Per Nat’l Safety Council — Motor-vehicle deaths up 5% in 2012

National Safety Council has release its preliminary report on MVC (Motor Vehicle Crash) data for 2012.

  • “Motor-vehicle deaths in 2012 totaled 36,200, up 5% from 2011 and marking the first annual increase since 2004 to 2005. The 2012 estimate is provisional and may be revised when more data are available.”
  • “The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage in 2012 was $276.6 billion, a 5% increase from 2011. The costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs, and property damage.”

This report follows on our initial reporting from October 2012 ( which cited NHTSA reporting showing the largest spike in crashes since 1975 (when stats started being recorded in this format). 

The NSC data confirm that the first quarter of the year drove the average up considerably with double-digit increases in crash and fatality activity.

NSC Stats for 2012

The critical issue is determining what drove that increase — what happened during November 2011 to December 2011 that would have led to increased crash stats in January 2012 thru the end of March 2012 (especially with a milder winter than normal).

Additionally, why, after years of declines in crashes and fatalities (the same years that we had a significant economic downturn) did we see such a spike despite the enormous expansion of telematics units deployed, camera in cabin systems, and other safety programs in place?  Did the management teams fail to heed the warnings of these systems, did the operational climate shift from one of “driver surplus/cargo shortage” to “cargo surplus/driver shortage”

We’re interested in your thoughts — please contribute at our LinkedIn discussion group (Click Here)

To see the full range of data from NSC —

About SafetyFirst Systems — We are a driver safety firm providing an umbrella of programs designed to help you manage drivers from first recruiting conversation to exit interview.  Online recordkeeping, reporting, monitoring, screening and profiling using your own criteria.  A proven system in place and functioning with fleets from all industry classifications (from construction and local delivery to over-the-road operations and everything in between).

…but I got that ticket while in my personal car!

During my many years working in the field as a Loss Control Professional for the P&C insurance industry, I heard many employers (especially those who employed CDL license holders) asking about granting exceptions on MVR reviews when the driver had gotten a conviction while driving their own personal car “on the weekend”.

I was taught (in the insurance world) that it doesn’t matter what vehicle you were driving at the time of the violation — “behavior is behavior“.  If you speed on the weekend, you’ll probably speed on the weekdays, too.

PoliceA lot of managers pushed back on this notion by stating that people drive differently when behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound piece of steel.   That may be accurate, but learned and practiced behavior runs to the core of our personality and provides a strong governor of our actions.  When I learn to speed and roll through stop signs without getting caught for a long time, I take more risks and I learn to de-value the potential cost of risk taking.

Well, unfortunately for one driver (but perhaps an object lesson for others) the loss of a CDL has very publicly occured from personal driving violations.

According to published news reports,

“the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled Feb. 7 in the case of James Sondergaard v. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation and Bureau of Driver Licensing, that Sondergaard’s CDL would be suspended for life.  According to court records, Sondergaard was convicted twice of DUI in 2010. Both arrests occurred while Sondergaard, a CDL holder, was driving his personal vehicle. The Pennsylvania Driver Licensing Bureau then suspended his CDL for life in August 2011.”

Arguing that state law was not clear, a series of court battles ensued, but culminated with the lifetime suspension of his CDL.

As pointed out in Land Line Magazine (Click Here to See Source Article);

“While the state law may not be straightforward, the federal regulations governing truckers is crystal clear.

The federal regulations outline varying durations of disqualifications under 383.51 The regulation spells out the various “major” and “serious” violations. The lengths of the various disqualification are a minimum standard set out to the states. States have the option of increasing the length of the suspensions if they so choose.

Federal regulation 383.51 states that the first conviction of being under the influence – even in a non-CMV – results in a one-year suspension. The second conviction is a lifetime suspension.

However, lifetime may not necessarily be lifetime. Reinstatement is possible after 10 years if that person has voluntarily entered and successfully completed an appropriate rehabilitation program approved by the state, according to 383.51(5).


So reviewing a driver’s MVR is important for a lot of reasons.  First, the employer should spot exceptions such as suspensions to protect their own legal interests.  Secondly, the employer should care enough about their operator to alert them that their continued aggregation of violations and convictions can lead to disaster — whether measured by collisions from risk taking habits OR loss of driving priviledges which affect employment.

Making exceptions or attempting to rationalize violations doesn’t do the driver or the employer any favors even though it may seem that way.  “Letting a violation slide” becomes an enabler of inappropriate (or at the very least, risky) habits.

