Facts are few in the Saturday, April 30th hit-and-run crash that left a 28 year old man dead and a driver in critical condition in Vernon, Calif.
Minutes before, the truck driver was allegedly involved in another crash, and had run a red light, causing the collision. He then unhitched from the trailer and drove away, leaving two men trapped under the trailer. The truck driver is still at large, but police have named a person of interest. The tractor was located about a mile from the the scene.
Fight or Flight?
What is known is that the driver was allegedly involved in a crash and by all indications, had already made a decision to flee that scene and subsequently ran a light.
The psychological reaction to a sudden stressful event is sometimes called the flight or fight response, or “acute stress response.” A stressful event (a stimulus—like a collision) results in a release of adrenaline and norepinephrine in the bloodstream. This is followed by physical reactions as increases in heart rate and breathing, constricting blood vessels and tightening muscles. The primary consideration is that fight or flight is is an automatic response, the person has no control over it.
A number of truck drivers have stated the reason they had left an accident scene was because they panicked. One truck driver was shot by police when he attacked the officer with pepper spray and a weapon, after his truck was placed out of service, These are examples of the flight or fight response on the road.
Driver Training and Preparation is Key
Savvy insurance companies are always interested in an organization’s accident management systems. What is your policy regarding collisions? Do you have a process in place to determine collision preventability? Do drivers receive any defensive driver training? Do drivers know what to do in the event of a collision? Is there an accident kit aboard the vehicle? Would drivers know how to use the kit?
Roadside inspections can be stressful for drivers. Some drivers have told me they shake like a leaf in the wind during an inspection.
This is another area when driver training and preparation can be helpful — but are often not done. I saw a recent survey by the National Association of Small Trucking Companies that found clean inspections are not recorded a majority of the time. Communicate your expectations to your drivers. Train and retrain.
One type of training that is not done often is role-playing. Walk through a crash (or road-side inspection) step-by-step with your drivers. Invite a law-enforcement officer over to help. Drivers need to learn how to keep their cool when the pressure is on.
One goal of this type of training is help drivers to overcome that sense of panic in the occasion of a stressful event. Training will not make the event any less stressful, but will help drivers to better deal with their reactions should such stressful situations occur.
Thank you for reading this.