A shiny silver Lexus careens through two lanes of traffic in front of a garbage truck and slams on the brakes to make a last-second right turn. The truck cannot avoid the Lexus, and the vehicles collide. Four hours later, the driver of the Lexus is armed with doctor bills and a lawyer, threatening to sue the city that employs the truck driver.
The city of Plano, Texas, would have settled this claim for about $200,000 if it hadn't been for the DriveCam device installed in the garbage truck, which caught the entire accident on tape.
"Video doesn't lie," said Tim Billingham, a loss-control specialist employed by Plano to maintain its DriveCam system. Billingham spoke during a session at the Public Risk Management Association's annual conference.
Since installing the cameras in nearly half of the city's fleet of 1,216 vehicles, Plano has slashed the number of accidents and its workers' compensation costs, not to mention legal costs.
"Sometimes it gets boring in our office because we don't have accidents to investigate," said Joey Page, Plano's risk manager. "That makes us happy."
The camera operates at all times, even when the vehicle is not in motion. It records over itself unless it senses exceptional forces--hard breaking, swerving, collisions--at which time the device automatically saves 10 seconds of footage preceding and following the triggered event.
The video can exonerate a driver, as it did in the example given above, and it can identify vehicle operators prone to risky behavior behind the wheel.
In Plano, the cameras had unexpected side effects as well. With its 43 garbage trucks, fuel costs went down 47 percent and maintenance costs dropped 83 percent.
Drivers no longer abuse their trucks and run the engines longer than necessary.
"We've probably saved over $1 million in miscellaneous costs since installing the cameras," said Billingham. "They know they're being watched."
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August 1, 2007
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