If your current MVR review policy grants exceptions, please revisit that decision soon.  It’s possible that there may be certain situations where granting an exception could be justified, but it should be the true, rare exception rather the commonplace occurance.

Finally, remember that MVRs are vital, but not perfect.  There have been many situations documented by studies where violations and convictions are not reported, are masked, or have simply been lost when they “slipped through the cracks”. 

Additional Resources:

  1. Identifying drivers who may be at risk of becoming involved in a collsion:  MVR Analysis
  2. Why Order & Review MVRs on Drivers?
  3. How to Use Individual Driver Motor Vehicle Records to Manage Risk
  4. Do How’s My Driving? Programs Really Work? (See section titled “The MVR GAP”)
  5. New MVR Ordering Features added to E-Driver File
  6. Deciphering MVR Profiling

Why Order & Review MVRs on Drivers?

There are many reasons for employers and insurers to obtain the driving history of operators — called a Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) by some or Driver’s Abstract by others — the history report summarizes recent violation activity, and confirms the current status of the license — valid, suspended or revoked (just because a license is revoked doesn’t mean that an operator won’t posses the physical license — while they should surrender the document, they might hold on to it for varied reasons).

An employer that permits operators to drive on company business without proper qualification of that operator’s skills and privilege status exposes themselves to various theories of legal liability in the event of a collision.  Negligent Entrustment, Negligent Supervision, Negligent Hiring, Vicarious Liability, and Respondeat Superior are just a few of the terms that could be tossed around following a crash depending on the specific circumstances. 

Many of these issues were covered in an article titled “Road Safety and the Law — When Is a License Check Not Enough?” Originally published by CPCU Society, theRoad Safety and The Law article gives a succinct review of legal theories and concerns for employers of drivers.  If you’d like to review the article, (click here).

Another great resource for “why to pull MVRs” can be found at the Insurance Services Office — (Click Here)

In addtion to those references, we wanted to call your attention to a recent study that was published by the California DMV.  The study provides a renewed perspective on the critical nature of simply validating that an operator has been licensed to drive (is NOT Un-Licensed) and that their credentials are not Suspended or Revoked (S/R). 

The study, entitled Fatal Crash Rates for Suspended/Revoked and Unlicensed Drivers, found that compared to licensed drivers, suspended/revoked and unlicensed drivers are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash.  Additionally, unlicensed drivers tend to be more hazardous than suspended/revoked drivers.  Examining crash data over a 23-year period, the study found that the at-fault crash risk of suspended/revolved and unlicensed drivers has not decreased over time.

Among the Report’s Key Findings:

  • Compared to validly licensed drivers, suspended/revoked (S/R) and unlicensed drivers are 2.60 and 2.73 times more likely to cause a fatal crash relative to their exposure.
  • The study results provide strong evidence that S/R and unlicensed drivers are much more hazardous on the road than are validly licensed drivers. Compared to licensed drivers, those who drive without a valid license are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash relative to their exposure.
  • Unlicensed drivers tend to be more hazardous than S/R drivers.
  • The at-fault overinvolvement rate for unlicensed drivers did not change systematically following enactment on January 1, 1994 of California Vehicle Code Section 12801.5, which prevents issuance of a driver license to individuals who cannot provide the required documentation to show that their presence in California is authorized under federal law.
  • The annual fatal crash involvement ratios range from 0.81 to 0.91 for validly licensed drivers, 1.44 to 4.29 for S/R drivers, and 1.60 to 3.50 for unlicensed drivers, respectively, over the 23-year time period studied. The fact that the rates for S/R and unlicensed drivers exceeded 1.0 in every year indicates that these drivers were consistently more likely to be at-fault than to be innocent in their crashes.
mvr crash sceneThe risks of crash involvement and subsequent litigation posed to an employer of operators who are either unlicensed or Suspended/Revoked are huge.  Requiring employees (and any other permitted drivers such as spouse, child, independent contractor using your vehicle) to supply a license and give consent to allow their MVR to be obtained/reviewed is a great step in reducing the potential for crashes. 
Once the MVRs are obtained showing the license status (i.e. valid, suspended, revoked, etc.) you may want to closely review the number, frequency and types of violations reported to see that some drivers have a greater tendency to receive violations than other drivers.  The relative risk of two drivers — both driving similar equipment on a similar number of miles — where one gets multiple violations over the course of time and the other receives none is less likely to do with luck than behavior/habits.  After all, driving faster than the speed limit is the number one cause of getting a speeding ticket! 

