Preventable Accident Guidelines

collisionControlling Preventable Collisions and Claims

Preventable collisions can be controlled and managed. But like anything that is managed, preventable collisions need to be tracked and measured.

When an accident occurs, the events leading up to the accident, the causes and responsible conditions, the collision and the post accident events leading up to the accident events must be carefully evaluated. Driver errors are one of the factors that should be considered. The standard, which should be applied, is the concept of accident preventability. The Hartford

Although severity (average cost per claim) can be variable, claims frequency is a better number to work with from a risk management perspective. To get to that number, you need to have some easy-to-understand guidelines to follow.

Non-Preventable Collisions: Include the following circumstances:
• Struck in rear by other vehicle
These are Non-Preventable if the collision occurs:
– While proceeding in proper lane of traffic at a safe and legal speed
– While waiting to make a turn from a proper lane
– While stopped in traffic due to existing conditions or in compliance with a traffic sign, signal or officer
• Struck while legally and properly parked.

All collisions should be investigated with regards to preventability. Here is a set of generic Preventable Accident Guidelines . . .


It is the responsibility of drivers to approach, enter, and cross intersections prepared to avoid accidents that might occur through the action of other drivers. Complex traffic movement, blind intersections, or failure of the “other driver” to conform to laws or traffic control devices will not automatically discharge an accident as “not preventable.” Intersection accidents are preventable even though the driver has not violated traffic regulations. The driver’s failure to take precautionary measures prior to entering the intersection are factors to be studied in making a decision. When a driver crosses an intersection and the obvious actions of the “other driver” indicate possible involvement either by reason of his/her excess speed, crossing the lane and turning, or coming from behind a blind spot, the decision based on such entrapment should be preventable.

Vehicle Ahead

Regardless of the abrupt or unexpected stop of the vehicle ahead, Drivers can prevent front-end collisions by maintaining a safe following distance at all times. A safe following distance is one that allows the driver sufficient time, distance, and vision requirements to avoid an accident to reduce traffic conflict. This includes being prepared for possible obstructions on the highway, either in plain view or hidden by the crest of a curve of a roadway. Overdriving headlights at night is a common cause of front-end collisions. Night speed should not be greater than that which will permit the vehicle to come to a stop within the forward distance illuminated by the vehicle’s headlights.

Struck From Behind

Investigation often discloses that drivers risk being struck from behind by failing to maintain a margin of safety in their own following distance. Rear-end collisions preceded by a roll-back, an abrupt stop at a grade crossing, when a traffic signal changes, or when your driver fails to signal a turn at an intersection, should be charged preventable. Failure to signal intentions or to slow down gradually should be considered preventable.


Failure to pass safely indicates faulty judgment and the possible failure to consider one or more of the important factors a driver must observe before attempting the maneuver. Unusual actions of the driver being passed or of oncoming traffic might appear to exonerate a driver involved in a passing accident; however, the entire passing maneuver is voluntary and the driver’s responsibility.

Being Passed

Sideswipes and cut-offs involving a driver while he/she is being passed are preventable when he/she fails to yield to the passing vehicle by slowing down, moving to the right where possible, or maintaining speed, whichever action is appropriate.


It is extremely important to check the action of the driver when involved in a head-on or sideswipe accident with a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. The exact location of a vehicle, prior to and at the point of impact, must be carefully verified. Even though an opposing vehicle enters the driver’s traffic lane, it may be possible for the your driver to avoid the collision. For example, if the opposing vehicle was in a passing maneuver and the your driver failed to slow down, stop, or move to the right to allow the vehicle to re-enter its own lane, he/she has failed to take action to prevent the occurrence. Failing to signal the opposing driver in an appropriate manner should also be taken into account.

Fixed Objects

Collisions with fixed objects are preventable. They usually involve failure to check or properly judge clearances. New routes, strange delivery points, resurfaced pavements under viaducts, inclined entrances to docks, marquees projecting over traveled section of road, and similar situations are not, in themselves, valid reasons for excusing a driver from being involved. A driver must be constantly on the lookout for such conditions and make necessary allowances relative to speed and vehicle positioning.


Traffic regulations and court decisions generally favor the pedestrian hit by a moving vehicle. An unusual route of a pedestrian at mid-block or from between parked vehicles does not necessarily relieve a driver from taking precautions to prevent such accidents. Whether speed limits are posted or the area is placarded with warning signs, speed too fast for conditions may be involved. School zones, shopping areas, residential streets, and other areas with special pedestrian traffic must be traveled at reduced speeds equal to the particular situation. Bicycles, motor scooters, and similar equipment are generally operated by young and inexperienced operators. The driver who fails to reduce speed when this type of equipment is operated within his/her sight distance has failed to take necessary precautions to prevent an accident. Keeping within posted speed limits is not taking the proper precaution when unusual conditions call for voluntary reduction of speed.

