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Raising Risk Awareness: The Riskiest Time of Year to Drive

October 31st isn’t just scary because of Halloween—it also kicks off the riskiest time of the year to be on the road.

Based upon an analysis of Lytx data, most of the top riskiest driving days last year occurred during a narrow, six-week window that began October 31 and ended December 14. The same pattern held true for 2015 and 2016 as well.

Why does risk appear to be consistently higher during this time of year? Ryan Brandos, Lytx Research Data Analyst, offers three hypotheses:

Winter is coming. As we transition from long summer days to autumn, daylight dwindles, temperatures fall, and inclement weather descends. “The roads become more dangerous even at normal speeds with rain, snow, and ice,” Brandos said. In addition, the end of Daylight Saving Time, which lands on November 4 this year, often spells higher collision risk.

The holiday rush. With Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and holiday shopping packed in this six-week window, more vehicles end up crowding the roadways than usual. This added pressure on roads elevates risk.

Peak season. “For many of our clients, this tends to be their busiest season,” Brandos said. “From Halloween to Super Bowl day, many of our clients are in a hard core push to meet customer demand.”

Distribution sees the highest bump in risk, but all client sectors experience a similar, if less steep, increase as roads become congested and busier for everyone.

It’s a good, if chilling, reminder of the importance of raising risk awareness as part of fleet risk management, particularly as we head into the hectic holiday season.


Risk Awareness & Driving Behaviors

Brandos recently completed a special research project reviewing a sample of anonymized collision videos across various industries, manually marking them for risky driving behaviors. He made two passes: one with all collision types, and another that removed less severe collisions.

In the analysis with all incidents, nearly 25 percent were attributed to inadequate mirror use, often associated with backing incidents.

When Brandos took out the low-impact, low-velocity, and fixed-object incidents to focus on more serious collisions, he saw a different picture. Intersection awareness became the top behavior, followed by distractions and late response.

“When you boil it down, three of the top five causes of more serious collisions are related to awareness,” Brandos. “This tells us that effective driver risk management efforts should include driver awareness as a key component.”

Among the most severe collisions, Brandos saw that driving too fast for conditions, rather than speeding, also bubbled up to the top. This suggests that inclement weather and other seasonal conditions during this time of year may have played a part. In other words, in many of the most severe collisions in his sample, drivers had been driving at or under the speed limit, but were still travelling too fast for the road conditions, which may have included such factors as rain, snow, ice, fog, or angle of the sun. Add to that the increased volume of travelers on the road for the holidays, ramped up retail distribution, and you have a perfect storm of risk.

“When you boil it down, the top three causes of more serious collisions are related to driver awareness. This tells us that effective driver risk management efforts should include driver awareness as a key component.”

— Ryan Brandos, Lytx Inc.


Implementing a Risk Awareness Training Program

As fleets head into the riskiest time of year, launching a risk awareness training program as a quick refresher might help reduce your risk exposure. Finding out which risky behaviors are most prevalent in your fleet is a start. Next, you can build a safety campaign that targets those specific behaviors, one that reminds drivers to stay especially alert during the next three months. To ensure a successful risk awareness and safety campaign, you can use these resources from Lytx to help you communicate, coach, and improve driver performance to help you reduce risk and, ultimately, help to reduce collisions and claims costs as well.