Tailgating, which usually occurs during rush hour or in construction zones due to stop-and-go traffic, is known to lead to rear-end collisions and is generally a traffic infraction in most states. Depending on the speed at impact, some rear-end collisions can be forceful enough to cause a vehicle initially struck to collide with a third vehicle in front of them. Claims costs for rear-end collisions and other severe crashes caused by tailgating can reach exorbitant amounts, with the potential risk of costly lawsuits, nuclear verdicts, and their crippling impact on businesses. Not to mention the life-altering human costs as severe as loss of life and permanent disability.
“Rear-end collisions occur more commonly in areas such as intersections, highways, exit ramps, and highly congested roadways,” said Ariel Jenkins, Assistant Vice President – Risk Services at Safety National. However, if a safe following distance is emphasized in the initial training of employers’ drivers, reinforced by operations’ leadership, and practiced by drivers as part of their values, these costly auto accidents can be prevented.”
When an employer has a driver that rear-end collides with a third-party vehicle, employers should ask themselves the following questions and consider tips to prevent similar auto accidents.
Do we train our drivers in defensive driving well enough?
Defensive driving programs indoctrinate drivers on techniques such as maintaining a general safe following distance. Depending on the program, some will emphasize a following distance of one second per 10 mph, which is best. Some other programs recommend a minimum of four seconds at various speeds and adding one-to-two seconds when driving in inclement weather. Telematics and dashboard cameras can help identify drivers that need reinforcement of the recommended following distance.
Was our driver distracted while driving?
Distracted driving is dangerous because it takes a distracted driver extra time to respond to road hazards such as stopping or slowing traffic in front of them. It takes an estimated one second to recognize and react to road hazards. If a driver is distracted, it can take two seconds or more, which can be the difference between an auto crash or not. At 60 mph, a driver is traveling at 88 feet per second. Again, 88 feet can be the difference between a severe life-altering crash or not.
Do we have a clear and enforceable distracted driving policy?
Some employers firmly state in their policies that any driver observed to be distracted while driving on employer business is subject to disciplinary action up to termination. Other employers use technology to monitor at-risk driving behavior or prevent the use of mobile devices while driving.
From a motor vehicle record (MVR) standpoint, was our driver’s MVR acceptable or not at the time of hire and at the time of the auto accident? It is recommended that all employers establish criteria to disqualify unacceptable drivers based on their MVRs while routinely monitoring driver MVRs. This practice applies to all employers who have employees that drive in the course of employment.
Technologies such as collision avoidance systems show some promise, as a growing number of vehicles on the road will have this feature. In the meantime, reinforcing key driving behaviors can go a long way without incident of rear-end collisions.
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