Accident Avoidance :The Real Cost of Collisions

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Even at their most minor, motor vehicle accidents make for a pretty lousy day. At their worst, the cost can be enormous.

In its summer report “Business Pulse: Motor Vehicle Safety at Work,” the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation said that, in the US alone, on-the-job vehicle crashes cost employers $25 billion in 2013 alone; $671,000 per fatality and $65,000 per nonfatal injury.

There’s at least some good news here: according to the latest Transport Canada National Collision Database (released last year and reporting statistics for 2014), fatalities, serious injuries and total injuries from motor vehicle accidents were all at historic lows since the data was first collected in the early 1970. But it’s still too high.

The simple fact is that the more kilometres you travel, the more at risk you are — bad news for those who spend a good chunk of their careers behind a steering wheel, whether it’s on a daily route as a delivery driver or as an executive who commutes. In fact, according to the CDC report, 58 percent of those workers who died in motor vehicle crashes at work in 2014 were not engaged in vehicle operator jobs such as truck, bus or taxi drivers.

The costs of motor vehicle accidents go beyond repairs and even downtime, encompassing increased workers’ compensation premiums, benefits costs, administration time and resources.

Human error

Multiple studies, including NHTSA’s 2008 National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, have found human error to be the critical cause in more than 90 percent of motor vehicle accidents. Thus, NHTSA and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommend a driver safety program to help protect your organization’s resources — both financial and human.

A good driver safety program helps build a be-safe culture in your company, and has the potential to change the attitudes and behaviours of those who may have become laissez-faire about the potential risks. It makes financial sense immediately — in 2001, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company reported in its “Executive Survey of Workplace Safety” that more than 60 percent of surveyed executives believed their company saw an ROE of $3 for every $1 spent on improving workplace safety.

Counting the costs

When deciding whether you can afford (or afford not to!) implement a driver safety program, first figure out what accidents are costing you. Remember to factor in insurance premiums; liability claims and settlements; property damage; vehicle repairs; rehabilitation, life insurance or survivor benefit costs; towing and inspections; fines; supervisor/fleet management time; personnel reassignment and overtime; employee replacement or retraining; admin costs; loss of business, customer inconvenience and brand impact.

You may not be able to eliminate the possibility of motor vehicle accidents affecting your workforce and your bottom line, but you do have enormous power to help reduce the risk.

10 Steps to an effective driver safety program

  1. Attain management buy-in and employee involvement
  2. Enact clear, comprehensive policies and procedures in writing, including a strict no drugs/no alcohol policy; post and distribute regularly throughout the workplace
  3. Maintain driver agreements that force drivers to acknowledge awareness and understanding of all policies and procedures
  4. Check employee driving records and screen out those most likely to be problematic in the future (and clearly define how many violations will result in loss of driving privilege)
  5. Establish and enforce a process for reporting and investigating crashes
  6. Carefully select, maintain and inspect company vehicles; start buying process with investigation of crash-test ratings
  7. Create disciplinary action system
  8. Create employee incentive/reward program
  9. Train and communicate with drivers
  10. Maintain regulatory compliance
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