Many employers have devised a risk scoring system to evaluate the number of and “severity” of various violations.  Many hold drunk driving out as an example of egregious behavior while some permit multiple speeding tickets to accrue before refresher training is required.  What works at one employer may not be a fit for your firm depending on the specifics of your operation (i.e. cross-country trucking versus pest control services — each operates in different settings and may have different concerns).

Dump Paper Reporting — Consider A Managed Data System Instead

Traditionally, employers obtained paper reports on each driver — often with varied state Blended Risk Scorecodes, state violation descriptions and state-based “point systems”. 

This diversity of reporting made the analysis of driver records tedious and subject to errors by employers. 

To compare one driver’s history from Oregon to another based in Texas required translating the paper report into a consistent format for codes, descriptions and points. 

Very recently, managed solutions are being deployed to automate the process for employers.  These systems can:

  • Specialized reporting, including blended scoring using telematics data, how’s my driving data, preventable crashes,
  • prioritize the frequency of MVR orders based on driver risk score (more frequent MVRs for drivers with more activity)
  • Pre-Order “data scrubbing” to minimize “couldn’t complete request” charges from states (i.e. catch format issues, missing DOB, illegal punctuation marks, etc.)
  • driver renewables reporting (i.e. license renewal alerts, DOT qualifications such as medicals, refresher training certification alerts, etc.)
  • integration of state-driven, proactive reporting of alerts (i.e. California EPN, New York LENS,
  • increase consistency in formatting, points, descriptions, (Up-to-date AAMVA ACD Coding for all 50 states, Canadian translation to ACD, etc.)
  • deliver faster results (*instant turnaround and scoring in many cases)
  • improve compliance with applicable state and federal regulations,
  • streamline mandatory (State driven) file audits
  • manage by exception and radically cut the administration burdens of your staff
  • set roles and responsibilities for management users — by territory, by job function
  • email alerts for exceptions
  • Integration with your HR platform for hires/fires updating automatically (available for larger employers)
  • Automate your orders, order one-by-one, or use our flexible batch/group ordering process to run hundreds at a time!

Unlike earlier “do it yourself” systems that only charge a transaction fee to connect to the state and obtain a paper report, the new systems which provide managed services support typically charge a database or services fee on a per driver basis in addition to the transaction fee.  Still, the ability to consolidate all the reporting and get consistently formated data sets make the investment highly worthwhile.


The risk of letting even one driver “fall through the cracks” of a paper based system put the public at risk of a preventable collision.  Obtaining an MVR used to be a tedious task, but a necessary one.  Now, with managed services, the system can be tailored to your own point system and incorporate additional data sources like telematics alerts, EOBR data, and more.  The real question isn’t should we, but can we afford not to subscribe to a managed service?

“E-DriverFile” and “My Driver’s Data” are two managed service programs provided by SafetyFirst Systems. 

Copy of Copy of EDF LOGO (final)E-DriverFile provides expanded solutions for crash reporting, training tracking, DOT compliance support and other features.  

The “My Driver’s Data” system is a bare bones approach to managed services for employers who “only want to do MVRs” and nothing else.  It provides a robust platform for delivering results without the added costs of the “full” E-DriverFile program.

If you’re struggling to manage your MVR program, want to explore what’s possible now with the new systems, or have a need to start building an MVR program from scratch, give us a call (@ 1-888-603-6987).  While most of our direct subscriber clients have more than 1000 MVR pulls per year, we are also working to make our systems available through participating insurance providers as part of their “value added” services (you have to pay for the MVRs directly per FCRA/DPPA regulations, but the service platform expense may be covered by participating insurers).

High Tech Fraud Detection (CDLs/Motorists/Company Car Drivers)

According to the Star Ledger, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) and the Division of Criminal Justice have been working on implementing new ways to detect fake drivers licenses.   Technologies such as facial recognition have been used to spot multiple licenses granted to people with different names but the same face!

Here are some of the details released this week:

“One trucker was able to get three commercial driver’s licenses under three names, despite his license being suspended 64 times and his six DUI convictions.  Another motorist was able to get a license to drive a bus by using the name of a dead man. Still another was a registered sex offender who got a license to drive tanker trucks under an alias despite his five DUI convictions, and another was an accused sex offender who was able to get a license to drive a truck despite his three DUI convictions.”


