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Transportation Trailblazers: Setting the bar Above and Beyond

In this video from The Transportation Trailblazer series, we feature Lisa Robinson, Senior Program Manager of the National Safety Council in conversation with our VP of Partnerships Qiana Patterson. 

Lisa and Qiana discuss: 

  • The current transportation landscape.
  • What is currently being done for safety, and why it isn’t enough.
  • Reasons why we need to lead with safety and go above and beyond the current safety ‘norms’.
  • And much more!

Check out the video for this compelling conversation.



Transcript here:

Qiana: Welcome everyone to another edition of HopSkipDrive’s Transportation Trailblazers, a series. Today, I’m here with an amazing person, and I will let her introduce herself. 

But again, remember, I’m Qiana Patterson. I’m the Vice President of Strategic Development for HopSkipDrive, and you all know this, but HopSkipDrive is a leading company that is providing innovative transportation solutions to get the most vulnerable riders to and from safely their destination. 

We are thinking wholeheartedly about how important it is to lead with safety and to go above and beyond when it comes to innovative transportation solutions. So without further ado, Lisa, can you introduce yourself to our guests?

Lisa: Sure. I’m Lisa Robinson. I am a senior program manager with the National Safety Council, and I work specifically in transportation in the occupational arena.

Qiana: Can you tell us a little bit more about both the organization, and you are also on our safety advisory board.

Lisa: I am! I actually specifically work on a couple state funded projects that’s only on roadway safety, but I work for the National Safety Council. Their goal is to prevent and eliminate fatalities on our roads, and from the workplace to any place. So they have a passion for safety. 

I also serve on the National Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders, and we were in California about two years ago now.

I had reached out to Joanna to speak about women leaders, because the National Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders has a person from each state that is appointed by the governor. I wanted her to come and speak because I knew she was a trailblazer when it came to transportation, vulnerable road users, and that is what everybody in the state offices were also focused on, as well, which is safety on the roads.

Qiana: And in terms of the work that you’ve been doing for all these years, how has today’s transportation landscape changed or evolved from let’s say 10, 15, 20 years ago until now? And certainly COVID-19 poses a lot of new challenges, so would love to dig into what are the changes that have occurred in this landscape?

Lisa: Well, there’s several changes. When you really think about it, the drivers change, the vehicles change, the technology changes, the roadways change, the engineering, the safety features, the ability to use more technology behind the wheel, distraction. 

There are so many things that when we look at, that we believe were a great benefit in our safety features. Like, now we know more people will wear their seatbelts. We’ve come over time and we’ve evolved. If you think about the child car seat, you think about years ago what it looked like, or a horse and buggy. We continue to evolve and we continue to focus on safety and how it’s safest for everybody in the vehicle.

At the same time, people were moving at such a quick pace, and they want the technology, they want the touch screens, they want all of these things. And so it becomes what’s the best balance of how do we ensure people understand safety boundaries? Because it’s great that you can order a pizza while you’re driving, but should you order a pizza while you’re driving?

You also mentioned COVID. What we’re seeing now, unfortunately, is miles driven are down, but our fatality rates on our highways is higher. And so it is concerning, but we also know that COVID is playing a big part in the distraction. 

Some of the things are wonderful, which is the technology in our vehicles, which has some great safety features. It also has to be that drivers are able to use a lot of technology. And sometimes they’re distracted. Texting and email went up 36.85% during the pandemic.

Using social media behind the wheel, went up 53.85%. Videos and pictures went at 90%, and online shopping went up 112.5%. And so we’re seeing this yin and yang and this pull of trying to make sure everyone’s as safe as possible, and also the technology. So there’s quite a bit that we’ve got that’s changed so quickly in the last 10 years.

Qiana: I like to think that HopSkipDrive is proactive and relentless when it comes to safety. We boast some of the highest safety data points for our CareDrivers and our platform, and distractions are low for us. 

You’ve talked about distractions and there’s a lot of this innovation, what are the things that you believe that companies like ourselves can be doing to ensure greater proactivity and greater safety?

Lisa: Well, one thing that HopSkipDrive does, and I work with employers all the time, and so what I notice is you guys are ahead instead of behind. 

A lot of times people are chasing incidents. What that means is they’re consistently having different incidents that happen as a result of their drivers, and so they’re behind, they’re lagging behind, where they’re always trying to figure out and they’re working on their claims and the investigation.

And HopSkipDrive is always in the front of it. They’re really identifying areas and being very proactive, and they have minimal incidents. But it doesn’t matter what that incident might be, they are evaluating it from top to bottom and every angle. 

