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No U-Turns: Driving Forward in Fleet Safety

Left turns and distracted driving are two of the risks that fleet managers can directly impact.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 5 min read

How many left turns did you make on your drive into work this morning?

Most have to stop and think through their commute to arrive at an answer. It’s not an experience that stands out; it’s routine and practiced for most drivers.

But according to a 2001 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, based on 1.7 million car crashes, a left-hand turn is 10 times more likely to lead to a collision than a right turn. In left-turn crashes, the impact also tends to be more severe. Collisions are more likely to be head-on or at a right angle; whereas in right turns the collision tends to be more of a glancing blow or sideswipe.

“You cross more lanes of traffic making a left turn. There are more variables at play, which means more decisions to make for the driver,” said Peter Kim, Assistant Vice President, Risk Management Services, Philadelphia Insurance Companies.

At the same time, auto insurance rates continue to rise due to higher frequency of crashes and claims, increasing cost of vehicle repair, and rising medical costs. Companies managing vehicle fleets may not be able to influence the last two factors, but they can reduce claims by training their drivers in collision avoidance.

Eliminating left-hand turns almost entirely can be a part of that effort.

“UPS, for example, cut left turns out of drivers’ routes, which allowed them to not only reduce crashes, but also improve efficiency by spending less time idling at intersections. That also meant they could save money on fuel and reduce their carbon footprint,” Kim said.

But sometimes left turns are simply unavoidable. Companies can mitigate the risk by implementing broad fleet safety measures with the help of an experienced insurance partner.

The Dilemma of Distracted Driving

Peter Kim, Assistant Vice President, Risk Management Services

While the logistics of turning left make it a more dangerous maneuver, the risk is compounded by the larger issue of distracted driving.

In 85 percent of crashes involving a left turn, errors in driver recognition and decision-making were to blame. Those errors can be attributed to three underlying factors: obstructed view, inadequate surveillance, or incorrect assumption of others’ actions.

“What that means is that the driver either could not see the whole intersection, did not check the intersection for oncoming traffic, or did not react appropriately to what they saw,” said Kim.

Not reacting to another driver in time could simply be due to a momentary lapse in judgment, but the rise of distracted driving may also be slowing reaction times or impeding decision-making behind the wheel. Tech-enabled dashboards and cell phones consistently compete for drivers’ attention, and many believe they can safely keep an eye on the screen and on the road at the same time.

Of respondents to a National Safety Council survey, 13 percent said they were comfortable driving under the influence, while 47 percent said they were comfortable texting and driving.

But studies show that reaction time is actually slower when driving while using a cell phone than driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.8 percent.

“Texting and driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, and the disparity in how drivers’ perceive that danger needs to be addressed,” Kim said.

Managing Fleet Safety

Companies can address the risk of distracted driving in several ways.

First and foremost, a cell phone policy can keep drivers’ attention on the road and both hands on the wheel — but only if it’s enforced.

“Having a policy that is not enforced is almost as dangerous as having no policy at all,” Kim said. A cell phone policy can dictate that drivers not use their phones at all while they drive, or it can allow for hands-free use.

But safety managers can’t be in the passenger seat of every car. If they can’t see drivers’ behavior, how can they enforce a cell phone policy?

By relying on the eyes of others on the road.

“Texting and driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, and the disparity in how drivers’ perceive that danger needs to be addressed.”

“We partner with a company called SafetyFirst that provides bumper stickers listing the vehicle’s ID number and a phone number to call to report poor driving,” Kim said. “If someone notices one of our insureds’ employees texting while driving, they can report it.”

SafetyFirst then verifies and validates the report and sends a “Motorist Observation Report” (MOR) back to the employer, who can bring the issue to the driver’s attention and take corrective action. The company in turn sends a confirmation back to SafetyFirst, stating that it followed up on the MOR.

“When the confirmation rate exceeds 80 percent, we see a reduction in losses,” Kim said.

Telematics also offer a data-driven way to identify the drivers and behaviors that trigger losses.

Philadelphia Insurance recently conducted a pilot program with a fleet telematics provider to gather data, further study fleet safety risk management, and fine tune its approach to loss reduction.

“Through this large experiment, we have implemented GPS units in select insureds’ vehicle fleets. This is just a small sample that we’re using to gather data to inform how we may move forward in this area,” Kim said.

The units track a number of driving behaviors, including speeding, idling, hard braking, and acceleration. The telematics provider generates safety scores on a 1 to 100 scale based on the data, which organizations can use to identify the departments or individuals with the worst safety performance.

“So far, we have seen losses consistently coming in from the divisions with the poorest safety performance,” Kim said. “If we can show a correlation between telematics data and losses, it can help to direct loss control strategy going forward.”

