April 4, 2019

Report: Driver Inattention, Distraction Is Top Cause of Commercial Vehicle Crashes

A recent study of commercial motor vehicle crashes in New Hampshire found that driver inattention or distraction, unsafe speeds, and failure to yield were the top three causes of crashes. Researchers examined the New Hampshire State Police commercial crash dataset for 2015–2017. The most prevalent cause of these crashes varied by road and weather conditions. On dry roads with no adverse weather, driver inattention or distraction was the most prevalent cause of crashes. For poor road and weather conditions, the most prevalent crash cause was unsafe speed.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17,037 work-related fatalities associated with motor vehicles occurred between 2003 and 2011—a total representing approximately 36 percent of all reported work-related deaths during that time period.

The authors of the New Hampshire study, which was released by the New Hampshire Occupational Health Surveillance Program, argue that the safety of workers who drive on the job is a responsibility shared by several stakeholders, including employers, workers, policymakers, vehicle manufacturers, and researchers. Employers in particular are able to leverage their relationships with employees to help reduce work-related crashes and injuries.

“Safe-driving policies implemented in the workplace can promote safer driving for workers and family members away from work,” the report states. “In addition, employers, as purchasers of large fleets of vehicles, can spur improvements in vehicle safety and encourage development of road safety capacity and legislation in the local areas and countries in which they operate, thereby improving road safety for all.”

The report outlines steps that employers can take to help prevent worker injuries and deaths from traffic-related crashes. Employers should set and enforce mandatory seatbelt-use policies for both drivers and passengers; establish schedules that allow drivers enough time to obey speed limits; and ensure proper maintenance of all vehicle systems. Companies’ driver safety programs should also address factors that contribute to crashes, including drowsy and distracted driving.

The full report, “Characteristics of Commercial Motor Vehicle Crashes Reported in the New Hampshire State Police Commercial Crash Dataset for Years 2015 through 2017,” is available as a PDF download from the University of New Hampshire website.