games and gamification are big business. This is because they offer excellent methods for encouraging engagement with the learning process. We live in a world where eLearning is becoming the norm.

DC: Another popular belief is that “It’s just for the learner drivers”. First and foremost, we believe that hazard perception training is important to professional drivers, with research demonstrating that even highly experienced drivers can benefit from hazard perception training. However, it’s also true to say that many current tests are not suitable for professional drivers.

VK: So an example of this would be, say, in the scoring windows for the DVSA test. They are based on the expected responses from learner drivers. However, these aren’t necessarily suited to experienced or professional drivers. What can happen is the better, more experienced drivers will see earlier clues to upcoming hazards and may press even before the scoring window opens and so they effectively score zero points. 

DC: Another issue is that the clips that drivers are presented with are from the point of view of a car driver. The seating position – and therefore view – from an HGV, or even a van, gives a different set of issues to those presented to a car driver. The higher road position gives an elevated view of the environment but creates visibility challenges nearer to the vehicle.

VK: This comes back to being able to personalise the training and testing experience. We are often told that the current Hazard Perception testing “doesn’t relate to the job.” And it some cases it’s true. Some driving roles require drives to be alert to very different hazards. As a result, we have created tests for HGV drivers, a national bus operator and we’ve even created training and testing for Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, using real footage captured from their own vehicles. By creating these tests, it has also meant we can understand more about the different types of hazards that occur. For instance, for bus drivers, pedestrians at bus stops pose a particular hazard that other road users are less likely to encounter. We see even weirder behaviour from other road users when faced with an emergency vehicle on blue lights. Other drivers can respond with a variety of erratic behaviour that emergency service drivers need to be aware of, but they will never see in a standard hazard perception test.

Hazard Perception for HGV drivers

A screenshot of a hazard taken from one of our HGV tests. The viewer can see the broken-down car directly ahead, which will mean that the HGV driver must move out of their lane. However, using the mirror information, they must also be aware of the van that is overtaking them.

 

DC: The traditional hazard perception test may capture some safety related information from your drivers, but we believe that by designing tailored hazard tests for specific driving roles – and using actual clips from that specific role – can replicate the hazards and task difficulties associated with the job – giving it far more value.

TFA: So looking to the future, do you see Hazard Perception becoming more integrated into corporate fleet training and assessments?

VK: For corporate fleets to fully embrace Hazard Perception training and testing, there needs to be changes to tackle some of the issues mentioned, and we also need to change the understanding of what Hazard Perception training and assessments are – and help them to understand the significant benefits to them for embracing it.

DC: In fact, steps are already being taken to remove many barriers stopping commercial fleets from engaging with hazard tests. For instance, the hazard prediction test is a variant of the hazard perception test and it removes the need of those tricky scoring windows and has proved to be very popular with users.

VK: So rather than the driver pressing a button spotting a hazard too early and scoring zero, our variant test means we simply stop the video just as the hazard develops and instead ask, “What happens next?”.  The driver is then given multiple choice options and if they have read the situation properly, they’ll be able to identify the hazard about to unfold. Our research has found that this test variant is not only suitable for professional drivers in the UK but also overseas.

DC: Another recent development is the adoption of VR (virtual reality) technology to present hazard training and assessment. Whereas on a computer monitor the hazards can only appear in a small area of the forward view (restricted by the edges of the screen), by using VR the hazards can literally come from anywhere – creating a more realistic and immersive experience.

Wearing a VR headset allows you to look 360 degrees around the visual scene to wherever you want to. For example, when you come to a T-junction you can look left (Panel A) or right (Panel B) down the road.

VK: With these advances, there has been a marked increase in interest from large organisations in the use of hazard perception tools. We recently assisted Transport for London in the development of VR hazard training for 25,000 London bus drivers. The feedback from the trainee drivers has been really positive and encouraging too. As the technology gets better and we continue to increase our understanding of the hazards that commercial fleets face, and  we’re hopeful that many more organisations will consider investigating the use of hazard perception tests with their drivers.

Thank you to Dr. Kroll and Dr. Crundall for their excellent insight into the world of hazard perception testing and just how important it can be. If you would like to find out more about the training and testing options available, visit the Esitu site below.

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