Safety Articles & Information

It's Good Business to Prevent Motor Vehicle Collisions

Reprinted from HR Professional Magazine

It was 7:30 am on May 24th when Richard ran into trouble. He was excited about his promotion that put him charge of a new R&D project for the company he worked for. He was speaking to a co-worker on his cell phone and reaching for some papers in his briefcase when his vehicle hit the curb and bounced his car into the lane of on coming traffic.

His injuries were serious, a fractured pelvis, thighbone, knee cap and upper left arm. They could have been worse. Richard was one of the many people who would be injured in motor vehicle collisions that day. According to Transport Canada statistics, in 1996 there were 158,973 motor vehicle collisions that resulted in injury or death. Out of those crashes there were 3,082 fatalities and 230,885 injuries. Richard and his family will pay dearly for his mistake but they will not be alone, his employer will also pay for his mistake.

In the past seventeen years working as a paramedic/firefighter, I have attended hundreds of people like Richard. What I have noticed is that almost all of the motor vehicle collisions I have attended did not involve people who were driving as part of their employment at the time. Most of them involved people who were off the job or on their way to or from work. Transport Canada shows that in 1996 between 3 and 6pm there were 55,824 injuries from motor vehicle collisions. Between 7am and 9am there were 18,380 injuries. Most collisions happen during clear (sunny or cloudy) days in urban settings where speed were 60 km/h or less. According to the Alberta Motor Association, most of the fatalities (73%) occurred in rural areas. Excessive speed was a factor in 28 % of all fatal collisions. The number one excuse for speeding was "I'm late for work." 

Many companies include safety training programs to their employees such as defensive driving especially if they drive company vehicles. This helps to reduce collisions and injuries. In turn, this reduces WCB, disability costs, and worker replacement costs to name a few. In my experience as an owner of a safety training company which designs and implements programs for organizations; large amounts of money will be invested to prevent on the job injuries while virtually nothing is invested to prevent off the job injuries. While most organizations recognize the impact of motor vehicle collisions, few will take the proactive steps to reduce off the job collisions. 

Alan Wood of the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that motor vehicle collisions cost insurance companies 8-10 billion dollars every year. He also estimates that these collisions cost society between 30-40 billion dollars every year. Some of these costs would include medical costs, lost productivity at the workplace, sick time and added administration costs. 

When someone is injured in a motor vehicle collision, the pain is only the start of the grief. The following are some of the ripple effects of motor vehicle collisions that the injured person and the employer will have to deal with no matter where they happen. 

Personal Problems - Serious injuries can result in many personal problems. Alcohol and substance abuse, divorces, reduced self-esteem and even suicide may all result after an injury.

Worker Replacement
- The injured worker has to be replaced, often at overtime rates. A replacement worker might have to be trained to fill the position.

Lost Productivity
- In Richard's case the cost could be more than a production worker because of the Research & Development position he held. What could a delay in product development cost a company? In other cases a replacement worker may have to become familiar with the new job and be consequently less productive. 

Increased Medical Cost
- The companies benefit plan might have to cover costs such as ambulance service, physiotherapy, chiropractors, dentists, psychologists and medications. If the collision resulted in a spinal injury, the health care costs could be in the millions.  

Lowered Morale -
When person is injured, the co-workers will be affected one way or the other. Holidays may have to be cancelled to keep staffing up or the co-workers may just feel badly for the injured person. Even if a member of a person's family is injured, the job will still be affected. 

Getting the person back to wor
- If a person has been off work for any length of time, it can be difficult to get the person back to work. Statistics show that the longer they are off, the more difficult it is to get them back. 

These costs will make up part of the 30 - 40 billion dollars that automobile collision cost society every year in Canada. This is part of the potential 10% of payroll costs caused by disability and absenteeism. These costs will reduce the competitiveness and performance of any company. It doesn't matter where or what time the collision happens, companies will still have to pay, especially if they have a benefit plan. 

What HR Professionals can do.

Instead of focusing all resources on injury and disability management, a shift of focus to preventing motor vehicle collisions for both on and off the job is a good business decision. As long as companies do not invest in prevention, they will continue to invest aggressively in failure costs. Driver attitude is a difficult thing to change, but little reminders can help. A customized booklet pointing out common causes of collisions can be produced quite inexpensively. Topics such as case histories, driving when tired, tire safety, night driving, attitude, winter driving can help serve as a reminder of the importance of safe driving and help reduce lost time due to collisions. Safe driving videos can be purchased and shown at lunch time or speakers can be brought in for short talks. 

Go one step further

Don't stop with preventing vehicle collisions. Implement a program to help reduce all off the job injuries. Motor vehicle collisions are only one way people are injured off the job. Companies I have worked with reported that their off the job injuries outnumbered their on the job injuries by 3:1. Some companies I have worked with experienced an off the job injury rate which was 17 times greater than on the job yet they have made minimal or no investment in off the job safety. It does not make good business sense - not to mention the human costs. 

Motor vehicle collisions can be prevented along with other off the job injuries. We should focus on preventing injuries instead of managing them.

Martin Lesperance is a fire fighter/paramedic and is the author of the best selling book, "I Won't be in to Work Today - Preventing Injuries at Home, Work and Play" and "Kids for Keeps - Preventing Injuries to Children". Martin delivers keynote presentations and seminars dealing with injury prevention and wellness. To order the books or for more information on the presentations, call 403-225-2011 or email

Martin Lesperance
(403) 225 - 2011 or 1-888-278-8964