Private Property

When a driver is expected to enter unusual locations, construction sites, or driveways not built to support heavy commercial vehicles, etc., it is the driver’s responsibility to discuss the operation with the proper authorities and to obtain permission prior to entering the area.

Passenger Accident

Passenger accidents in any type of vehicle are preventable when they are caused by faulty operation of the vehicle. Even though the incident did not involve a collision of the vehicle, it must be considered preventable when your driver stops, turns, or accelerates abruptly. Emergency action by the driver to avoid a collision that results in passenger injury should be checked if proper driving prior to the emergency would have eliminated the need for the evasive maneuver. The driver is responsible for the utilization of passenger restraint devices.


Many accidents, such as overturning, jack-knifing, or running off the road, may result from emergency action by the driver to preclude being involved in a collision. Examination of his/her driving procedure prior to the incident may reveal speed too fast for conditions or other factors. The driver’s action prior to involvement should be examined for possible errors or lack of defensive driving practice.


Protruding loads, loose objects falling from the vehicle, loose tarpaulins or chains, doors swinging open, etc., resulting in damage to the vehicle, cargo, or other property or injury to persons, are preventable when the driver’s action or failure to secure them are evidenced. Cargo damage, resulting from unsafe vehicle operation, is preventable by your drivers.


Unconventional parking conditions, including double parking, failure to put out warning devices, etc., generally constitute evidence for judging an accident preventable. Roll-away accidents from a parked position normally should be classified preventable. This includes unauthorized entry into an unlocked, unattended vehicle and/or failure to properly block wheels or to turn wheel toward curb to prevent vehicle movement.


Practically all-backing accidents are preventable. A driver is not relieved of his/her responsibility to back safely when a guide is involved in the maneuver. A guide cannot control the movement of the vehicle; therefore, a driver must check all clearances for him/herself.


It is impossible to describe in detail the many ways a driver might prevent an accident without being primarily or legally responsible. The above guide merely emphasizes the most frequent occurrences. The following definition of Defensive Driving should be applied to all accidents involving drivers:

A Defensive Driver is one who commits no driving errors and makes all reasonable allowances for the lack of skill or improper driving practice of the other driver. A Defensive Driver adjusts his/her own driving to compensate for unusual weather, road, and traffic conditions, and is not tricked into an accident by the unsafe actions of pedestrians and other drivers. By being alert to accident-inducing situations, he/she recognizes the need for preventative action in advance and takes the necessary precaution to prevent the accident. As a Defensive Driver, he/she knows when it is necessary to slow down, stop, or yield his/her right-of-way to avoid involvement.

Once it is determined a collision was preventable, a driver can be held accountable.

Tip: To fairly hold drivers accountable they should be trained in the concepts of preventability and in defensive driving. Drivers will not understand the process unless they understand why and how they are held accountable. The Hartford.

Thank you for reading this.


Ignorance: More Deadly Than a Speeding Bullet?


War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. George Orwell

Too Big to Quench

The fire was big and hot. Too big for the local Fire Department without help from an airport foam truck. So hot the driver could not be found.

Cause of the crash?

A sudden swerve by the tanker driver to avoid a mattress on the road . . .


mattress on road

That’s right. Police say the driver crashed after swerving to avoid mattresses that fell from the roof of another vehicle.

The mattresses are fine. The tractor, tanker, and driver are now just memories.

Sure, the driver probably believed he was doing the right thing. The outcome was not what he expected or desired.

Preventable or Not?

Insurance companies see accidents as random events. That means in any given time or place the “odds” — a measure of the likelihood of an event’s occurrence — have an equal probability of happening  — or not happening (for a given set of like organizations).

Somewhere out there another mattress will fall off another vehicle. But we just can’t predict when or where. It will be another random event.

“Luck is the residue of design.”

We can, however, prepare our drivers for these freakish events. We know, for example, that 90% to 95% of crashes are due to human error. Driving means operating a vehicle at high speeds inches away from other humans operating their vehicles. Human drivers are prone to making errors. Sometimes serious errors. This means we need to always drive defensively. Fully automated driving is years, if not decades away (according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).

Defense driving means asking ourselves and our drivers questions like:

  • What do I do if a mattress is on my path in the roadway?
  • How should I safely crest a hill?
  • How should I check traffic at an intersection?
  • What should I do for a tire blowout?

These are just a few “random” events I pulled from today’s Google Alert on truck crashes.

There are many driving situations that should be reviewed periodically with drivers. Top companies do this in the form of a newsletter, in the context of a safety meeting, a Qualcomm message, or a call from a dispatcher.

Prepare today for tomorrow’s random events. It will save lives and property and help keep everyone’s insurance rates down.