 The State’s Attorney General noted that 9/11 terrorists had fake licenses issued from other states and that “…detecting people with false licenses, the facial recognition could potentially uncover identity theft, financial fraud or terrorism, in addition to getting unsafe drivers off the road.”  He went on to say that “…For someone who’s put his children on the school buses in New Jersey for a long time, when you hear about folks who have multiple DUI convictions, sex offenders who are able to get licenses to operate those school buses — and, quite frankly, licenses to continue to drive on our roads — it certainly is a stark reminder that this the kind of thing that we need to be putting assets in

All of this reminds us that MVR profiling remains a critical safety tool for many fleets around the country — whether they operate sales cars or tractor trailers (or anything in between).

How do you know if your driver holds multiple licenses or multiple identities?

It’s not something the average employer would be equipped to diagnose, but it is a way for a chronic “bad driver” to get around screening tools — only to be discovered much later by a plaintiff’s attorney following a tragic fatality or other horrendous crash.

The NJ Attorney General summed it up this way; “If you have somebody who has six DUI convictions, they have to be driving under the influence a lot of the time. And for them to be able to continue to get driver’s licenses to operate vehicles by trying to scam the system, it creates a real safety issue for all of us.

More coverage is available HERE.

In a related article published by Landline Magazine, the following details were added:

  • “New Jersey’s license investigation examined all 19 million identities listed in its photo record database to find duplicative photos and identities. The state found 600,000 matches attributed to administrative errors and customer fraud, and suspended 1,800 licenses until customers could re-verify their identities.   
  • “The investigation has also uncovered 20 to 40 potential fraudulent unemployment cases, 23 fraud cases investigated by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, three potential Medicaid fraud cases, eight fraudulent U.S. passports, five criminal arrests by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and four criminal fraud suspects identified by the Social Security Administration in connection with over $200,000 in suspected fraud.   
  • “New Jersey now performs a nightly scrub of all new photos submitted at its 39 agencies.”

SafetyFirst works with many larger employers (with 500 or more drivers) to set up pre-hire screening and post hire re-qualification systems including profiling for crash risk, integrated KPI dashboards and data transfers with Human Resource applications.  Having pulled more than 40,000 MVRs and being on track to triple that number during 2013, we continue to add employers to our “E-DriverFile” and “My Driver’s Data” platforms.  If you have a need to better manage your driver records — from sales fleets to DOT regulated fleets, give us a call!

Incentives for Safe Driving?

One of the most common search terms used in the past six months by fleet safety managers is “Driver Incentive Program”.  A recent article states;

Another traffic pic“There is little question that keeping company vehicle drivers, their passengers, and the public safe is the single most important responsibility a fleet manager has. From vehicle selection to specification to policy, safety should be a primary force in decision-making.”

“One method used by many companies to help make safety efforts successful is implementing a safe driving incentive program. Using various measurements, drivers whose safety records are exemplary are rewarded.”

“But if the basis for the program is merely “no accidents = cash,” the overall goal of achieving a safety culture among drivers won’t be met. Here are some tips to remember when you want your safety program to have maximum effectiveness.”

READ MORE? Click Here.

Additionally, a case study of particular note, titled “PAY INCENTIVES AND TRUCK DRIVER SAFETY: A CASE STUDY” conducted by the team of DANIEL A. RODRÍGUEZ, FELIPE TARGA, and MICHAEL H. BELZER was brought to my attention by a colleague.  The study summary states:

“This paper explores the safety consequences of increasing truck driver pay. The test case the authors examine involves a large over-the-road truckload firm that on February 25, 1997, raised wages an average of 39.1%. An analysis that controls for demographic and operational factors, including prior driving experience and experience acquired on the job, suggests that for drivers employed during the lower pay regime and retained in the higher pay regime, crash incidence fell. A higher pay rate also led to lower separation probability, but this indirect effect only translated into fewer crashes by increasing the retention of older, more experienced drivers. These findings suggest that human capital characteristics are important predictors of driver safety, but that motivational and incentive factors also are influential “

The study can be found by clicking HERE.

Finally, the FMCSA has previously published information designed to help pave the way forFMCSA Retention brief fleets who are struggling to reduce their UNSAFE DRIVER “BASIC” scores and want to examine incentives as part of that process. represents one of these FREE resources that many fleet managers are unaware exist.


Many fleets have worked with incentive programs and they either LOVE them or HATE them — the keys to success focus on simple issues:

  1. The drivers need to buy in to the program — if the incentives offered are unappealing, they won’t influence behavior
  2. Goals need to be reasonable and achievable.  If the drivers feel that the goals are unrealistic, they may give up before really trying to attain them
  3. Communication between management and drivers is very important — if the drivers don’t understand parts of the program, how it gets administered, or what they need to do, they can become very frustrated.  It’s also helpful to provide periodic feedback on progress to keep everyone encouraged and working towards a common goal.
  4. Keep it simple.  There is always a temptation to make things complicated.  Keeping the program as simple as possible makes it easier to communicate goals, methods and progress.  If something isn’t working well, it’s also easier to change things than when the program is highly complex.

