Put your staff training in gear to reduce auto accidents

Screening transportation program applicants using Motor Vehicle Records

A review of Markel’s 2019 camp claims reflects a need for camp programs to address safe driving practices. Particular focus areas include how to avoid rear-end collisions, how to avoid backing into other vehicles, how to yield effectively, how to properly judge distances to eliminate hitting parked vehicles and striking stationary objects, and how to avoid collisions with animals.

This loss control newsletter will help address these areas to help educate your staff on how to avoid accidents.

How to avoid rear-end collisions

Anyone operating a vehicle must be an alert and attentive driver. To be successful, your program should have expectations of drivers.

  • Encourage drivers to use their rear-view mirrors to avoid being rear ended.
  • Drivers should leave plenty of space between their vehicle and those in front and behind them.
  • Increase following distances as weather/road conditions worsen.
  • Be aware of surroundings.
  • Follow the posted speed-limit

A broader scope of action steps to support each of these awareness areas can be found by visiting the Markel loss control resource library.

How to avoid backing into other vehicles

The Texas Department of Insurance and National Safety Council provides the following recommendations:

  • Get to know a vehicle's blind spots. In a medium-sized truck, blind spots can extend up to 16 feet in front and 160 feet behind a vehicle. Drivers need to remember that mirrors can never give the whole picture while backing.
  • Think in advance. Drivers should not put themselves into unnecessary backing situations.
  • Park defensively. Drivers must choose easy-exit parking spaces that don't crowd neighboring vehicles and park their vehicle in the center of the parking space.
  • When parking in an alley. If an alley doesn't permit driving all the way through or room to turn around, a driver should back into it (if local ordinances permit) so that when leaving the vehicle can pull forward into the street.
  • Do a walk-around. Walking around a vehicle gives a driver firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations. They can check for children, soft or muddy areas, potholes, tire hazards, and other dangers.
  • Know the clearances. When performing a walk-around, drivers can check for obstructions, low-hanging trees and wires, and any other potential clearance-related problems.
  • Every backing situation is new and different. Sometimes a driver visits the same location several times a day and should be watchful each visit for changes and any new obstacles.
  • Use a spotter. A driver should use another person to help them when backing. The driver and spotter should use hand signals instead of verbal ones and make sure they understand each other's signals. Don't have the spotter walking backwards while giving instructions.
  • When driver's spot for themselves, they need to return to the vehicle and start backing within a few seconds after finishing the walk-around. This will allow very little time for people and/or obstacles to change behind the vehicle. Backing without a spotter should only take place after a driver has as much information about the area as possible. A back up alarm can help warn away pedestrians and drivers of other vehicles who may try to enter the same area.

Long-term solutions to safe backing:

  • Installation of rear-vision camera systems in vehicles eliminates rear blind spots. Investing in a rear-vision camera system for vehicles can put drivers in full visual control of the rear of a vehicle.
  • No amount of forward-driving experience can help a driver with backing a truck or other vehicles. All drivers need to practice, practice, and practice in safe surroundings until they become familiar with the way the vehicle backs up compared to the direction the steering wheel is turned.
  • Creation and support of a company-wide training program. The program should include a driver’s course to teach and review backing techniques, as well as covering equipment usage, hand signals, dangers to avoid, and other risk-lowering topics.

How to properly judge distances to eliminate hitting parked vehicles and striking stationary objects

Due to the characteristics of vehicles often used in a camp program, striking stationary objects and hitting parked vehicles were accidents often reported in 2019. By using vehicle reference points, a driver can improve their ability to operate a vehicle safely and avoid impacts with parked vehicles and stationary objects.

According to the Pennsylvania School Bus Driver’s Manual, a reference point is some fixed object or point on your bus that, when lined up with points outside the bus, will give you consistent reference to judge when to turn, move, stop, line up your bus, or judge the amount of space available around your bus. Any point on the bus such as the door, outside mirrors, windshield center post, bus hood, front and rear bumpers, etc., can be used as a reference point. These points are easily detectable and readily seen in the driving position. The distance or guidelines outside the bus are then predetermined by direct measurement or observation before you use your bus for the first time. Once these points are determined and you are comfortable with the understanding of what each reference point is telling you, these points should remain constant.

You can learn more about reference-point-parking by visiting the article in the .

Deer in roadDriving tips to help avoid collisions with deer

A majority of accidents reported by Markel's camp clients that involve a collision with an animal involve deer.

  • Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. Be especially watchful during these times.
  • One deer crossing the road may be a sign that more deer are about to cross. Watch for other deer-- they will move fast to catch up with leaders, mothers, or mates and may not pay attention to traffic.
  • When you see brake lights, it could be because the driver ahead of you has spotted a deer. Stay alert as you drive by the spot, as more deer could try to cross.
  • Wonder why the person ahead is driving so slowly? The driver may know where to slow down and be extra alert for deer. Don't be too quick to pass, and watch out.
  • Try to drive more slowly at night, giving yourself time to see a deer with your headlights. Lowering the brightness of your dashboard lights slightly will make it easier to see deer.
  • Be especially watchful when traveling near steep roadside banks. Deer will pop onto the roadway with little or no warning.
  • Be aware that headlights confuse deer and may cause them to move erratically or stop. Young animals in particular do not recognize that vehicles are a threat.
  • Deer hooves slip on pavement and a deer may fall in front of your vehicle just when you think it is jumping away.
  • Deer whistles, small devices that can be mounted on your vehicle, emit a shrill sound that supposedly alerts deer nearby. (Humans cannot hear the sound.) How well the devices work is not scientifically known.
  • If a collision with a deer seems imminent, take your foot off the accelerator and brake lightly. Keep a firm hold on the steering wheel while keeping the vehicle straight. Do not swerve in an attempt to miss the deer.

The Insurance Information Institute provides these additional defensive driving tips:

  • Be especially attentive from sunset to midnight and during the hours shortly before and after sunrise. These are the highest risk times for deer-vehicle collisions.
  • Drive with caution when moving through deer-crossing zones, in areas known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland. Deer seldom run alone. If you see one deer, others may be nearby.
  • When driving at night, use high beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.
  • Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in car/deer crashes were not wearing their seat belt.

Armed with these tips, your program will be better prepared to reduce vehicle related accidents during the 2020 camp season.

training network nowFree driver-training videos are available through Markel’s partnership with Training Network Now. Just visit our loss control website and register.


  • Vehicle Backing Safety FactSheet. The Texas Department of Insurance, www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs. 2007
  • Pennsylvania School Bus Driver’s Manual, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. PUB 117 (3-17)
  • Avoid a deer-car collision. The Insurance Information Institute. www.iii.org
Screening transportation program applicants using Motor Vehicle Records
This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice. Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser. Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.
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