What are the Most Frequent Unsafe Acts of Motorists?

In February 1999, a study conducted for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reviewed the unsafe driving acts of motorists in the vicinity of large trucks. This study was developed not only to identify such unsafe driving acts, but also to develop recommendations for training and changes to existing vehicle codes.

Unsafe driving acts were determined by interviewing experts, truck drivers and review of collision investigation reports. According to the study, unsafe driving acts were classified under two separate categories: unsafe acts determined by rating of danger or death and unsafe acts determined by frequency of act.

The top five unsafe acts according to danger or risk of death were:

  • Driving left of center into opposing traffic
  • Unsafe passing, primarily with insufficient road space
  • Driving while impaired with alcohol
  • Failure to stop for a stop sign or light
  • Failure to discern that the trailer is blocking the roadway

The top five unsafe acts according to frequency were:

  • Following too closely
  • Unsafe speed
  • Driving inattentively
  • Driving in the "no zones"
  • Merging improperly into traffic

Although trucks compose approximately 8% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes, truck accidents accounted for 12% of the total number of lives lost on the nation's highways. This disparity can be explained by the fact that truck weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles. When that large of a mass hits a vehicle with speed, the occupants of the passenger vehicles are at a considerable disadvantage.

Many motorists have the misperception that truck drivers are more at fault in accidents since they are involved in more deadly wrecks. These statistics demonstrate that often, it is the passenger vehicles that are ignorant of the performance limitations of large trucks.