And they’re asking a lot of people that serve on their Safety Advisory Board to really look at it, and the Board has to have these tough conversations, even on small things that most people would think of it as a check the box. They’re not accepting that as just a check the box, that we know there may be a few small incidents, right? But they’re not accepting that. They’re continuing to look.

And during the entire time of COVID, I know that they’ve continued to go above and beyond to look at safety as the driving factor. It’s the most vulnerable road user, if you think about it, this population they serve, and they want to ensure that CareDrivers are the absolute best, the vehicles are the best. 

They’re even looking at recalls for the vehicles of these drivers. I mean, that’s above and beyond. That is not a norm. That is not a standard. And they’re consistently looking at how do they keep them safe, whether it is child safety seats, the locks, it doesn’t matter. They’re looking at all aspects of ensuring that they make the right decisions. They don’t just accept riders. They’re making the decision of, yes, we should have this rider in the vehicle. Yes, we should have that rider in the vehicle. It’s impressive to know that they didn’t just decide to provide a service and go into business.

Qiana: I appreciate that. I wonder, given innovation, we are a tech company, telematics and other things are super important to us. It really gives us some data and insight into how our drivers are performing. 

I know that you’ve seen so much. I mean, lots of people are talking about autonomous vehicles, self-driving vehicles. We certainly have buses and light rail that has a lot of autonomy. We still need people behind the wheel. 

And so can you just talk to us about what you think is super important still? With all of that technology and that innovation, what is really crucial about driver safety in particular?

Lisa: I’ll tell you a couple things. First of all, autonomous vehicles, we’re not there yet. We will eventually one day get there, but we’re not there today and we’re not there tomorrow. It is still down the path for us. Engineering is great. But what I’m going to tell you is we know that about 70% of our crashes are definitely driver behavior, driver error, 93% are driver behavior, driver choice, driver error.

I say the most important safety feature we have is the driver. The most important car safety feature is that driver. The driver is making decisions. The driver has to be engaged. That means the eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, brain engaged. That means that driver is making choices, and that’s where driver safety comes in. 

And so it’s making the choice not to be distracted. It’s making the choice to not have that cell phone turned on or to do something else while driving. And so you’re absolutely 100% right. We can make a difference because the driver is the difference.

Qiana: One of the things, Lisa, I think that you said that was super crucial is about driver behavior. And I think that what we’ve done in terms of COVID safe rides and thinking about how are drivers being intuitive and being engaged with, like you said, hands on the steering wheel, engaged, those are the things that I think, and as a safety advisory board, I’m sure you’ve provided insight and advice to us about just that.

Lisa: Absolutely. And when we met as an advisory group, and even other times, they’re reaching out and asking for opinions, ideas, thoughts, guidance, and it’s impressive. And it is the driver choice, it is the driver behavior, but companies also set policies. 

They set standards, they set expectations, they provide education, they provide training, reinforcement. You can’t just tell somebody something without reinforcing it. You can’t just have an expectation without a policy, and you can’t assume policy will be followed if you don’t have enforcement. And they’re putting all of those things in play.

They’ve also looked at continuing education, and I made the reference earlier about the recalls. They’ve continued to do other things that are above and beyond, and they continue to make driver safety, driver education, a continual part. And I know that they’ve done that, whether it be online, however they’re continuing to reach out and communicate with their drivers. And that’s really key.

Qiana: And can you just sort of expand, essentially what you’re saying is that companies like HopSkipDrive, we are relentless about safety. What are the things that you think others should learn what we’re doing and know what we’re doing to actually mirror that? Because I think that this is the type of safety that everybody should be adhering to.

Lisa: Absolutely. We know that driver behavior can change when a company has policies, they have procedures, they’re consistent, they’re ongoing. And I am really clear to say an annual program doesn’t do anything for anybody. It’s great to have an annual program. However, you have to have consistent ongoing soundbites, education, resources, tools, to be able to change behavior.

And I think as a best practice, HopSkipDrive shows the things that they’re doing, and they’re forward-thinking, they’re looking ahead, not behind. They’re not chasing. They’re ahead of the safety curve. They’re continuing to identify things that may be an issue. They’re identifying things that may be a risk. They’re noticing, and they’re being aware of what goes on in the communities and what they’re hearing, and to determine is that going to be a concern that they have. 

And I think other companies should think about safety first, and safety doesn’t compete with anything else. A company that puts safety and doesn’t compete with anything else will be successful.

Qiana: And obviously in terms of putting safety first and other companies adopting that, some can think, like you said, an annual inspection or an annual training of some sort might be the status quo. 

