Driver Behaviors as Predictors of Crashes


Driver Behavior Can Predict Some Crashes

Driver behavior is responsible for most crashes. Bad driver behaviors. Behaviors as errors and violations affect safe driving.  Errors are slips, lapses, and mistakes. Errors may be dangerous errors or relatively harmless lapses. While violations decline with age, errors generally do not.

. . . driving errors underlie crash involvement for older adults. Such errors include seeing another vehicle but misjudging the time available to proceed, failing to yield the right of way, making improper turns or improper stops, failing to see another vehicle, and speeding.

Violations are not errors, but rather the style in which the driver chooses to drive that becomes an ingrained habit after years of driving.

Certain driving errors and violations have been found to be predictive of crashes. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) studied the driving behaviors of over a half-million truck drivers.

ATRI found the number one bad behavior, increasing the driver’s likelihood of a future crash by 96 percent, was a conviction for a “failure to use/improper signal.”

Driver Behaviors as Predictors of Crashes
Driver Behavior Crash Probability Increase
Failure to use or improper signal conviction 96%
Past crash 88%
Improper passing violation 88%
Improper turn conviction 84%
Improper or erratic lane change conviction 80%
Failure to maintain proper lane/location
Failure to obey traffic sign 68%
Speeding conviction (15 mph over speed limit) 67%
Any conviction 65%
Reckless/careless/inattentive/negligent driving

In vetting a new hire or preforming an annual review, a driver’s record can carry a lot of weight, especially if the driver has some bad driving habits as above, or other habits that can be just as bad — as not wearing a safety belt while driving, or driving distracted (texting or using a hand-held cell phone), etc.

ATRI recommends motor carriers (1.) become aware of the problem behaviors, and (2.) address these behavioral issues “prior to them leading to serious consequences.”

Thank you for reading this.

Know How to Use Tire Chains

chainingAre you Ready to Shift into Winter?

While chain control laws have been in effect since October in many jurisdictions, a number of drivers have not had to use them. It is the driver’s responsibility to know the road conditions and equip their vehicle for those conditions.

“As a professional driver, it is your responsibility to determine whether or not it is safe to drive when you encounter adverse weather and road conditions. If you determine that you can safely proceed, you must comply with any chain laws that are in effect and with state highway regulations. Do not enter any closed highway! “


Chain Rule No 1. Make sure the chains will fit your tires.

Tire sizes are different and so are chain sizes. Do a “dry run” and make sure the chains are properly fitted for the tires.

Bungee cords can add some tension and take up some of the slack. Bungee cords cannot make an improperly sized tire chain work.

Chain Rule No. 2 Take up as much “slack” in the chain as you can.

Tighten the chains as much as possible on the wheel. Make the chain as tight as possible on the wheel. Then use bungee chords to keep the chain from slinging out.

Chain Rule No. 3  Drive slowly with chains.

Top speeds with chains will be 15 MPH to 20 MPH. Driving much faster will cause the chain to sling out and possibly come loose or come apart.

Chain Rule No. 4. De-chain as soon as possible.

Once the vehicle has passed through the hazardous area, stop and remove the chains.

Chain Rule No. 5. If road conditions are dangerous and risky, do not drive.

Check weather reports, if adverse weather is anticipated. Know your company policy for driving in adverse weather. Do not drive if it is dangerous. Even if your vehicle is under control, other drivers or unanticipated road conditions may be a danger.

“Adverse driving conditions means snow, sleet, fog, other adverse weather conditions, a highway covered with snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions, none of which were apparent on the basis of information known to the person dispatching the run at the time it was begun.”

49 CFR Part 395.2 Definitions.

Local authorities may prohibit vehicles from further travel if they believe the roadway is unsafe or the vehicle should not proceed.  Vehicles with cable type chains may be restricted due to local conditions.

Other Considerations

• Have proper outerwear as coveralls, rain-wear or waterproof pants. Have a good flashlight, extra batteries and emergency backups in reserve,

• If the tire chains have a locking cam with a cam key, keep a spare chain cam key and put another in your emergency kit.

• Have extra bungee cords. Bungee cords often break or slip off.

Always wear proper eye protection (approved safety glasses— ANSI Z87.1-2010 Certified) when using bungee cords.

• The legal tread depth for mud and snow tires is 6/32” minimum in California.

