Safe Solutions

Rear-end incidents

When a roofing worker is driving a company vehicle, nothing is more important than driving safely. It truly can be a matter of life and death.

For example, a recent rear-end collision that resulted in a multimillion dollar insurance claim involved a roofing worker who was driving with a suspended license. He caused a multiple-vehicle rear-end collision that resulted in a fatality. The roofing worker was charged with negligent homicide, negligent injury, careless operation of a motor vehicle and driving with a suspended license. The roofing contractor was charged with criminal negligence and had to contribute substantially to the claim because it was more than the $1 million insurance policy limit.

Rear-end collisions are one of the most frequent types of motor vehicle accidents. Vehicle incident reports indicate such accidents are caused by sudden stops at intersections, grade crossings or passenger stops, and slowing in preparation for turns. Following are some methods to help any employee who drives prevent rear-end collisions.

A common problem

A worker's actions may be the cause of a rear-end collision in which his vehicle is the first to be struck from behind. If a worker stops abruptly, the driver of the vehicle behind him may be able to stop, but additional vehicles may not be able to stop in time. Remind your workers heavier, faster vehicles need more time to stop than lighter, slower vehicles.

Another method to prevent rear-end collisions is to observe safe following distances. The recommended safe following distance for private passenger vehicles is expressed as three seconds of elapsed time when vehicles pass a fixed object. For heavier vehicles, following distance should increase depending on the vehicle's weight and load it is carrying. Following distances also should increase during inclement weather or if other dangerous driving conditions exist. Add an additional second for each adverse condition. Other factors may require adding distance, such as when a worker is following a motorcycle—motorcycles can stop more quickly than trucks. If a truck is following a worker too closely, the roofing worker should slow down, move to the right and give the truck every opportunity to pass.

To determine whether he has established the minimum safe following distance, a worker should pick out a fixed object, such as a speed-limit sign or light pole. When the vehicle ahead of him passes that marker, he should begin counting until his vehicle is in line with the marker. Following distance should be adjusted accordingly. A worker should practice calculating proper intervals so he can better judge safe following distances with various speed limits and driving conditions.

Another basic defensive driving skill is scanning ahead. By simply watching the traffic situation, a roofing worker can anticipate the need to adjust his driving speed or stop. Additionally, he always should pull over to the side of the road in a safe place if he has to look at a map, read paperwork, or answer a cellular telephone or radio call.

The program

To reduce the risk of rear-end collisions, your safe-driving program should include:

  • A written procedure that requires all drivers to maintain at least a three-second following distance during ideal driving conditions; additional seconds should be added for loads and less-than-ideal conditions
  • A written procedure prohibiting or limiting activities while driving, such as eating, map reading and cellular telephone use
  • Separate periodic safety meetings for all drivers; training sessions for new drivers; and written acknowledgement by drivers of all driving procedures
  • A supervisor driving an unmarked vehicle and observing a new driver and/or riding with a new driver to ensure the company's procedures are being followed
  • Regular reminders to drivers about the company's safe-driving procedures
  • Daily vehicle inspection reports to ensure road worthiness of vehicles

Driving defensively

A defensive driver will do everything to reasonably prevent a vehicle incident. By practicing gradual stops, scanning ahead and keeping safe following distances, a worker will help protect himself from injury, prevent injury to others, minimize vehicle and operational downtime, and reduce expenses and increased insurance costs associated with vehicle incidents.

Leslie Kazmierowski, CPCU, is NRCA's insurance programs manager.


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