Understanding the top causes of motor claims

  • Around one-third of all traffic collisions involve a person driving for work purposes
  • It is important organisations understand why work-related road collisions occur in order to be able to manage the risks
  • We discuss the three most common causes of motor claims on Zurich policies

Motor vehicles represent a significant risk for an organisation, and around one-third of all road traffic collisions are thought to involve a person who is driving for work at the time.

By understanding the causes of any collisions (or near misses), and the circumstances that may have led to them, organisations can improve the way they manage the risks and the way they educate their staff on these dangers.

Here, Lee Brett, Principal Risk Consultant, Zurich, discusses the three most common causes of motor claims on Zurich policies.

  1. Hitting a parked vehicle or property

Many organisations expect employees to be contactable throughout the working day, even while they are driving. Although using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel is illegal, speaking over a Bluetooth headset is not. Organisations should be aware of the increased risk of employees becoming distracted if they are using such devices while driving, particularly when overtaking. This can often lead to collisions with parked vehicles or property.

Listening to the radio or other forms of in-car entertainment can also cause distractions, as can on-road advertisements and collision scenes.

Managers have a crucial role to play in ensuring that lessons are learned following collisions, and that key safety messages filter through to all employees who are required to drive for work purposes.

Lee says: “Organisations should proactively raise awareness of the potential distractions employees could face while driving. If awareness-raising does not prove effective, organisations should consider employee coaching, such as online modules focused on a particular risk issue, classroom sessions or in-vehicle coaching.”

Technology can also play a part in minimising the risk of hitting parked vehicles or property. If parking sensors or other aids for low-speed manoeuvring are fitted, it may be necessary to provide training to ensure they are used effectively.

  1. Hit third party in rear

While a small percentage of these types of collision involve an element of criminality – such as staged ‘crash for cash’ incidents – the majority are the result of driver error, specifically motorists travelling too close to the vehicle in front. This decreases the time a driver has to react to the vehicle in front stopping unexpectedly, which is a particular problem in poor weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow.

Lee says: “The key to avoiding these kinds of collisions is to make sure your employees know to keep at least two car lengths behind the vehicle in front at all times and that they know how to adapt correctly to prevailing weather conditions.”

Driving in poor weather, late at night, or for long periods, can also contribute to another key factor in rear-end collisions: driver fatigue.

Lee points out: “A tired driver will have reduced observation ability and slower reaction times. Driver fatigue can be worse for drivers making work-related journeys, due to real or perceived pressures on employees to work long hours.”

It is important to ensure employees are given clear guidance on the importance of taking regular breaks if they are driving for long periods.

Poor vehicle maintenance can also increase the risk of rear-end collisions. Lee adds: “The main areas of concern are the tyres (pressures and tread depths) and the suspension system. However, even simple steps, such as ensuring the windscreen is kept clean, will help reduce the chance of a rear-end collision occurring.

“In addition to regular servicing, a system of driver checks on vehicles should be in place, with a checklist to act as a prompt and record, covering aspects such as oil, water and tyres.”

It is also important to consider what safety features vehicles offer when procuring. For example, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) has been proven to reduce rear-end collision frequency by 38%. If procuring vehicles fitted with AEB, it is important to ensure drivers have been trained on how to use it properly. Unlike other systems, AEB enables steering while braking, and it feels different under heavy braking, something which drivers need time to get used to.

  1. Insured vehicle reversing

Many field-based employees will visit businesses and homes, where they can sometimes be required to reverse into tight spaces, or along narrow access routes. Collisions also often occur when a driver reverses out of a parked space, hitting another vehicle behind them.

Such collisions occur more often than when drivers are reversing into a parking space, due to a number of factors including limited visibility. Some organisations make reversing into a space a strict rule for parking on their sites.

For larger, busy sites, reversing assistants may be required. These individuals should be properly trained and their use by drivers should be enforced in respect of the organisation’s own drivers and visitors.

Specific driver training should be considered where a driver is involved in a number of reversing collisions. Familiarisation with new vehicles is also an important consideration.

A number of other factors can influence the likelihood of such collisions occurring, and poor vehicle maintenance (e.g. if rear windscreen heaters are not working, reducing visibility) is again one of them.

Reversing sensors and other technical aids can also be helpful, however Lee warns: “Sensors are not 100% accurate at all times, and drivers can become less perceptive when they are relying on camera technology to make their decisions. If reversing sensors, or other technical aids are fitted, then organisations should consider providing training on how these should be effectively utilised.”

To discuss any aspect of this article further, or for more information, please call us on 0800 232 1901 or email us at info@zurichmunicipal.com