Claims analysis to improve corporate traffic safety

Traffic safety has been under thorough research for many years. Due to continuously evolving technology, both car and traffic system safety has been and will be improved.

Although technology can help to remove or avoid certain risks in traffic, it can also bring along several new ones. For example, navigation devices and applications on mobile phones can help to find a destination more smoothly, but can also seriously disturb the driver's focus. Technology can help us to stay safe and release some cognitive capacity to focus on traffic. However, it can also distract the driver's attention fatally if it distracts the driver's attention at the wrong moment.

What happens between the car and the driver is just one part of the story – traffic safety is strongly affected by many external factors, such as weather conditions, road maintenance, and other road users. In fact, safety, just like risk, can have its origins far before the driver even sets foot in the car. For example, time, and especially a lack of it, can be a strong contributory factor to accidents and incidents. It can make us take risks intentionally, or make us forget to identify and avoid risks.

Hands on steering wheel, driving a car.

Incidents relating to vehicles are a major source of losses: there are over 100 000 claims per year in total in Finland alone. A significant number of traffic accidents involve vehicles that are owned by companies and/or used for business purposes. Like any accidents and incidents, these can also cause major costs for companies, both directly and indirectly. Although most accidents result in minor vehicle damage, the post-accident processes will at least cause some extra work and loss of time.

Corporate traffic safety and loss prevention of vehicle fleets is sometimes touched indirectly in cargo and personnel risk management. There are also some common topics in property risk management, such as fire safety in pits with a vehicle fleet. As traffic is a major risk for personnel in any industry, it has sometimes also been touched as a part of personnel safety.

So far, corporate traffic safety and loss prevention has mainly been up to companies. As the interest in loss prevention and safety promotion is common for both the client companies and If, If has started to look for ways to help the client companies in promoting traffic safety and preventing losses relating to vehicles and fleets.

Study of motor claims

In order to get a good overview of the current typical factors behind corporate clients' claims statistics, Risk Management Services Finland produced a Master's thesis. The work was carried out at If in winter 2017–spring 2018 to identify the main factors that relate and contribute to typical losses of insured vehicle fleets. The focus of the study was solely on the motor insurance of large corporate clients, and especially on the causes and contributing factors behind typical claims cases.

The study included an extensive literature review concerning the promotion of traffic safety in companies. The research included an analysis of If's motor insurance claims statistics and an overview of publicly available Finnish traffic accident statistics. The statistics were analysed in different ways with the aim of finding out what kinds of factors typically contribute to the traffic accidents of If's corporate clients. In order to limit the number of cases adequately, the claims analysis was focused on a group of corporate clients with large fleets in the years 2012–2017.

In addition to quantitative analyses, the study involved semi-structured interviews that involved a group of long-term experts working on motor insurance and claims within If. The interviews had two main aims: to chart the experts' perceptions concerning the insurance company's ways of improving and supporting corporate traffic safety, and to chart client companies' current practices that influence traffic safety and motor insurance claims.

Multitasking is a major accident risk.

Main findings

The literature review followed the five pillars of road safety, as set by the World Health Organization, WHO. The pillars are targeted at decision-makers on a national level to improve traffic safety around the world. The five pillars include:

  1. road safety management,
  2. safer roads and mobility,
  3. safer vehicles,
  4. safer road users, and
  5. post-crash response.

The literature review in this study followed this classification.

The literature review confirmed the assumption that although efforts to improve traffic safety have been (and still are) active and continuous, corporate traffic safety and loss prevention in vehicle fleets have been of minor interest in comparison to traffic safety research in general. Many of the related studies have been conducted in Australia and the United Kingdom.

The study involved an extensive statistical analysis, conducted using an analysis of keywords, based mainly on accident descriptions as written in claims notifications. A keyword analysis on the If statistics revealed that the five most common keywords or themes in the claims reports included reversing, objects in the built environment, human factors, turning, and snow with slippery conditions.

According to the analysis, reversing appeared to be the most common factor related to claims. In the statistics, reversing was typically connected with objects in the built environment, and "human factors", which in this context refers on a general level to various defects in the driver's observation and/or failure to control the vehicle. The high number of cases involving objects in the built environment underlines how urban areas are typical as accident scenes.

A major part of the study consisted of interviews with If's own experts in motor insurance and related services. The interviews pointed out four key areas in corporate traffic safety promotion, namely:

  1. drivers,
  2. vehicles,
  3. mobility, and
  4. companies.

Factors relating to "drivers" include driver education, driving behaviour, and monitoring of drivers. "Vehicles" relates to, for example, vehicle maintenance, additional equipment and technologies in the vehicles, and vehicle types. "Mobility" includes various external factors that can influence safety and the smoothness of driving. Examples include route planning and the weather. The fourth group, "companies", refers to company practices, including safety policy, management support, choice of contractors, and awareness of industry-specific factors that have an influence on safety.

Next steps

The outcomes of this study will be refined and explored in greater detail. If wants to support clients in traffic safety promotion; the interest is shared when it comes to loss prevention for vehicles and fleets, not to mention saving lives. In the case of corporate traffic safety, there are various ways to promote it, as confirmed in this study.

Some ways can be targeted at supervisors and management, to help them identify points of safety promotion during daily planning and management. Other ways can be targeted at drivers, such as training in safe driving. An interesting area is helping the client companies to identify and remove avoidable traffic and vehicle fleet risks. This can cover, for example, traffic and route planning, as well as loss prevention in pit areas. Risks to identify and avoid can include schedules that are too tight, unsafe practices while driving, and the identification of risky areas on routinely used routes.

Did you know?

Braking distance from 80 km/h to 0 km/h with 1 second reaction time takes

  • on dry road 50 meters and 3 seconds
  • on snowy road 105 meters and 8 seconds
  • on icy road 187 meters and 16 seconds

With 2-3 seconds of reaction time, an accident can still be avoided with controlled stopping or bypassing or straightening the slipping car.

When driving, a single two-second glance doubles the risk of an accident

  • In a study it took on average 86 seconds to enter a full address correctly to GPS using a touch screen

While increasing our driving experience, age lengthens our recovery time between tasks, slow the reaction times and narrow the visual fields. This emphasizes the importance of minimizing distractions while driving, including devices that are aiming to help us (such as navigators and speech-controlled hands free -equipment).

Multitasking, is a major accident risk. It is impossible for the brain to truly focus on two things at the same time. Keep your eyes and mind on the road!

Alcohol and different medications can decrease alertness and reaction times seriously also on the day after. The same applies to otherwise impaired health condition, such as even ordinary illnesses and sleeping disorders. Truthful observation of own health condition, alertness and ability to perform well enough is of focal importance in traffic safety.

Article by

Salla Lind-Kohvakka

Development Manager,
Risk Management, If

Contact Salla Lind-Kohvakka

Hallinan J.T. 2009. Why we make mistakes. Broadway Books. New York.