• Know the chain laws for the areas you are driving in. For example, California does not have any specific dates when vehicles are required to carry chains.

Chain Training

Training and practice in the use of chains is always advisable.

Some companies have drivers practice mounting chains on a set of free duals, used for that purpose.

semi truck snow tire chains







how to mount tire chains

Thank you for reading this. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

Another post that may be of interest . . .

What is a DOT Safety Audit?

Five Deadly Truck Driver Behaviors

Anyone can make an honest mistake. But sometimes an error can carry a lot more risk than bargained for. Risky things . . . have a way of going wrong. Some mistakes are never okay. Here are five risky driver behaviors that should never occur . . .

Situation 1: Allowing Unauthorized Drivers

child driving semi

It’s never a good idea to let an unauthorized driver behind the wheel of a big rig.  It’s a really, really bad idea to let a child drive a tractor trailer. See more here.

Yet many companies do not have a formal policy prohibiting unauthorized drivers. Another bad idea . . .

Situation 2: Backing on the Expressway

backing up on the expressway

This driver made a mistake and missed his exit ramp. He then made a much bigger mistake by backing on the expressway.

Another bad, bad, idea . . .

Situation 3: Making a U-turn on a Highway

Never mind the double-yellow and oncoming traffic . . . They got away with it . . . this time. That’s all that matters, right? Wrong.

One truck was hit while making a U-turn when the truck got stuck in the mud and could not clear traffic, costing the company a $755,000 settlement. Some U-turns gone bad have ended in multi-million dollar lawsuits after costing other drivers their lives.

Situation 4: Texting While Driving

texting crash

This truck driver was texting, when he sideswiped a car before losing control and crossing over the medium into oncoming traffic, resulting in a fatal crash.

“It just didn’t have to happen. This driver needs to take this all on himself,” said one of the investigators.

Situation 5: Running the Rail Crossing Lights or Gate

RRX Crossing violation

This driver is well behind the 15 foot stop line, but then decides to proceed anyway . . .

No harm, no foul . . .

That is, until somebody has to call 911 . . .

The Burden is Always on the Company

These high risk and dangerous driver behaviors occur again and again. Many times a small error was made and the error becomes compounded by taking a shortcut. Nobody likes to admit to making a mistake.

At other times, it is simply bad judgement on part of the driver.

In any case, the company can be called to task

They systematically deposed the truck driver, safety director, dispatcher, and company designated representative and each was asked, under oath, if he/she believed that the truck driver had adequate training. —Attorneys for Plaintiff

Here are some other bad driver behaviors known as “red flag” violations.

BASIC FMCSR Part Violation Description
Driver Fitness 383.21 Operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) with more than one driver’s license
Driver Fitness
(a)(2) Operating a CMV without a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL)
Driver Fitness 383.51 (a) Driving a CMV (CDL) while disqualified
Driver Fitness 383.91 (a) Operating a CMV with improper CDL group
Driver Fitness 391.11 Unqualified driver
Driver Fitness 391.11 (b)(5) Driver lacking valid license for type vehicle being operated
Driver Fitness 391.11 (b)(7) Driver disqualified from operating CMV
Driver Fitness 391.15 (a) Driving a CMV while disqualified
Drug/Alcohol 392.4 (a) Driver uses or is in possession of drugs
Drug/Alcohol 392.5 (a) Possession/use/under influence of alcohol less than 4 hours prior to duty
Fatigued Driving (HOS) 395.13 (d) Driving after being declared out-of-service (OOS)
Vehicle Maintenance 396.9 (c)(2) Operating an OOS vehicle

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.


Loss Control: Preventing Truck Repair Shop Fires

truck shop fire

Many firms with commercial motor vehicles have in-house repair shops which may engage in anything from light repair work to full frame-up overhauls. Risk of fire and loss may increase depending on the nature of repair work done. Loss of the shop may result in the additional loss of any vehicles in or around the shop. A major shop fire could truly test business continuity.

Here are a few tips to avoid risk of fire in your truck repair shop.

