A new study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) is finding a high degree of correlation between the number and type of traffic convictions received by commercial truck drivers and their risk of being involved in a crash down the road.
ATRI’s study examined data on 582,772 U.S. truck drivers between 2007 and 2009 and found a dozen specific behaviors and convictions that, in aggregate, raise a driver’s risk of being involved in a truck crash by more than 50%.
Broken down individually, the group’s analysis discerned that a “failure to use/improper signal” conviction increased likelihood of a future crash by 96%. Ten additional convictions were also significant crash predictors; of these, eight had an associated crash likelihood increase between 56% and 84%, while two registered between 36% and 40%.
In relation to driver violations, an improper passing violation had the strongest association with crash involvement, ATRI noted. Drivers with this violation were 88% more likely than their peers to be involved in a crash. Seven additional violations had significant crash associations, with five ranging in magnitude between 38% and 45%, and a further two ranking between 18% and 21%.
Finally, the results indicated that drivers who had a past crash also had an 88% increase in the likelihood of a future crash, ATRI’s research noted.
Dan Murray, ATRI’s vice president-research, told Fleet Owner that these findings help buttress the belief that a “safety culture” focused on reinforcing the fundamentals of good driving behavior will be critical to continuing the downward trend in truck-car collision rates.
“Truck-car crash rates are now the lowest they’ve ever been, but we’ve also picked all the ‘low hanging fruit’ by now, too,” he explained. “To keep crash rates declining in the future, it now hinges on the skills of the driver.”
Murray pointed out that ATRI compared the findings of this year’s study with a similar one conducted in 2005 and found that conviction rates for a variety of offenses have been in steep decline. For example, convictions for “improper passing” dropped 76% between 2005 and 2009, while logbook violations fell 54% over the same period.
“These are huge drops and it’s an important clue as to why truck-car crash rates have dropped so consistently over the last five years: trucks drivers are just getting better and driving safer,” he stressed. “That’s a powerful message.”
The connection between traffic convictions and future crash risk is also being viewed as a critical “piece of the puzzle” to help improve commercial vehicle enforcement activities, explained Steve Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).
“This will not only help us better target enforcement activities, but also focus our educational efforts as well,” Keppler told Fleet Owner. “This research shows us which behaviors, like the failure to use a turn signal, increase future crash risk – and that will help drivers and fleets focus their training efforts.”
He added that more “targeted” enforcement is becoming crucial as state budgets continue to be pinched. “The enforcement community is increasingly being asked to do more with less,” Keppler noted.
“So research such as ATRI's ‘crash predictor model’ can assist roadside inspectors and law enforcement officers in targeting specific driver behaviors that are more closely associated with increased likelihood of a future crash,” he said. “This can help improve enforcement efficiency and ultimately save more lives.”