Philadelphia Insurance also provides free fleet safety training modules through a collection of online resources called SmarterNow! The program provides 13 training modules specific to fleet safety, covering a range of topics including distracted driving, defensive driving, bus driving and winter driving. Additional modules address other safety issues such as bloodborne pathogens, slip/trip/fall prevention and workplace violence, among others.

Philadelphia Insurance also provides technical bulletins on left-turn safety for clients, for when left turns are simply unavoidable.

“We want to be able to put tools and resources into our insureds’ hands so they can improve their risk management strategies,” Kim said. “Our ultimate goal is to make our clients safer.”

To learn more, visit https://www.phly.com/rms/Services/.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Philadelphia Insurance Companies. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY) offers product-specific resources, alliances, and service capabilities to achieve a multi-faceted approach to risk management, including safety program development, site audits, and training (including interactive web-based training). We offer a wide range of products and value-added services at financial terms to be agreed upon to help you achieve your risk management goals.

Risk Management

The Profession

This senior risk manager values his role in helping Varian Medical Systems support research and technologies in the fight against cancer.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

When I was 15 years old I had a summer job working for the city of Plentywood, mowing grass in the parks and ballfields, emptying garbage cans, hauling waste to the dump, painting crosswalk lines.  A great job for a teenager but I thought getting a college degree and working in an air-conditioned office would be a good plan long term.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

I was enrolled in the University of Montana as a general business student, and I wanted to declare a more specialized major during my sophomore year. I was working for my dad at his insurance agency over the summer, and taking new agent training coursework on property/casualty risks in my spare time, so I had an appreciation for insurance. My dad suggested I research risk management for a career, and I transferred sight unseen to the University of Georgia to enroll in their risk management program. I did an internship as a senior with the risk management department at Sulzer Medica, and they offered me a full time job.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

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We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks. If we initiate a collaborative exercise with the risk owners — people who may have unique knowledge about that particular risk — and include a cross section of people from other corporate functions, you can do an effective job of taking the risk apart to analyze it, figure out a way to manage that exposure, and then reap the upside benefits while reducing the downside exposure. That can be done with new products and new service offerings, when there isn’t coverage available for a risk. It’s asking, is there anything we can do to reduce the risk without transferring it?

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

Cyber liability. There’s so much at stake and the bad guys are getting more resourceful every day. At Varian, our first approach is to try to make our systems and products more resilient, so we’re trying to direct resources to preventing it from happening in the first place. It’s a huge reputation risk if one of our products or systems were compromised, so we want to avoid that at all costs.

We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

I’ve worked with a number of great ones over the years. We’ve enjoyed a great property insurance relationship with Zurich. Their loss control services are very valuable to us. On the umbrella liability side, it’s been great partnering with companies like Swiss Re and Berkley Life Sciences because they’ve put in the time and effort to understand our unique risk exposures.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

One hundred percent through a broker. I view our broker as an extension of our risk management team. We benefit from each team member’s respective area of expertise and experience.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. The brokers were kind of villainized by Spitzer. I think it’s fair for brokers and insurers to make a reasonable profit, and if a portion of their profit came from contingent commissions, I’m fine with that. But I do appreciate the transparency and disclosure that came out as a result of the fiasco.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

David Collins, Senior Manager, Risk Management, Varian Medical Systems Inc.

While we might be doing fine here in the U.S. from an economic perspective, the Middle East is a mess, and we’re living with nuclear threat from North Korea. But hope springs eternal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping saner minds prevail and our leaders throughout the world work together to make things better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My Dad got me started down the insurance and risk path. I’ve also been fortunate to work for or with a number of University of Georgia alumni who’ve been mentors for me. I’ve worked side by side with Karen Epermanis, Michael Rousseau, and Elisha Finney. And I’ve worked with Daniel Dean in his capacity as a broker.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

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Raising my kids. I have a 15-year-old and 12-year-old, and they’re making mom and dad proud of the people they’re turning into.

On a professional level, a recent one would be the creation and implementation of our global travel risk program, which was a combined effort between security, travel and risk functions.

We have a huge team of service personnel around the world, traveling to customer sites to do maintenance and repair. We needed a way to track, monitor and communicate with them. We may need to make security arrangements or vet their lodging in some circumstances.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My 12-year-old son thought my job responsibilities could be summed up as a “professional worrier.” And that’s not too far off.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. Proper administration of the risk function puts the company in a better position to financially support research that improves products and capabilities, helps to educate health care providers and support cancer care in general. It means more lives saved from a terrible disease. I’m proud to contribute toward that.

When you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully treated with one of our products, it’s a powerful reward.




Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]