Driver Accident Histories


History repeats itself, goes the old saying.

One history every employer with drivers needs to study is their drivers’ driving history, both at the time of hire and during the annual review. This history is contained in a driver’s “abstract” or motor vehicle record (MVR).

TIP: Review the MVR first to find out if their driving history is acceptable.

Not every employer investigates their drivers MVRs. Sometimes the employer believes this step is not necessary because they feel they know the driver or that having proof of a license is proof enough they can drive. But in not doing so, employers are ignoring a good driver management tool.

The Science of Driver Selection

One major study by the California DMV of 160,000 randomly selected drivers has found that history indeed can repeat itself to a certain extent. It found that when looking over the past three years of data, compared to a driver who has had no accidents, a driver with one or more accidents has a higher likelihood of a future accident in the next three years. To wit:

  • A driver with one accident is 2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with two accidents is 2.3 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with three accidents is 3.2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with four accidents is 4 times as likely to have a future accident.

Traffic Violation History
Drivers who have had one or more traffic violations in the last three years, when compared to a driver with no traffic violations, are also more likely to have a future accident:

  • A driver with one conviction is 1.7 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with two convictions is 2.2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with three convictions is 2.6 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with four convictions is 3.1 times as likely to have a future accident.

Keep in mind, this study is about vast groups of drivers and is not predictive about individual drivers. Other future crash indicators beside an increased prior citation frequency or increased prior accident frequency cited by this study include:

  • Being young
  • Being male
  • Having one or more Physical &Mental (P&M) conditions on record
  • Having one or more driver license restrictions on record
  • A higher median income within a ZIP-Code area, or
  • Having a commercial driver license (which is mostly held by high-mileage professional drivers).

Principles of Evaluating MVRs

There are several principles that organizations employing best practices adhere to in evaluating a MVR:

  1. Frequency of accidents/traffic citations is more significant than their severity.
  2. A recent history of of accidents/traffic citations is more significant than an older history.

In addition to the above future crash indicators an organization could consider these additional risk factors:

Driving experience and the type of equipment
Number of jobs held
Was the driver terminated or did he resign?
Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) roadside violations

Typical hiring disqualifiers in the last three years include:

  • Two Accidents
  • One accident and two traffic violations
  • License suspension or revocation
  • One or more Serious violations, including:
  • Reckless/Careless driving
    Hit and Run
    Leaving the scene of an accident
    Disobeying an emergency vehicle
    Failure to stop for a school bus
    Failure to stop for an officer
    Open alcohol in a vehicle.

Objective organizational guidelines, policies and procedures should be put in place for both hiring and retention. If your organization has only one driver, you should have these  guidelines, policies and procedures in place. In the current economic climate insurance companies are putting a greater emphasis on underwriting (quality control) and loss control (accident and risk avoidance). Often, in my experience, employers are stumped when they are asked how many accidents or traffic convictions a driver may have and be hired or kept as a driver. Not giving the matter much consideration could result in higher insurance premiums.

In addition to hiring considerations, an MVR can indicate if a driver is in need of counseling or coaching, additional training, or does not meet your standards.

Click here for more information on the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP).