Text No More

We all know the risks of being distracted while operating a vehicle and half of the states have even made the decision to outlaw texting while driving. But for some drivers, a law is not enough to discourage such actions.

Texting while driving poses a huge threat not only to companies that employ drivers and operate fleets, but to others on the road. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found that texting while driving increases the risk of being in an accident by 23 times. As the report states, “Anti-texting laws do not protect businesses from irresponsible employees.” So how can you control the actions of your drivers when they’re on the road? Well thanks to RIMS 2010, I found out that there is a device that can actually disable texting capabilities on phones while they are in motion. The name? TextArrest.

What is it?

A smartphone application that automatically switches off text messaging and calling functions while the phone is in motion. It features:

  • Integration with a phone’s GPS system to determine the speed of a moving vehicle
  • Automatic switching off of text messaging and calling functions after a phone is detected to be traveling faster that 5 mph
  • An auto response message from the driver that informs people sending text messages that their messages will be delivered once the user stops driving

Considering that distracted driving is such a problem now, fleet managers and risk managers may want to consider the option of having complete control of their driver’s cell phone use while operating a company vehicle. Smart risk management.

Nassim Taleb: “Let’s Not Be Turkeys”

black swan

In today’s keynote luncheon at RIMS 2010, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, best-selling author of The Black Swan, told the story of a turkey who is fed by the farmer every morning for 1,000 days. Eventually the turkey comes to expect that every visit from the farmer means more good food. After all, that’s all that has ever happened so the turkey figures that’s all that can and will ever happen. But then Day 1,001 arrives. It’s two days before Thanksgiving and when the farmer shows up, he is not bearing food, but an ax. The turkey learns very quickly that its expectations were catastrophically off the mark. And now Mr. Turkey is dinner.

Taleb’s advice: “Let’s not be turkeys.”

The lesson of our doomed turkey illustrates the central problem of unexpected, “black swan” events (or in this case “black turkey,” I guess). We simply do not have enough data to reach empirical conclusions about how a risk will manifest itself and to what degree. “Just because you never died before, doesn’t make you immortal,” said Taleb.

Part of the issue is in the semantics of how we talk about risk. We have created what Taleb called “an illusion of measurement.” By saying, we can “measure” the risk in a particular situation, we are implying that there is a definitive answer. “We should not be using the word ‘measuring,'” he said. “We should be using the word ‘estimating.'” It’s a psychological difference that allows us to gauge “riskiness” more appropriately.

Taleb pointed out that the issue is magnified by the increased complexities and interdependencies of today’s society. There is a greater potential for the unexpected in a society characterized by extreme randomness and connected in ways that it never has been before. You would only have to compare how a theoretical run on a bank would happen today as opposed to 50 years ago. Once upon a time, if you wanted to pull your money out of your bank after learning of its imminent failure, you would have to physically go to the bank, likely stand on line, and possibly even change your mind after being forced to wait half the day. Now you can get the news on your Blackberry, log into your bank and automatically withdraw the cash in seconds. And so can everyone other bank customer around the world. Voila. Instant crisis.

The situation may not be  encouraging, but Taleb put his faith in good risk management. “Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn’t understand risks,” he said. “Hopefully, risk managers would run society and not bankers.”

They certainly couldn’t do any worse.

RIMS Canada Can Throw a Party!

Being at the RIMS Annual Conference, you are faced with many tough decisions — like which event to attend after the Exhibit Hall closes for the day. Last night we were lucky enough to make it to the RIMS Canada reception and as the headline says, the great white north knows how to throw a party. Along with air hockey, delicious food and Canadian mounties, there was great music and frivolity.

For your viewing enjoyment, a few pics:




RIMS in Pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, here are 10,000 words on Tuesday at RIMS 2010.


RIMS President & Director Terry Fleming and RIMS Executive Director Mary Roth cut the RIMS 60th anniversary cake.


Former RIMS President Joseph Restoule and RIMS Members Services Associate Shavonne Howlett pick the raffle winner of a new Kindle.


Talking about global programs at Tuesday’s Exhibit Hall Lunch & Learn roundtable discussion.


Chatting after the keynote.


Enjoying a session.


Everybody loves their Bermuda bags.


Team photo shoot.


Getting rich in National Underwriter’s Money Machine.


Working the Exhibit Hall.


Working the Exhibit Hall part two.