Perform a Waste Audit
What types of waste are produced by the shop?
Is the waste hazardous?
Are refrigerants, solvents, batteries, used oil and antifreeze recycled?
Does the shop use a reputable recycling company for assistance in its waste stream?
Is hazardous waste kept separate in properly labeled and sealed containers?
Is the waste storage area secure from the elements (rain, snow, standing water) and unauthorized personnel?
Are written records kept of any waste stored on property?
Is hazardous waste transported by a licensed hazardous waste hauler and properly disposed?
Are waste manifests and documentation kept for at least three years?

Properly Store any Flammable and Combustible Liquids 

For small quantities (containers under 5 gallons U.S.) does the shop have an approved flammable liquids storage cabinet (designed to meet the requirements of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code)?

Does the shop have a policy limiting the storage and quantity of flammable liquids used and stored inside buildings?

Does any outdoor flammable liquids storage meet the requirements of NFPA 30?


Properly Store any Compressed Gases

  • Are areas posted where gases are present?
  • Are cylinders inspected (1.) Upon delivery (visual) (2.) Per manufactures’ recommendations thereafter?
  • Are cylinders examined as soon as you receive them? If you detect signs of damage or leakage, move them to a safe, isolated area and return them to the supplier as soon as possible.
  • Are gases grouped and kept separate from combustibles?
  • Are cylinders stored upright with the steel protective cap screwed on?
  • Are full and empty cylinders kept apart when stored?
  • Are cylinders secured with chains or cables (to keep cylinders from falling over)?
  • Are cylinders stored in dry, well-ventilated areas away from exits and stairways?
  • If storing compressed gas cylinders outside, are cylinders stored off the ground and out of extremely hot or cold environments?
  • Are compressed gas containers stored away from high pedestrian and vehicle traffic areas? (Containers are more likely to be damaged there.)
  • Are oxygen cylinders stored at least 20 feet from flammables or combustibles (or separated them by a 5- foot, fire-resistant barrier)?
  • Are oil and grease kept away from oxygen cylinders, valves and hoses?
  • If hands, gloves or clothing are oily, is there a written policy in place to not handle oxygen cylinders?
  • Are fire extinguishers near the storage area, appropriate for gases stored there?

Some Gas Cylinder Do’s and Don’ts
• Do not tamper with connections and do not force connections together.
• Do not hammer valves open or closed.
• Do not drop, bang, slide, clank or roll cylinders.
• Cylinders may only be rolled along the bottom rim.
• Do not let cylinders fall or have things fall on them.
• Do not lift a cylinder by its cap unless using hand trucks so designed.
• Use carts or other material handling equipment to move cylinders. Use ropes and chains to move a cylinder only if the cylinder has special lugs to accommodate this.
• Keep cylinders secured and upright. (But never secure cylinders to conduit carrying electrical wiring.)
• When transporting compressed gas cylinders, be sure the vehicle is adequately equipped to haul compressed gases safely. (Do not haul compressed flammable gases within a van, inside a car, or in the cab of a vehicle).
• Know accident procedures.

Empty Gas Cylinders

When empty, close and return cylinders. Empty cylinders must be marked with the word EMPTY or letters MT. Empty acetylene cylinders must be so labeled. Be sure valves are closed when not using the container and before returning containers. Properly label returning containers.

Fire Extinguishers

Are fire extinguishers placed near all doorways and exits and/or to local fire codes?
Are fire extinguishers periodically inspected and serviced?
Are staff trained in use of fire extinguishers?

Ensure that access to fire extinguishers is not blocked or obstructed by any object or materials.

Other Shop Tasks

Is the shop floor swept daily and clear of combustibles?
Are shop rags placed in a fire-resistant container?
Are cleaning solvents secured when not in use?
Are any spills immediately cleaned up?

“Hot Work” (Electric or Gas Welding, Cutting, and Brazing or similar Flame Producing operations, and Grinding)

Is there a written hot work policy?
Does the hot work policy prohibit hot work in or on a tank or container unless it is properly vented?
Does the hot work policy prohibit hot work in or on any vessel, tank or container which
carries or has carried flammable materials, liquids or gases until the container
has been cleaned and tested and declared safe for “hot work” by the job safety
Are appropriate ventilating devices before and during hot work? (Opening a shop door will not provide proper ventilation in most cases.)

Hot Work Do’s and Don’ts
Never strike an arc on a compressed gas cylinder.
Always wear the appropriate type of PPE for the welding or cutting, including proper PPE and eyewear for infrared or ultraviolet radiation, depending on the process being employed.
Always wear protective ear equipment as appropriate. Protection which covers
the entire ear is recommended.

