Situational Awareness: Could This Collision Have Been Avoided?

Situational awareness Who’s Fault Was It?

In piloting commercial vehicles, the most important operational aspect is safety. Safety means risk elimination at best and risk mitigation at worse.

One key component of fleet safety is a preventable collision program in which all collisions are investigated on the question of preventability.

“A preventable accident (collision) is one which occurs because the driver fails to act in a reasonably expected manner to prevent it.”  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

In the photo above it seems obvious that a car was trying to illegally pass a pickup truck.

situational awarnessThings didn’t go as planned. But note, the truck driver seems to have been taken by surprise; the brake lights are not on.

situational aarenessFinally, the truck driver is aware and braking and is in emergency mode.

Other than some bent metal, it appears that no one was seriously hurt in this three vehicle collision.

Could This Collision Have Been Prevented?

As the commercial vehicle was involved in a collision, the question remains, is there anything the truck driver could have or should have done to prevent this collision?


  • The pickup and car were riding next to the big truck for several miles.
  • The pickup seems to be intentionally blocking the car.
  • The car driver grew impatient and made a risky passing maneuver, striking the guardrail, then forcing the pickup into the tractor trailer.

According to Hartford Insurance, often there is a relationship between collision preventability and defensive driving.

A Defensive Driver:

  1. Commits NO driving errors.
  2. Makes due allowance for lack of skill or improper driving practices of others.
  3. Adjust driving to compensate for unusual weather, road and traffic conditions.
  4. Not tricked into a collision by unsafe actions of pedestrians or other drivers.
  5. Alert to collision inducing situations.
  6. Recognizes the need for preventative action in advance.
  7. Takes necessary action to prevent a collision.

In this particular situation . . .

2.) Did the truck driver make due allowance for lack of skill or improper driving practices of the other drivers next to him?

Truck drivers really don’t like other other trucks or vehicles next to them. For example, in a similar collision that occurred on Nov, 3, 2015 on I-10, Steven Shawn Clark, 26, of Theodore, Ala. was killed when a pickup truck tried to pass another 18-wheeler by using the right shoulder of the highway, striking that truck before forcing Clark’s truck off the Pearl River bridge into the Pearl River. Cars on either side of a truck, or running in the middle of a “wolf pack” limit the options a driver has to deal with in emergency situations. We can’t control other drivers — but we can drive defensively.

5.) Was the truck driver alert to a collision inducing situation?

While it was perhaps impossible for the truck driver to see or predict the car driver’s actions, was he aware of the pickup about to strike his vehicle? This collision happened near Batavia, New York. Illegal passes made on the shoulder are not that uncommon in the North Eastern parts.

6.) Did the truck driver recognize the need for preventative action in advance?

Could the truck driver slowed down some so the vehicles next to him could have moved on?

7.) Did the truck driver take the necessary action to prevent a collision?

Could the truck driver covered his brake sooner? Was the truck driver aware of the situation? What could the driver have done differently?

Here is the real-time video of how this collision evolved, viewed over 5 million times.

Could this collision have been prevented?

Thank you for reading this.

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