Thank you for reading this.









Back to School . . . Safe Driving Tips for Bus Drivers

school buses

Today for many school districts across the U.S marks the official start of school. Hundreds of thousands of yellow school buses hit the roads carrying millions of students. Now is a good time to review some defensive driving techniques for bus drivers (and the rest of us).

1. It’s All about Attitude

Defensive driving is an attitude toward driving.

Fact: Surveys show that half of the population believes they will never get into an accident. “It can’t happen to me.” Another interesting statistic: most drivers involved in a fatal accident have never been in an accident before. In some cases their first accident will be their last.

Developing a defensive driving attitude among fleet drivers can reduce accidents and incidents by 25% up to 33% percent. Driving attitudes are important and the most important attitude is to drive defensively.

2. Bad Habits Die Hard

Over time, we all develop bad driving habits. It might be in putting on the turn signal late . . . or not at all, or stopping past the stop line, . . . or making rolling stops, etc. We get away with bad habits because other drivers have to compensate for them. They have to hesitate or second guess our intentions. This can lead to frustration, anger and even road rage.

There is only one cure for bad driving habits: bad driving habits need to be replaced by good driving  habits. Good driving habits are never automatic. Good driving habits take time and a lot of work to develop.

Top Tip: A number of bus accidents occur when the vehicle is empty. Don’t relax your defensive driving when the bus isn’t hauling students anymore.

3. It’s all about Managing Time and Managing Space

Did you know that most (up to 90%) motor vehicle accidents are avoidable? That’s a chilling thought when one looks at the annual statistics. The key is in managing time and managing space. There are many examples and situations where this principle can be applied.

For example, approximately thirty percent of accidents in the U.S. are rear-end collisions, By staying back at least four seconds (depending on the speed and/or weather conditions) when following another vehicle, it’s extremely unlikely a rear-end collision will occur.

Backing accidents can be avoided three ways (1.) don’t back, if possible (2.) back in position immediately upon arrival, so you don’t have to back out blind later, (3.) always have an adult spotter to assist in backing.

There are many examples of a driver giving him/herself more time and/or more space leads to accident and risk avoidance. It has been estimated that up to 90% of accidents could have been avoided if the driver involved had one extra second. Managing time and managing space can give a driver several seconds extra time to respond to a situation and avoid a collision.

4. Manage the Blind Spots

Every vehicle has blind spots, where nearby things appear invisible. Mirrors get bumped, get loose, get knocked out of adjustment. Mirrors need to be checked everyday, and adjusted if necessary.

Another blind spot is found behind the the “A” pillar, on the ends of the windshield.


The A-Pillar blind spot can hide a pedestrian in the crosswalk, motorcycle or even blend in to hide a tractor-trailer. Savvy defensive drivers have learned the Rock & Roll (or Crunch and Lean) technique to “rock and roll” in the seat, to look around the A-Pillar and other blind spots

Tip: Spend at least a full second in each mirror. 


5. Slow Down

Driving slower helps in management of time and space, allows for processing of multiple risks at the same time, or to deal with emergencies. In fact, driving slower may even be the law. For example, drivers should slow down BEFORE a curve or turn. Keep at least 10 miles under the posted curve speed. The posted curve speed is for cars not buses or other commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).


Proper speed (and space) management means:

  • Positioning your vehicle between clusters of vehicles to your front and rear. Don’t ride bunched with other vehicles in a “platoon” or “wolf pack.”
  • Positioning your vehicle for the greatest visibility that allows you to “see and be seen” by other drivers.
  • Positioning your vehicle in a lane position for maneuverability. Leave yourself an “out.”

6. Beware of the Risks While Driving

  • Drivers on their cell phones
  • Highway-rail crossings / train tracks
  • Parking lots
  • Inattentive drivers
  • Distracted drivers

(To name a few.) Look for and identify risks. One definition of safety is to be risk free. But risks need to be seen before they can be dealt with effectively. Make it a habit of actively looking for risks. Be on constant alert for new hazards. Once a risk or hazard has been identified, then take measures to avoid the risk/hazard situation.

reflective vest


One school district has bus drivers wear a reflective vest during their pre-trip inspection.


Defensive driving is an attitude. Every driver can choose to drive a little better by driving defensively. Often we are aware of everyone else’s bad habits. It’s much harder to identify and hopefully change our own bad driving habits. One effective way to drive defensively is by managing time and space to allow a safety factor for other driver’s mistakes. Knowing our blind spots and properly adjusting mirrors and properly using the mirrors helps to avoid collisions. Rock and roll in the seat to see around the A-Pillars. Slow down and manage vehicle position to see better and to be seen. Use the lane position that gives you the best line of sight and path of travel. Look for new risks and hazards while driving and have a plan to deal with them.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599