Smoking Policy

Is smoking prohibited near flammables and allowed in designated areas only?

No smoking signs should posted in all areas of the building or facility.

Other Fire Prevention Steps

Automatic sprinklers, fire suppression systems, smoke and fire detectors, etc., will help protect the facility and may result in reduced insurance premiums.

To Learn More . . .

For further protection of your truck repair shop, I strongly recommend obtaining a copy of your local building fire code and becoming familiar with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code.

Thank you for reading this.



Please Don’t Pull out in Front of Me

“Please don’t pull out in front of me . . .”

One of the strangest realizations when driving a truck is that, as big as the vehicle is, your truck is invisible. Drivers will look up, seemingly make eye contact and pull out right in front of the truck.

Train engineers experience this as well.


Driving Blind

There are various theories for this happening. Sometimes the mind of the observer cannot connect something big coming toward them with its actual velocity.

If one observes a 747 Landing, it appears to be hanging in the air and yet the “drop speed” is 140 knots or about 160 MPH.

A-pillar Blind Spot.

At times drivers glance up and don’t look around their A-pillar blind spot.


Or drivers are simply not attentive to driving . . .

There Are Many Reasons Drivers Don’t See You

Drivers may be distracted. Drivers may be under the influence. Drivers may have limited eyesight or multiple blind spots in their vision. Eyesight can change overnight. There are as many distractions as there are drivers.


Drive defensively. Use the Smith System of driving. The idea for Harold L. Smith’s copyrighted system for safe driving came to him in the Navy during WWII when he read a notice on a board in Guam pointing out how many servicemen were dying in car collisions. After the war, Smith researched vehicle collisions and concluded the majority of collisions were caused by “a lack of vision.”

The Smith System of Driving

  • Aim High In Steering ® —Looking further ahead than other drivers
  • Get The Big Picture ® —Seeing more around you than other drivers
  • Keep Your Eyes Moving ® —Being more aware than other drivers
  • Leave Yourself An Out ® —Positioning in traffic better than other drivers
  • Make Sure They See You ® —Making yourself more visible than other drivers

Distracted driving is on the rise. More people than ever are texting, phoning or driving inattentively. There are more drivers taking meds or combinations of meds that could affect their driving. There are simply more drivers out there than before and the need for defensive driving is greater than ever.

Thank you for reading this.


No Driver Cell-Phone Policy? Policy Not Enforced? Not Good.


Just the Facts

3-8-2015 — Zachary Barngrover, 23, was driving a tractor-trailer and allegedly was on his cell phone when he was making a left from 43rd Street onto Ashland when he failed to keep a proper lookout and yield the right-of-way to a mother and her two kids, resulting in a triple-fatality accident.


5-13-2015 — Truck driver Miroslav Kuzmanovic, 22, was allegedly on his his cell phone and failed to reduce speed of his tractor-trailer, causing a chain reaction crash. He was charged with reckless homicide as well as four counts of wanton endangerment. and one offense for communications device violation.


July 08, 2015 — 36-year-old Jorge Espinoza of Yuma AZ was sentenced to six years in prison for second-degree murder for looking at his cellphone before an accident that killed an Arizona Highway Patrol officer, while driving a tractor-trailer.

A Growing Problem

It is believed that the use of cell phones is a factor in 25% of crashes. While many states ban cell phone and texting while driving, the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on decreasing distracted driving-related crashes requires further study according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The use of a hand-held mobile telephone according to the FMCSA means:

  • Using at least one hand to hold a mobile phone to make a call;
  • Dialing a mobile phone by pressing more than a single button; or
  • Reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires a driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position, restrained by a seat belt.

DOT penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device while driving.

One does not have to look at CSA Violations Summary listings to see truck drivers talking on a cell phone, texting or surfing the net.

Research by Virginia Tech shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving, than for those who do not

Cell Phone Use Countermeasures

Craft a crystal clear policy on the use of communication devices while driving.

Train dispatchers or supervisors not to talk to or text drivers while they are going about their business.

Encourage drivers not to communicate, call, text, or use electronic devices while driving.

Have drivers sign your cell phone / electronic device policy.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

Please don’t call 989-474-9599 while I’m driving.