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Reckless driving boosts likelihood of a future crash, and other findings from ATRI’s Crash Predictor Model

Drivers involved in certain behaviors are more likely to have a future crash, ATRI research has concluded. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

Truck drivers who have been involved in a crash are 74% more likely to be involved in another, according to the latest research from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).

ATRI released its third Crash Predictor Model study (the study was previously conducted in 2005 and 2011), which tries to quantify the likelihood of future crash probability based on truck driver behaviors such as violations or prior crashes. The 2018 version of the report includes analyses on age and gender’s role in crash probability.

“ATRI’s Crash Predictor Model is a key input to our driver hiring and training practices.  Safety is our first concern and by understanding how driver histories relate to future crash probability, we can develop targeted solutions for minimizing safety risks,” said John M. Prewitt, Tideport Distributing, Inc. president.   

The report pulls data from over 435,000 U.S. truck drivers over a two-year time frame, looking at over a dozen behaviors that “raise a driver’s risk of being involved in a future truck crash by more than 50%.” The data covers the years 2013 and 2014. The analysis created an initial driver database comprised of drivers who had received a roadside inspection or been involved in a crash in three recent months (January, February and March 2015). A total of 439,260 unique, U.S.-based drivers were identified. For each of the drivers in the sample selected, their past inspection and past crash data were obtained from MCMIS, and past conviction data from CDLIS.

Of the drivers in the analysis, ATRI found that between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2014, drivers were involved in 31,098 crashes reports to FMCSA. Of those:

  • 729 (2.3%) of the crashes resulted in one or more fatalities;
  • 10,980 (35.3%) of the crashes resulted in one or more injuries; and
  • 29,779 (95.8%) of the crashes resulted in one or more vehicles towed from the scene

Ninety-three percent of the drivers in the analysis were not involved in any crashes.

The report found that a driver with a reckless driving violation on their record was 114% more likely to be involved in a future crash. In all three studies, convictions such as improper lane/location, reckless/careless/inattentive/negligent driving and improper or erratic lane change all resulted in an increased likelihood of a future crash.

ATRI’s research can help fleets identify behaviors that are likely to increase future claims. According to a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute analysis, between 10% and 15% of drivers account for 30% to 50% of all crashes.

“While ‘marginal’ carriers may pressure drivers into unsafe behaviors, driver behavior is ultimately what can mitigate or exacerbate crash risk,” the ATRI report stated. “Utilizing driver-related historical data also allows safety stakeholders to assess drivers regardless of their tenure at any one fleet.”

ATRI notes that while crashes are down 30% since 2000, from 2.13 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to 1.48 in 2015, since 2010, crash rates have started trending up again.

“The recent increases in truck-involved crash rates likely have a complex set of causal factors, but certainly compel the industry to seek and institutionalize new and meaningful safety initiatives,” the report states. “While the Crash Predictor model cannot identify crash causal factors, crash externalities and underlying attributes, it does provide a critical framework for identifying and targeting truck driver behaviors that most closely relate to crashes. Given the large role that car drivers play in a plurality of car-truck crashes, the statistical relationships found in the Crash Predictor report also allow industry stakeholders to target those behaviors [for training] where a truck driver likely has a larger percentage of responsibility.”

What ATRI found was that a reckless driving violation increased crash likelihood 114% and a failure to yield right of way violation increased it 101%. Other top indicators included failure to keep in proper lane conviction (83%), failure to use/improper signal conviction (82%), improper lane/location conviction (72%) and improper pass conviction (70%).

Any out-of-service violation results in a 29% increase crash likelihood. In all, ATRI found that 27 different violations increased the likelihood of a future crash at least 20%.

For the first time in the report, ATRI attempted to draw a correlation between driver age and gender and crash likelihood. The average age of drivers in the analysis was 45.7 years and 97.55% were male. The analysis found that age did not have a statistically significant relationship with events that had the largest impact on future crash risk – reckless driving violations and failure to yield right of way violations, and that drivers younger than 40 and older than 85 had the highest elevated risk for specific crashes, violations or convictions.

ATRI noted that the analysis based strictly on age and did not consider driving experience.

The report digs into specific details on each violation/conviction, which age group is most likely to have that violation, and its impact on future crash probability. For instance, drivers 20-35 year of age are most likely to have a conviction and the likelihood of a driver having a conviction decreased with age, in general. Drivers with a conviction of any kind are 43% more likely to be involved in a crash.

In another example, drivers 25 to 29 were more likely to have an hours-of-service violation, which increased the likelihood of a future crash by 50%.

When it came to gender differences, “For all statistically significant behaviors, male drivers were always more likely than female drivers to have that specific conviction, violation or crash.

Statistically significant relationships were found between gender,” ATRI noted.

Men were 88% more likely to have a reckless/careless/inattentive/negligent driving conviction than women, the study found. Relative to women, men were 73% more likely to have a failure to obey a traffic signal/light conviction, and 70% more likely to have a 1 – 15 miles over the speed limit conviction. Additionally, men were 40% more likely than women to be convicted of any offense.

A copy of the full report is available from ATRI at


  1. Iam a current otr driver have you looked at the crash rate since the elog mandate it causes drivers to run faster make bad choices on the road. I see myself doing it every day. When I was on paper logs I ran slower took my time knew I could a just my time elogs will not allow you to ajust your time the fmca is the biggest problem us drivers have when will there madness stop

  2. With 97.55% of those studied were Male, I find it difficult to believe that from that group one could come to any reliable conclusion based on male or female proclivities. When one manipulates data to come to a conclusion based on an insufficient data set, one has to doubt the entire study.

    The finding that one with reckless driving, etc., are more likely to be involved in a crash is common sense that insurance companies have understood and factored into rates for decades. Nothing new here, we do need studies to help us in hiring safe drivers, but they need to do a better job than this study.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at