The Most Common Risky Behaviors

Changing Driver Behavior
Aug 29/2018 Published by: Lytx Lytx Telematics

Each year statistics are published listing the most common risky behaviors. This information often becomes a directional focal point for fleet safety efforts by fleet operators, as well as other organizations with a stake in reducing traffic collisions. Most of this data is drawn from accident reports, witness statements and law enforcements analysis. Unfortunately, these view points are often incomplete and commonly skewed due to the limitations of the particular perspective that was provided.

Currently, these are some of the more commonly cited risky driving behaviors that cause traffic collisions and a focus of improvement efforts by fleet operators:

  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding or traveling too fast for conditions
  • Fatigue or falling asleep
  • Violating traffic laws
  • Aggressive driving

Our Analysis Reveals Some Differences…

At DriveCam, as we analyze the risky driving events captured in-cab, we are not finding our list of the most common risky behaviors necessarily aligns with common beliefs.

Currently, distracted driving – specifically, cell phone use and texting – has become a focal point for many driving safety focused organizations. In fact, it’s risen to the point where it’s gone political. Over the past year, President Obama has spoken out on the hazards of distracted driving and banned the use of cell phones while driving for federal employees. Safety organizations have made it a centerpiece of their driver safety initiatives. The Department of Transportation has implemented stiff penalties for commercial motor vehicles cited for use of a hand-held device while driving. And, business fleets have followed suit by modifying policies to limit or prohibit cell phone use while behind the wheel.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to these initiatives. There is no doubt that while engaged in texting or dialing, drivers are “driving blind”. They have no clue about their surroundings and are an extreme hazard. It’s just that we are not finding that “distracted driving” is as big an element of unsafe driving as some may suspect. Our data suggests, that even if drivers do put down their cell phones, it won’t have the impact on reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries that some anticipate. We find there are other risky behaviors that are more prevalent in causing traffic accidents. It may be that, with all the attention on distracted driving, these other concerns are getting overlooked.

The Most Common Risky Driving Behaviors

By monitoring over 3 billion driving miles, we’re finding that the most common risky behaviors are largely the fundamental skills we were all supposed to have learned when we first started driving. They don’t show up in police reports because drivers don’t realize these were the cause or they don’t want to admit it.

Not Looking Far Ahead. This driver shortcoming was present in 28% of the risky driving events we reviewed. We mark an incident as Not Looking Far Ahead when the driver responds late to a problem that was readily visible much earlier. This late response can lead to several undesirable results:

  • Rear-ending the vehicle ahead
  • Getting rear-ended by the vehicle behind
  • Load shift or damaged goods  for truckers
  • Passenger falls and subsequent claims in motor coach and transit operations
  • Increased wear and tear on the vehicle

In a recent 26-week study, we found that drivers who had been identified with 5 or more Not Looking Far Ahead incidents were 3 times more likely to have experienced a collision versus a driver who had not had any of these incidents. 

We found other “fundamental” safe driving practices significant contributors to collision potential. Space was a clear theme as “Failed to Keep an Out” and “Following Too Close” at less than 2 seconds posed meaningful risks.

Failed to Keep an Out. We define “Failed to Keep an Out” as instances where a driver unnecessarily cuts it close to other vehicles, pedestrians or objects. This wasn’t observed in as many risky events (5%), but our research found that drivers who had events with this selection were significantly correlated to increased collision potential. For example, a driver who had 5 of these events during the 26-week period was 5 times more likely to have had a collision thana driver without an event where “Failed to Keep an Out” was identified.

Following Too Close. In our review of events, we place issues of Following Too Close into buckets broken out by intervals of seconds. Our studies show that following distances of less than 2 seconds is where most of the risk lies. This was present in 27% of the risky events we looked at. Looking even closer, in instances where the driver was maintaining a following distance of 1 second or less, we found that a driver with 6 or more of these instances identified was 4 times more likely to have experienced a crash during the study period than a driver with none of these events.


Driver safety efforts tend to go through periods where one issue reaches a critical mass in awareness and goes viral. This is a good thing in that it draws many different stakeholders into the issue and causes changes to happen more quickly than they may otherwise have. But, it can also lull fleet operators into thinking they’ve solved the problem. Some may overlook other crucial safety issues and will later be disappointed when the results they were expecting don’t follow.

Until the day when technology takes driving decisions out of the hands of the operator, a key focus of driving safety efforts needs to be on insuring drivers are using the fundamental safe driving skills that have separated the “good driver” from the “bad driver” since the invention of the automobile. Vehicles and technology have changed dramatically over the years, but the underlying causes for people making mistakes behind the wheel have not.

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