The team at SafetyFirst may be able to help you further!  Give us a call to discuss our programs and resources. 1-888-603-6987

AAAFTS “2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index”

Founded in 1947, the AAA Foundation in Washington, D.C. is a not-for-profit, publicly supported charitable research and education organization dedicated to saving lives by preventing traffic crashes and reducing injuries when crashes occur.

Since 2008, AAAFTS (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety) publishes a traffic safety culture index report based on surveys of motorists.  This provides us with a benchmark of where people’s minds are at regarding their perceptions of safety and how Public Safety Ads, enforcement campaigns and other methods are working.

The full report can be found at this link –

This year’s report was titled “Distracted and Risk-Prone Drivers” since “…distracted driving remains a significant and high-profile traffic safety concern…”

Indeed, the opening of the report offers these interesting insights:

In the 2012 survey, more than two-thirds (68.9%) of licensed drivers* reported having talked on a cell phone while driving at least once within the previous 30 days, and nearly one-third (31.9%) said they had done so fairly often or regularly during this time.3 This is the case despite the fact that nearly nine-in-ten respondents (88.5%) said that drivers talking on cell phones were a somewhat or very serious threat to their safety.3  In August 2012, researchers at MIT published results from a study that found that drivers who frequently used cell phones behind the wheel were more likely than those who did so infrequently to report or be observed engaging in other risky behaviors, such as frequent lane changing, speeding, and hard acceleration.4 Based on the findings, the researchers suggested that cell phone use itself may not account for the entire crash risk increase associated with this behavior, and that drivers who used their phones were more likely to engage in a range of other relatively risky activities, as well.4

While, in the past we’ve used the phrase “at-risk” driver to mean a driver who is at higher than average risk of becoming involved in a collision (if their behavior/habits are not addressed), the AAAFTS report prefers to use the term “Risk Prone” driver.  Risk prone drivers engage in these types of behaviors (as defined by AAAFTS):

  • Driven 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway;
  • Driven 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street;
  • Read a text message or email while driving;
  • Typed or sent a text message or email while driving;
  • Driven without wearing a seatbelt;
  • Driven when so tired it was difficult to keep eyes open;
  • Driven through a light that had just turned red when it was possible to stop safely;
  • Checked social media while driving;
  • Used the internet while driving;
  • Talked on a cell phone while driving; and
  • Driven when BAC was close to or possibly over the legal limit.

What I find interesting is that these behaviors are quite serious and present situations far in excess of what is typically reported on a safety hotline program (giving you an earlier indicator to intervene before the situation gets even this far advanced).  In the AAAFTS survey, they asked drivers to self-report whether they engaged in these behaviors never, just once, rarely, fairly often, or regularly (within the past 30 days).

Their statements about risk prone drivers are interesting:

For all risky behaviors examined, respondents who reported a greater frequency of cell phone use while driving were more likely to report also having engaged in that behavior. For example, 65 percent of drivers who talked on a cell phone while driving fairly often or regularly within the past 30 days also reported driving 15 mph or more over the speed limit on a freeway at least once during this time. [emphasis added] In contrast, only 31 percent of drivers who reported never using a cell phone behind the wheel admitted to such speeding (Figure A).  This pattern was consistent across all behaviors. Nearly half (47%) of drivers who regularly talked on their phones also ran a red light, compared to just 25 percent of drivers who never used their phones (Figure B). Likewise, 44 percent of frequent cell phone users also admitted to drowsy driving, whereas only 14 percent of those who reported not talking on their phones while driving did so (Figure C).

What remains unclear is whether there’s a causal effect between using cell phones and engaging in other “at-risk” or “risk-prone” behaviors or if it is coincidence.  Regardless, its still best policy to discourage use of cells while driving, encourage proper driving tactics and monitor driver behavior with a view towards coaching to modify behaviors.

What are you doing in your fleet to monitor your driver’s “at-risk” behaviors and intervene compassionately to prevent collisions?

If you’re looking for a more pro-active approach, consider safety hotlines to get motorist observation reports on egregious risk taking behaviors — when coupled with coaching and training it has been shown to reduce collision rates by 10-30% and it requires far less data analysis than most telematic or video based systems which can be onerous for safety metrics (data overload leading to difficulty separating the urgently actionable from the background noise of data buzz).