The irony made me laugh. I was driving to work yesterday morning, stopped at a red light, when I noticed something about the vehicle in front of me. A nondescript, white four door car, it appeared to be a corporate vehicle; likely one that delivers auto parts to mechanics and service garages in our area. There was no company signage on the vehicle per se, rather my clue to its purpose came from a paper sign taped inside the rear window. It contained the logo of a well know chain of automotive parts stores, and informed anyone interested that they were hiring both part time and full-time drivers.

Also on the back window was a more permanent looking sticker, one that served as an additional clue as to the corporate status of this vehicle. It simply said, “Vehicle Speed Monitored by GPS.”

So, I could immediately surmise that this was indeed a company car, belonging to an operation that was working to minimize their risk with the innovative use of available technologies. They had deployed some device or app to monitor the safe utilization of their drivers and their fleet.

As the light turned green, I maneuvered into an adjacent lane to pass this safety conscious, law abiding example of safety minded corporate stewardship. As I approached a parallel position to the car, I was able to get a good look at the driver.

He was eating his breakfast. As we rolled down the road at 45 miles per hour, he was clutching a sandwich in one hand and his coffee in the other.

I don’t think they make an app to monitor that just yet.

It was a great example that, despite the best efforts and intentions, you may never be able to fully accommodate for the human condition. That, plus you can’t fix stupid.

At least his safe speed would make him less likely to spill his coffee. We wouldn’t want him to burn himself.

I am probably being too harsh. I have been guilty from time to time of wolfing down a meal while on the road when time constraints did not allow otherwise (although never two handed). I know it is not a safe practice. I just thought it was funny in a car that has been “labeled for safety”. It was a great example, despite incredible technology, of how challenging risk management can continue to be. Despite our best intentions, those pesky humans keep gumming up the works.

It is also an irony that the same technologies that can aid us in these efforts also can completely trip us up. Some companies are now deploying apps that prevent texting and other smart device use when driving – but a personal cell phone is not subject to those controls. They may be able to restrict the use of their company phone while in the company car, but a personal phone may still torpedo the entire effort.

Technology alone is not the answer. Training and awareness must be combined with technology to be truly effective. Even then, as I indicated earlier, you can’t fix stupid. You can document it, you can terminate for it, but you may still have to pay for it.

And, of course, you may eventually be able to automate it out of existence. However, I suspect those days will present an entirely new and yet unforeseen set of risks. The risk manager of the future will still be relevant – unless, that is, the job has been automated by advancing technology. In that case, we can let the computers worry about stupid.

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