Preventable Accident Guidelines
It is the responsibility of State vehicle drivers to approach, enter, and cross intersections prepared to avoid accidents that might occur through the action of other drivers. Complex traffic movement, blind intersections, or failure of the "other driver" to conform to laws or traffic control devices will not automatically discharge an accident as "not preventable." Intersection accidents are preventable even though the driver has not violated traffic regulations. The driver's failure to take precautionary measures prior to entering the intersection are factors to be studied in making a decision. When a driver crosses an intersection and the obvious actions of the "other driver" indicate possible involvement either by reason of his/her excess speed, crossing the lane and turning, or coming from behind a blind spot, the decision based on such entrapment should be preventable.
Regardless of the abrupt or unexpected stop of the vehicle ahead, University drivers can prevent front-end collisions by maintaining a safe following distance at all times. A safe following distance is one that allows the driver sufficient time, distance, and vision requirements to avoid an accident to reduce traffic conflict. This includes being prepared for possible obstructions on the highway, either in plain view or hidden by the crest of a curve of a roadway. Overdriving headlights at night is a common cause of front-end collisions. Night speed should not be greater than that which will permit the vehicle to come to a stop within the forward distance illuminated by the vehicle's headlights.
Struck From Behind
Investigation often discloses that drivers risk being struck from behind by failing to maintain a margin of safety in their own following distance. Rear-end collisions preceded by a roll-back, an abrupt stop at a grade crossing, when a traffic signal changes, or when your driver fails to signal a turn at an intersection, should be charged preventable. Failure to signal intentions or to slow down gradually should be considered preventable.
Failure to pass safely indicates faulty judgment and the possible failure to consider one or more of the important factors a driver must observe before attempting the maneuver. Unusual actions of the driver being passed or of oncoming traffic might appear to exonerate a driver involved in a passing accident; however, the entire passing maneuver is voluntary and the driver's responsibility.
Sideswipes and cut-offs involving a driver while he/she is being passed are preventable when he/she fails to yield to the passing vehicle by slowing down, moving to the right where possible, or maintaining speed, whichever action is appropriate.
It is extremely important to check the action of the University driver when involved in a head-on or sideswipe accident with a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. The exact location of a vehicle, prior to and at the point of impact, must be carefully verified. Even though an opposing vehicle enters the University driver's traffic lane, it may be possible for the University driver to avoid the collision. For example, if the opposing vehicle was in a passing maneuver and the University driver failed to slow down, stop, or move to the right to allow the vehicle to re-enter its own lane, he/she has failed to take action to prevent the occurrence. Failing to signal the opposing driver in an appropriate manner should also be taken into account.
Collisions with fixed objects are preventable. They usually involve failure to check or properly judge clearances. New routes, strange delivery points, resurfaced pavements under viaducts, inclined entrances to docks, marquees projecting over traveled section of road, and similar situations are not, in themselves, valid reasons for excusing a driver from being involved. A University driver must be constantly on the lookout for such conditions and make necessary allowances relative to speed and vehicle positioning.
Traffic regulations and court decisions generally favor the pedestrian hit by a moving vehicle. An unusual route of a pedestrian at mid-block or from between parked vehicles does not necessarily relieve a driver from taking precautions to prevent such accidents. Whether speed limits are posted or the area is placarded with warning signs, speed too fast for conditions may be involved. School zones, shopping areas, residential streets, and other areas with special pedestrian traffic must be traveled at reduced speeds equal to the particular situation. Bicycles, motor scooters, and similar equipment are generally operated by young and inexperienced operators. The driver who fails to reduce speed when this type of equipment is operated within his/her sight distance has failed to take necessary precautions to prevent an accident. Keeping within posted speed limits is not taking the proper precaution when unusual conditions call for voluntary reduction of speed.
When a driver is expected to enter unusual locations, construction sites, or driveways not built to support heavy commercial vehicles, etc., it is the driver's responsibility to discuss the operation with the proper authorities and to obtain permission prior to entering the area.
Passenger accidents in any type of vehicle are preventable when they are caused by faulty operation of the vehicle. Even though the incident did not involve a collision of the vehicle, it must be considered preventable when your driver stops, turns, or accelerates abruptly. Emergency action by the University driver to avoid a collision that results in passenger injury should be checked if proper driving prior to the emergency would have eliminated the need for the evasive maneuver. The driver is responsible for the utilization of passenger restraint devices.
Many accidents, such as overturning, jack-knifing, or running off the road, may result from emergency action by the driver to preclude being involved in a collision. Examination of his/her driving procedure prior to the incident may reveal speed too fast for conditions or other factors. The University driver's action prior to involvement should be examined for possible errors or lack of defensive driving practice.
Protruding loads, loose objects falling from the vehicle, loose tarpaulins or chains, doors swinging open, etc., resulting in damage to the vehicle, cargo, or other property or injury to persons, are preventable when the driver's action or failure to secure them are evidenced. Cargo damage, resulting from unsafe vehicle operation, is preventable by University drivers.
Unconventional parking conditions, including double parking, failure to put out warning devices, etc., generally constitute evidence for judging an accident preventable. Roll-away accidents from a parked position normally should be classified preventable. This includes unauthorized entry into an unlocked, unattended vehicle and/or failure to properly block wheels or to turn wheel toward curb to prevent vehicle movement.
Practically all-backing accidents are preventable. A driver is not relieved of his/her responsibility to back safely when a guide is involved in the maneuver. A guide cannot control the movement of the vehicle; therefore, a driver must check all clearances for him/herself.
It is impossible to describe in detail the many ways a driver might prevent an accident without being primarily or legally responsible. The above guide merely emphasizes the most frequent occurrences. The following definition of Defensive Driving should be applied to all accidents involving University drivers:
A Defensive Driver is one who commits no driving errors and makes all reasonable allowances for the lack of skill or improper driving practice of the other driver. A Defensive Driver adjusts his/her own driving to compensate for unusual weather, road, and traffic conditions, and is not tricked into an accident by the unsafe actions of pedestrians and other drivers. By being alert to accident-inducing situations, he/she recognizes the need for preventative action in advance and takes the necessary precaution to prevent the accident. As a Defensive Driver, he/she knows when it is necessary to slow down, stop, or yield his/her right-of-way to avoid involvement.