There are two schools of thought that surface when it comes to reviewing the causes of truck accidents with each school differing on how it defines an "accident". One group defines an accident as multifactor stochastic events (translation: many different things happening randomly all at once). Viewed from this perspective, how is it even possible for fleet managers to conceive of a safety and driver-training program that will consistently and reliably train drivers to prevent accidents?
Leonard Evans, one of the world's foremost road safety researchers, presents a different perspective. Evans favors the term crash rather than accident stating that, "it is essentially impossible to conjure up any crash scenario in which the crash could not have been avoided if the drivers had behaved differently". This statement drives home the fact that the amount of safety that can be built into a vehicle and the roadway is finite and that a driver's behavior will always remain critical to producing the safest outcomes. Evans uses the word crash in an effort to help drivers before crashes can occur.
By avoiding the word accident, with all its misleading connotations, we can study crash risk factors scientifically and develop research-based methods for reducing crash rates by informing and shaping driver behavior. By using the word crash, we can communicate more effectively to drivers that they have more control than they may realize, regardless of any other circumstances that can be identified in the multifactor mix that produces the "big bang".
Fleet managers need practical solutions, not semantic debates. They need to communicate clearly to their drivers that there are relatively simple techniques for preventing the occurrence of these unacceptable – and avoidable – traffic events.
Clarifying the terminology is only the starting point. Fleet managers also need answers to the following questions:
- What specific behaviors consistently reduce crash risk?
- How can these behaviors best be taught, tested, and reinforced?
- Are all drivers capable of and willing to adopt these safer behaviors? If not, how do we assist drivers who do not meet research-based safety standards?
What we do know, according to available crash data, is this:
"Driver recognition and decision errors were the type of driver mistakes coded by crash investigators: driving too fast for conditions and fatigue were important factors."
Source: The FMCSA, NHTSA and the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), as reported to Congress.
Eliminating the word accident and adopting the word crash is one small step in making our roads safer by focusing the attention of researchers, fleet managers and drivers on what drivers can do to control their safety.