And you’re sort of pushing back on that, and that shouldn’t be the status quo. As you look ahead and we look down the road, certainly COVID has upended so much in our world, but as we move through COVID and we look ahead, what are the things that you think are actually a positive thing that we should be taking specifically from COVID-19 and transportation and safety into the future down the road?

Lisa: You know, everybody needs to look at what’s occurred with COVID and understand that our drivers, our families, the people that have been on the roadway, they are distracted because of COVID. 

They’re worried about food security, housing security. They have so many concerns. They’re worried about health. There are many things that people are worried about. So I think what we see is companies coming together, and to be able to help support the worker and to be able identify things. We also know that COVID affected sleep, so people were fatigued.

The one thing that I know that I saw HopSkipDrive doing, even during COVID, it was affecting your ability to provide rides. They never once were trying to cut safety. They never once were looking at, well, I never once heard them talking about cutting their safety. They were still identifying safety. 

And I think that when companies will look back and understand that, you know what, the numbers went up, miles driven went down, we should make safety a strong priority in keeping our company and our drivers safe and making that be forward thinking, just like what you said, is looking ahead to determine that this isn’t where we want to go. For HopSkipDrive, safety was never discussed as being a compromise.

And see, and I think that’s a huge best practice. I think that is a huge best practice in understanding that. There someone we work with who says, “Safety doesn’t compete. It’s not competing in everything. That is your priority.” And I always say safety is everybody’s responsibility. And I think that’s, you know, you guys have looked at all angles. You guys look at the vehicle. You look at the CareDriver. You’re taught looking at the cargo, your precious cargo. You’re looking at inside the vehicle.

Then you look beyond that and you start thinking about the COVID. So I think HopSkipDrive is a little bit different in how you guys have approached it, and I think that’s pretty impressive. Absolutely. I think you guys have so much, I mean, I’m sorry, but you’re one of the first companies that I’ve noticed that started looking at recalls, too.

Qiana: I think that this idea around safety is a non-negotiable, right?

Lisa: That’s correct.

Qiana: So when you think about when someone puts out an RFP and they have all the bells and whistles, you’ll never put out an RFP that doesn’t include a price. You’re not choosing someone, not knowing the price. Pricing is never a nice to have. It is one of the key things. 

And I think that what we do is say safety is also one of those key things. And so while we don’t believe that we’re replacing or supplanting any mass transit, we do believe that we are able to safely ride alongside those existing transportation solutions.

We know that the more people move, the more that we’re moving and traveling down highways, it’s super important to actually think about what are all the things and what does my sort of transportation ecosystem look like, when I’m a regional director or whatever. 

So if you can ensure that safety is a priority and it’s not a non-negotiable, then what will you be left with? And I think that’s the critical piece. What are you left with when you center and you make that a priority and you don’t lean away from that?

Lisa: That’s right. You’re 100% right. You’re spot on. You are somebody I love talking to. You talk my language, because not many people really get it. Not people really get it. And there’s not a lot of companies, there are some that do not waver. That is a non-negotiable core value. It is a non-negotiable core value. And they’re the companies that have actually been doing very well. They’re not seeing the lawsuits, they’re not seeing their insurance rates go up.

But Joanna, she had a passion and a mission, and her mission was knowing that there was a problem here, a critical problem, and how do we solve it safely? How do we solve it safely? I do think that they’re working with, when we say vulnerable road users, they’re dealing with homeless, they’re dealing with foster care. They’re dealing with all of these super vulnerable youth.

Qiana: Highly mobile, super vulnerable, gone through a lot of trauma, so they need, a hundred percent, they need someone behind the wheel. They need that security. They need that comfort that I think I just don’t believe others can do quite like us.

Lisa: Absolutely. I’m a hundred percent in agreement. That has been a focus of the rider, the security of the rider, not just the vehicle, not just the roadway, but the security of the rider. That is huge.  

I mean, with people discussing it. It’s impressive, the lengths that HopSkipDrive, and the fact that, I mean, you speak my language, and I don’t have many people that speak to, I mean, I love it. You make me excited because you don’t hear a lot of people talking that way. And I think it’s awesome. I think it’s awesome.

Qiana: And I think it’s super easy to think about, or to have these conversations in a very opaque way. You’re dealing with like 10 tons of steel and you’re dealing with cement and concrete, and I think that just, it fails to acknowledge that what we’re doing is transporting bodies, human cargo, people. Whether you’re transporting students, yourself, it all has to do with human. 

And we have to lead with empathy. We have to lead with safety. Like, what does it mean to provide a safe roadway, but a safe roadway means that you have safe drivers, that you have safe procedures, policies, and everything along with it that ensures safety on our highways and on our roadways.

