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Defensive Driving Best Practices to Prevent Accidents

By Alliant Specialty

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Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of injury and death in the U.S. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 46,027 people died in motor vehicle crashes and 5.2 million people were injured in 2022. Some of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and distracted or reckless driving.

Even if employees adhere to the rules of the road, they may still be at risk because of other drivers’ behaviors. This is where defensive driving tactics become essential to safeguard your most valuable assets: your employees. Defensive driving is defined as anticipating hazards on the road and using safe driving strategies to help prevent accidents.

Life-threatening and fatal vehicle accidents are preventable. Use these best practices to prepare employees to navigate adverse driving conditions and make smarter decisions on the road.

Provide Defensive Driving Training

Defensive driving training and education programs can help employees increase confidence on the road, develop better situational awareness and anticipation skills, and improve reaction times. A comprehensive training program will cover the following:

Drivers need to know what constitutes a hazard in order to effectively mitigate risk on the roads. This can include:

  • Slow-moving or stopped vehicles
  • Aggressive driving behavior from neighboring vehicles
  • Road debris
  • Cyclists riding through traffic
  • Jaywalking
  • Potholes or uneven surfaces
  • Wet or icy roads
  • Malfunctioning traffic lights
  • Lane closures
  • Wildlife crossings
  • Fast-moving emergency vehicles

Defensive driving requires employees to be on the lookout for these hazards and scan everything in their surroundings. As a result, drivers should not entertain any distractions that cause them to take their eyes off the road, including answering calls or texts, adjusting the radio, eating or losing focus due to stress or fatigue. This will ensure they can readily brake or maneuver if a driving hazard occurs.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a motor vehicle crash occurs every 5 seconds. To protect employees from being at risk or putting others at risk, they should be trained in the following crash prevention strategies:

  • Maintain a safe following distance: The NSC recommends a three-second following distance under ideal driving conditions. This ensures that a driver has enough time to see a hazard and react to it. For example, if the driver ahead brakes unexpectedly, the driver behind has 1.75 seconds to perceive the threat, 0.75 seconds to react and 0.5 seconds of cushion time. This should be adjusted for poor driving conditions like bad weather and lower lighting.
  • Check your blind spots: Every driver should be able to identify their blind spots, as these can change depending on the vehicle. For example, trucks have larger blind spots than the average car. Train drivers to regularly check their mirrors and watch especially closely for motorcyclists and bicyclists in their blind spots, who can be more challenging to spot than cars.
  • Take defensive actions: When an unexpected circumstance takes place on the road, drivers need to know how to appropriately respond. These decisions often need to be made quickly, so it’s imperative that employees are always on standby to take an alternate path to safety. This can include yielding, slowing down and braking.
  • Be patient and calm: A positive and non-aggressive attitude on the road is a key component of defensive driving. Drivers should be courteous to others and wait their turn, even if that means arriving at a destination later than expected.

A split-second decision can mean the difference between life and death. Training drivers to always stay alert and expect the unexpected will set the foundation for safer trips.

Employees should receive an overview of local, state and federal traffic laws. While this will largely serve as a refresher, staying up to date on current regulations will ensure drivers make informed and safe defensive driving decisions. Employees should receive an overview of local, state and federal traffic laws. While this will largely serve as a refresher, staying up to date on current regulations will ensure drivers make informed and safe defensive driving decisions.

Investing in the right tools can enhance driver safety and help employees make better decisions on the road. Consider equipping drivers’ vehicles with the following tools:

  • Automatic emergency braking: Sensors and camera can help detect nearby obstacles and automate braking to avoid collisions.
  • Blind spot detection systems: This warns drivers when vehicles are in their blind spots, allowing them to change lanes at the safest times.
  • Telematics systems: Telematics systems provide information about driver behavior and habits, like speeding and hard braking. These insights can help generate reports and feedback for driver improvement.
  • Adaptive cruise control: This tool automatically adjusts a vehicle’s speed to create an appropriate driving distance from the vehicle in front of them.
  • Lane-keeping assistance: Lane-keeping assistance prevents unintentional lane departures and therefore potential collisions with vehicles in adjacent lanes. In some cases, this technology will vibrate to alert the driver of unintentional movement outside of the lane, which the driver can resolve by repositioning their vehicle. With more advanced technology, this system can automatically steer the vehicle back into its correct lane.

Investing in these tools can save your business hundreds to thousands of dollars. OSHA reported that the average motor vehicle crash costs an employer $16,500, which increases to $74,000 when a worker is injured. A motor vehicle crash involving a fatality can cost a business over $500,000. This is in addition to wage and productivity losses as well as other indirect costs like decreased worker morale. By proactively training drivers in defensive strategies and implementing safety measures, your business can reduce the risk of accidents and build a robust safety culture.

Alliant is Your Safe Driving Partner

Meeting your safety and loss control needs is seamless when you have the right support system. As the premier specialty insurance broker, Alliant brings years of experience and customized risk management solutions to reduce accidents on the road. Our team can help optimize your safety and risk management programs to safeguard your business and promote employee wellness.

For more information, visit Alliant Safety & Loss Control.

Alliant note and disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance. Please note that prior to implementation your legal counsel should review all details or policy information. Alliant Insurance Services does not provide legal advice or legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please seek the services of your own legal advisor or ask Alliant Insurance Services for a referral. This document is provided on an “as is” basis without any warranty of any kind. Alliant Insurance Services disclaims any liability for any loss or damage from reliance on this document.