How many left turns did you make on your drive into work this morning? Most have to stop and think through their
commute to arrive at an answer. It’s
not an experience that stands out; it’s
routine and practiced for most drivers.
But according to a 2001 study by
the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, based on 1.7 million
car crashes, a left-hand turn is 10 times
more likely to lead to a collision than
a right turn. In left-turn crashes, the
impact also tends to be more severe.
Collisions are more likely to be head-on or at a right angle; whereas in right
turns the collision tends to be more of a
glancing blow or sideswipe.
“You cross more lanes of traffic
making a left turn. There are more
variables at play, which means more
decisions to make for the driver,”
said Peter Kim, Assistant Vice
President, Risk Management Services,
Philadelphia Insurance Companies.
At the same time, auto insurance
rates continue to rise due to higher
frequency of crashes and claims,
increasing cost of vehicle repair, and
rising medical costs. Companies
managing vehicle fleets may not be able
to influence the last two factors, but
they can reduce claims by training their
drivers in collision avoidance.
Eliminating left-hand turns almost
entirely can be a part of that effort.
“UPS, for example, cut left turns out
of drivers’ routes, which allowed them to
not only reduce crashes, but also improve
efficiency by spending less time idling at
intersections. That also meant they could
save money on fuel and reduce their
carbon footprint,” Kim said.
But sometimes left turns are simply
unavoidable. Companies can mitigate
the risk by implementing broad fleet
safety measures with the help of an
experienced insurance partner.
No U-Turns: Driving Forward in
THE DILEMMA OF DISTRACTED
While the logistics of turning left
make it a more dangerous maneuver,
the risk is compounded by the larger
issue of distracted driving.
In 85 percent of crashes involving
a left turn, errors in driver recognition
and decision-making were to blame.
Those errors can be attributed to three
underlying factors: obstructed view,
inadequate surveillance, or incorrect
assumption of others’ actions.
“What that means is that the
driver either could not see the whole
intersection, did not check the
intersection for oncoming traffic, or did
not react appropriately to what they
saw,” said Kim.
Not reacting to another driver
in time could simply be due to a
momentary lapse in judgment, but the
rise of distracted driving may also be
slowing reaction times or impeding
decision-making behind the wheel.
Tech-enabled dashboards and cell
phones consistently compete for drivers’
attention, and many believe they can
safely keep an eye on the screen and on
the road at the same time.
Of respondents to a National Safety
Council survey, 13 percent said they
were comfortable driving under the
influence, while 47 percent said they
were comfortable texting and driving.
But studies show that reaction time
is actually slower when driving while
using a cell phone than driving with a
blood alcohol level of 0.8 percent.
“Texting and driving can be just as
dangerous as drunk driving, and the
disparity in how drivers’ perceive that
danger needs to be addressed,” Kim said.
MANAGING FLEET SAFETY
Companies can address the risk of
distracted driving in several ways.
First and foremost, a cell phone
policy can keep drivers’ attention on the
road and both hands on the wheel —
but only if it’s enforced.
“Having a policy that is not enforced
is almost as dangerous as having no
policy at all,” Kim said. A cell phone
policy can dictate that drivers not use
their phones at all while they drive, or it
can allow for hands-free use.
But safety managers can’t be in the
passenger seat of every car. If they can’t
see drivers’ behavior, how can they
enforce a cell phone policy?
By relying on the eyes of others on
“We partner with a company called
SafetyFirst that provides bumper
stickers listing the vehicle’s ID number
and a phone number to call to report
poor driving,” Kim said. “If someone
notices one of our insureds’ employees
SafetyFirst then verifies and validates
the report and sends a “Motorist
Observation Report” (MOR) back to
the employer, who can bring the issue to
the driver’s attention and take corrective
action. The company in turn sends a
confirmation back to SafetyFirst, stating
that it followed up on the MOR.
“When the confirmation rate
exceeds 80 percent, we see a reduction
in losses,” Kim said.
Telematics also offer a data-driven
way to identify the drivers and behaviors
that trigger losses.
Philadelphia Insurance recently
conducted a pilot program with a
fleet telematics provider to gather
data, further study fleet safety risk
management, and fine tune its approach
to loss reduction.
“Through this large experiment, we
have implemented GPS units in select
insureds’ vehicle fleets. This is just a
small sample that we’re using to gather
data to inform how we may move
forward in this area,” Kim said.
The units track a number of driving
behaviors, including speeding, idling,
hard braking, and acceleration. The
telematics provider generates safety
scores on a 1 to 100 scale based on the
data, which organizations can use to
identify the departments or individuals
with the worst safety performance.
“So far, we have seen losses
consistently coming in from the
divisions with the poorest safety
performance,” Kim said. “If we can
show a correlation between telematics
data and losses, it can help to direct loss
control strategy going forward.”
Philadelphia Insurance also provides
free fleet safety training modules
through a collection of online resources
called SmarterNow! The program
provides 13 training modules specific
to fleet safety, covering a range of topics
including distracted driving, defensive
driving, bus driving and winter driving.
Additional modules address other safety
issues such as bloodborne pathogens,
slip/trip/fall prevention and workplace
violence, among others.
Philadelphia Insurance also provides
technical bulletins on left-turn safety for
clients, for when left turns are simply
“We want to be able to put tools and
resources into our insureds’ hands so
they can improve their risk management
strategies,” Kim said. “Our ultimate goal
is to make our clients safer.”
To learn more, visit https://www.phly.
Left turns and distracted driving are two of the risks that fleet managers can directly
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“Texting and driving can be just
as dangerous as drunk driving,
and the disparity in how
drivers’ perceive that danger
needs to be addressed.”
— Peter Kim, Assistant Vice President, Risk Management Services, Philadelphia Insurance Companies