Lisa: You’re a hundred percent right.

Qiana: I think what’s really interesting, I don’t know if many people realize that despite miles going down, crashes and injuries being up, I don’t know if people realize that and how the distraction is causing and the fatigue is causing that to happen. 

What do you think, in terms of what HopSkipDrive is doing and the real challenges around that, what innovative thinking forward kinds of things can companies and people involved in transportation, what should they be thinking about as it relates to people coming out of that mind space of COVID and not being distracted? Is it some kind of training? Is it some kind of ongoing program? Is it thinking about health and wellness?

Lisa: It’s all of those. And I always say there’s not one right answer for one company. Every company is different. One thing I think is really great is people need to tap into the resources that they have as far as associations, organizations, because those are like-minded companies and like-minded organizations. I always say, reach out, ask somebody else. If you see somebody with a best practice, ask them. It’s legal to steal. That is not illegal to emulate. It’s a compliment. And they may have already found out what didn’t work and what is working.

And that’s a great way to be able to find a template. Get ideas from other people, get engaged, pay attention, know what’s going on, what’s happening, what are the statistics? Why is it happening? How does my industry, and do I have drivers? You know, sometimes I think companies, when people went home and were remote, they weren’t thinking about it as much. 

We also know people became rusty, too, after being home for a while. We also know that the risky behaviors were not only the distracted, but we know speeding. Less people were on the roads. So when you have speeding and you have distraction, the crashes are more severe.

And we also know our pedestrian rate and fatality rate has gone up significantly. And part of that is the speed, the weight of the vehicles, and you have vulnerable road users that are near roadways. And so you have to look at all of it and decide, okay, how do we solve these issues? 

How do we look at it? Not just one, because sometimes we get hung up on just cell phone distraction. We get hung up on just talking about cell phone policy, and that’s not enough. It’s one part of it, but we know that distraction, that’s just a small part of it. We know that distraction, other distraction crashes are actually higher than that.

And so we have to look at a lot of things, as far as a company goes, to decide this is my population. This is what my employees do. And it’s not just driving is a part of the job, it’s that to and from work and occasionally driving, and the part-time employees, and the interns. We sometimes only think of those ones who we consider just drivers for a company. And we know that that’s just a small section.

Qiana: As a former educator, I know very well how great it is to beg, borrow, and steal, and the best educators and I think the best leaders and companies actually lean into that. We don’t always have the right answer, but we can lean into those that we know who have come up with some really great solutions. So I really appreciate you saying that.

I think, if you had a couple other points or advice that you would provide to all of our viewers who are watching this right now, really about how do you go above and beyond? How do you lean into safety? And as you said, we’re all distracted on so many levels, but how do we really ensure that safety is a priority and we’re all going above and beyond when it comes to that?

Lisa: Safety should always lead. Safety should be your primary focus. When we think about anything we do, safety should always be in that decision making process. What is safe? And what we need to understand is our families are on the road, too. Each one of us are sharing the roadway. 

We’ve got to decide that every single person matters. We’ve got to decide that everybody on the roadway matters, that there’s rules, there’s laws for a reason. We need to follow them. And we need to be the example. We need to be the ones that are speaking up. If we see somebody who’s not buckling, we need to let them know that, hey, I can’t ride with you. We need to go ahead and have a voice, but again, safety needs to lead. It should not follow.

Qiana: Thank you for that. I think for my vantage point, being at HopSkipDrive, we have one of our own mottoes is safety first, right? And we’re leading with that. And so I appreciate you. I didn’t even plant that. So everyone watching, I didn’t plant that, but that definitely is something that we hold in highest regard, and lead with that. 

How do we make and ensure that both the driver and the rider is safe and they’ve reached their destination in a timely but safe manner, which is super important. And how do we reduce distractions, and make it the most convenient and appropriate transportation solution for youth, like you said, the most vulnerable. So I really appreciate that. Do you have any last parting ideas or thoughts for our viewers?

Lisa: No, I just want to say that I appreciate you guys asking these questions, because the more that the dialogue is there, the more people hear it, the more people will adopt safe choices and safe behaviors behind the wheel, which means we’re all safer. And so I applaud HopSkipDrive for making that such a priority and being forward facing in safety.

Qiana: Thank you. Thank you. Well, everyone, it’s been really great to be here with you again for another edition of the Transportation Trailblazers, put on by HopSkipDrive. You heard it from Lisa Robinson, safety first, always, and HopSkipDrive is certainly on a mission to ensure that our riders and our CareDrivers are leading with safety first in mind. So thank you again.


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