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    The Big 3 Factors in High-Severity Collisions

    semi truck after a collision

    Recently I recorded a presentation for the American Society of Safety Professionals annual conference.

    In the session, I shared insights on motor vehicle crashes drawn from my review of Lytx event video from more than 500 traffic collisions. The clips came from primarily larger vehicles providing delivery or services in urban environments. Here’s what we found in our analysis:

    The vast majority of incidents occurred in favorable conditions. Conditions included light traffic, good weather and visibility, and straight, dry roads.

    Human error played a major role. This points back to what we already know: human error, rather than environmental or mechanical conditions, is at the heart of most traffic collisions. The good news is that humans can change. The bad news is that changing bad habits takes a lot of work.

    A majority of collisions occurred when vehicles were in the right lane. When there were multiple travel lanes available to the driver, 52 percent of these collisions occurred in the right lane. This is not surprising as many of the vehicles were delivery and service vehicles. They often spend more time in the right lane as they are servicing customers along the right side of the roadway.

    Another factor is that there is often more potential conflict coming from the right. Cyclists, pedestrians, parked vehicles, entrance, and exit ways are all potential points of conflict coming from the right edge of most roadways. Drivers must be aware of the inherit risks that come with being in the right lane and remain vigilant for threats.

    If a right turn isn’t imminent, drivers may consider choosing a different lane to reduce exposure to potential risk.

    Part of our analysis focused on higher-severity incidents such as head-on crashes, rollovers, intersection collisions, and rear-enders. Although the highest-severity incidents only accounted for 6 percent of the events, they pose greater risk to employees and the general public and usually amount to the lion’s share of claims costs. As we all know, one bad incident can ruin what was sizing up to be an otherwise good claims year.

    So, what were the primary causes for these high severity incidents? The vast majority came down to three issues: drowsy driving or falling asleep, speed management, and distractions: the “Big 3”.

    1. Drowsy driving

    Almost half of the high-severity incidents involving a drowsy driver or a driver falling asleep occurred in the early morning hours between 2:00 am and 6:59 am. Fatigue is an important topic for all drivers but pay special attention to those on the road during this time period.

    drowsy driving time of day and high severity collisions

    2. Speed management

    Speed management was also a significant contributor to high-severity crashes. Surprisingly, most of these incidents didn’t involve exceeding speed limits. Instead, most involved a vehicle going too fast for the given conditions.

    For example, a roll-over that occurred when a truck driver went into a turn too fast is an issue of speed management, not traveling over the posted speed limit. An incident where a vehicle is going the speed limit but loses control on a wet road is also an issue of speed management.

    3. Distracted driving

    When it comes to distractions, hand-held cellphone use was the main culprit. Drivers distracted while holding a cellphone represented 46 percent of the high-severity distracted driving crashes.

    Think about the “Big 3” the next time you evaluate your safety program. Do you have the right programs, policies and processes in place to address the issues of driver fatigue, speed management and distracted driving? These behaviors may be factors in only a few of your vehicle incidences, but they are more likely to play a much larger role in your highest-severity collisions.

    Check out these resources to help you fight off the “big 3”: drowsy drivingspeeding , and distracted driving.