Post-Incident Driver Interventions

Most vehicle fleets have pretty sophisticated mechanisms sitting behind them that ensure that if one of their vehicles is involved in an 'incident' (crash, collision, accident) then the resultant bent metal is dealt with speedily and efficiently - either by the organisation itself or via an accident management provider. Repairs (where possible) are carried out with alacrity and a replacement vehicle is provided for the driver so that their contribution to the bottom line of the organisation is disadvantaged as little possible.

But hang on a second... Was it the vehicle that crashed or the driver? How much does the organisation know about the circumstances of the 'incident'? The insurer might deem that the incident was 'non fault' on behalf of the driver - but might it have been prevented? Is the driver in a fit state to get straight back behind the wheel or has the incident actually highlighted a training need. Or, maybe, the driver has lost the confidence to drive again.

The more enlightened organisations consider that their duty of care extends to those who drive on their business or have use of their vehicles. To this end, employers may carry out driver risk assessments and practical training (whether in-vehicle or within workshop or seminar environments) but many organisations consider that to be the furthest extent to which their involvement in their drivers' safety can or should go.

Comparatively few employers (or within them, those responsible for vehicle fleet matters) have in place plans or policies concerned with post-incident training. However, below is a handful of example comments the writer has encountered over the years where drivers have been referred for post incident training or 'intervention' and which are far more common than most would imagine.

'I haven't dared drive since I realised I'd woken up in an ambulance and had no idea what I was doing there. That's been five months now'.

'I seem to get more anxious every time I drive'.

'That was a really near-miss! I'm so pleased I saw what was about to happen, eventually.

A wheelchair is better than a hole in the ground at the age of twenty'.

'I know I'm here {undergoing training} because I've had four crashes in the last year and my marriage is in tatters and my children don't know which way is up!

I used to love driving, now I dread every journey - and maybe, because you are here {the driver trainer} I'll lose my job as well?'

Of course this is hardly a definitive list but it does give some indication of the types of motivators that a responsible employer could be on the look-out for when assessing the needs of their drivers.

The first one, for example, was a very experienced, high mileage driver who, it turned out, had had a high speed loss of control accident which resulted in her rolling her car down a motorway embankment. This was enough of a surprise to her to prevent her from driving again because she couldn't understand the reasons for the crash or the dynamic forces at work.

A half day of post-incident counselling and an extended session using Skid Car allowed us, together, to get to the bottom of why the accident occurred and, more importantly, how to prevent any future recurrence. For the first time in five months, the participant felt confident enough to drive herself home from the training session.

There is a myriad of reasons why drivers crash (distractions, inattentiveness, failing to appreciate the risk, carelessness, recklessness, inexperience, poor eyesight, poor psycho-motor skills, poor space management, lack of anticipation or poor observation skills etc.) and many of them sit at the behavioural or psychological level.

So it's for this reason, as well as the requirement to keep fleet running costs to a minimum, that employers should make every attempt to establish not only how their drivers crash but, more importantly, why they do; and then provide the driver(s) with an effective post-incident intervention.

What sort of interventions might you consider?

This will largely be determined by one or both of two aspects:

  • The nature of the incident itself, i.e. its cause, its preventability and its outcomes in terms of damage or injury
  • The effect the incident has had on the driver, in terms of their confidence being eroded or their failure to understand what happened or their acceptance that they were, perhaps, at least partly 'at fault' (irrespective of what the insurer's verdict might be)

It follows that in order to establish what might need addressing, the organisation should satisfy itself that it has a clear and concise record of all the circumstances of the incident and probably the most straight forward means of doing this is to interview the driver.

This, in turn, will go some way to identifying the next step which might be any or all of these:

  • Training needs analysis. In some cases one individual driver's incident type might be repeated or reflected by other drivers within the fleet. This could relate to the type of vehicles being used, similarities in age or experience or potentially some aspects of working practices. In other words, an organisation may sometimes use one driver's incident to review its own approaches to managing driver safety across the fleet
  • Post-incident driver counselling. In cases where drivers have been unsettled by the incident, sometimes it can help to be able to talk about both the incident itself and the subsequent impact it might have on the driver
  • In rare cases, where a particularly aggressive or risky attitude to driving is discovered or observed, it may be that some form of professional psychological input be sought
  • Risk assessments or 'profiling' and e-learning
  • Workshops or seminars. These can be highly effective means, when led by an expert facilitator, for drivers to share their experiences and to debate best practice
  • Post-incident, practical driver training. This is likely to be highly focussed and based upon the incident(s) history of the individual driver. Quite often, it will entail a revisit to the incident location and take the form of an informal accident investigation with the driver being given the knowledge to, perhaps, understand how he/she could have, if not completely prevented the incident from happening, certainly have reduced the consequences flowing from it
  • Off-the-road training. Again, this can take many forms from vehicle dynamics training to skid training to demonstrations and understanding modern active safety systems

It may be that your organisation has the resources and expertise to provide some or several of these interventions to your own drivers but I'd guess it's unlikely that you'll have all of them at your disposal. Don't despair however as there are specialist driver risk management providers who will be happy to examine and discuss your organisation's requirements and ensure that you meet your duty of care obligations in a highly individual and cost-effective way.

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