FATAL ROAD ACCIDENTS OF HEAVY GOODS VEHICLES IN FINLAND

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1 TRANSBALTICA 2011 The 7 th International Conference May 5 6, 2011, Vilnius, Lithuania Selected papers ISSN print / ISSN online ISBN Vilnius Gediminas Technical University Transport Engineering Faculty, J. Basanavičiaus g. 28, LT-03224, Vilnius, Lithuania FATAL ROAD ACCIDENTS OF HEAVY GOODS VEHICLES IN FINLAND Sirkku Laapotti 1, Martti Peräaho 2 ¹Department of Behavioural Sciences and Philosophy, University of Turku, FIN University of Turku; Phone , Fax ² Department of Behavioural Sciences and Philosophy, University of Turku, FIN University of Turku; Phone , Fax Abstract. Heavy goods vehicles (HGV) are involved in one fifth of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in Finland. The study used the data material of Road Accident Investigation Teams in Finland (VALT). In Finland every fatal road accident is investigated in detail by multi-professional accident investigation teams. Each team includes a police officer, a vehicle specialist, a road specialist, a physician and a psychologist. The main aim of the teams is to find out why an accident took place, what risk factors there were, and what should be done to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future. Issues regarding legal responsibility are not considered. The work of the Road Accident Investigation Teams is described in detail in VALT Method 2003 (2002). The present study used the accident data base from the period 2000 to 2009, during which time there were 647 accidents involving HGVs. The driver of a HGV was considered the most responsible party (i.e. had most risk factors) in 15 % of the accidents, and the second party in 81 % of accidents. Four percent of all accidents were single vehicle accidents. The most typical accident was a collision with an oncoming car. Of these collisions nearly one fourth was the end result of a suicide on the part of driver of the opponent vehicle. The main risk factors of HGV drivers were observation errors and errors in anticipation and decision making. Speeding was a typical contributory risk factor both among the most responsible parties and among the second parties. About half of the drivers had exceeded the vehicle speed limit and more than one third of the drivers had exceeded the road speed limit. Risk factors connected to the vehicle covered one fifth of the main risk factors among the most responsible HGV drivers. Means to prevent fatal HGV accidents were related not only to the driver, but also the vehicle, the environment and the system, including the whole transport chain. Keywords: Fatal motor vehicle accidents, drivers of heavy goods vehicle, Road Accident Investigation Teams in Finland 1. Introduction Heavy goods vehicles (HGV; in this paper lorries over 3500 kilograms with or without trailers) are overrepresented in fatal road accidents compared to their share in total volume in traffic. For example, in Finland the share of HGVs in total traffic volume has been round 6 % (LVM, 2005) but they are involved in 18 % of all fatal motor vehicle accidents. The over-involvement in fatal accidents is partly because of heavy mass of HGVs. This means that whenever a HGV is a party of an accident, the results end up with high probability to be serious. However, there are also other kind of risk factors and even risk taking behaviour among the drivers of HGVs. There are several factors which may increase the risk of traffic accidents among drivers of HGVs. Driving against of speed limiter and speeding are common risk behaviour among drivers of HGVs. Long driving distances and night shifts are typical for drivers of HGVs and therefore fatigue is common among drivers (Arnold, et al. 1998; Taylor & Dorn 2006). Besides fatigue also other occupational health related problems may increase the risk of traffic accidents of professional drivers (Olkkonen, Ylä-Outinen & Pulkkinen 2003; Taylor & Dorn 2006). There are also vehicular and environmental factors that may increase the risk of traffic accidents or severity of consequences. This study found out what have been the typical risk factors in fatal accidents of HGVs. The data material of Road Accident Investigation Teams in Finland is used. 2. Aims of the study The study finds out a) The number and type of fatal accidents of drivers of HGVs during the time period of 2000 to 2009 in Finland. Possible trends are also studied. b) The typical risk factors among the fatal accidents of HGVs classified as human, vehicle, environmental and system related risks. 195

2 c) The typical means to prevent fatal accidents of HGVs classified as human, vehicle, environmental and system related means. 3. Method The study covered all fatal lorry and trailer lorry accidents of professional drivers in Finland from the period of 2000 to The data material of Road Accident Investigation Teams in Finland was used (VALT, ). A fatal motor vehicle accident is defined as an accident in which somebody involved dies within 30 days as a result of the accident. In Finland all fatal motor vehicle accidents are investigated in detail by Road Accident Investigation Teams (for a description of these teams, see VALT Method 2003). The aim of the investigation is to find ways to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future. The investigation teams are multi-professional and consist of a police officer, a traffic safety engineer, a car inspection engineer, a medical expert and a psychologist. Also other experts, e.g. railroad expert or industrial safety expert may be included in the team whenever needed. The team members produce reports which include, for example, information on the driver, the type and account of the accident, time and place, weather and road conditions, lighting conditions, speed of all parties concerned, and a description of the traffic environment. The team members produce a joint final statement for each accident. This statement includes a conclusion on the course of the accident and its probable causes, and it suggests means to prevent similar accidents in the future (safety suggestions). Risk factors and means to prevent similar accidents in the future are searched for things connected to accident happening and things connected to consequences of accidents. From each fatal motor vehicle accident, at least 400 variables are encoded. Researchers have widely used the data collected by these teams (both case files and the original reports), because it allows them to use disaggregated data covering a large amount of variables (e.g. some recent in English: Hernetkoski, Keskinen & Parkkari 2009; Laapotti & Keskinen 2008). The present study analysed the accidents of HGV drivers who were driving as a profession at the time the accident took place. There were 647 such drivers during the time period of 2000 to Results The number and type of fatal HGV accidents Fatal accidents of HGVs comprised 18 % of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in Finland during the study period (see Fig. 1). There seem to be a slight increase although not statistically significant in the proportion of fatal accidents of HGVs of all fatal accidents. Ninety-six percent of fatal accidents of HGVs were collisions (see Table 1). In these collisions HGVs were typically the less responsible parties (2-party in Table 1). Four percent of all accidents of HGVs were single vehicle accidents. % lorry lorry with trailer in all Linear (in all) Fig. 1. The proportion of accidents of HGVs of all fatal accidents in Finland Table 1. The number of HGVs in different types of fatal accidents Collisions Single In all 1-party 2-party f % f % f % f % Lorry 30 19, ,2 8 5, ,0 Trailer lorry 69 14, ,4 18 3, ,0 The most typical accident was a collision with an oncoming car. Of these collisions nearly one fourth was the end result of a suicide on the part of driver of the opponent vehicle. Only 15 % of drivers of HGVs were the main responsible parties in collisions. About one fourth of fatal accidents of lorries were crossing accidents. For trailer lorries the proportion of crossing accidents was lower (13 %). The main risk factors The main risk factors for accidents happening were typically human factors (81 %). In the case the driver of HGV was the most responsible party of the collision, there were faults in vehicle manoeuvring (28 %), observation errors (25 %) and errors in anticipation (20 %) as human risk factors. Six percent of the most responsible HGV drivers had fallen asleep while driving. A vehicle fault was the main risk factor in 17 % of the cases in which the HGV was the main responsible party of the collision. Contributory risk factors connected to fatal accidents of lorries There were 425 contributory risk factors in all listed for accidents of lorries (note: there were several contributory risk factors for each accident). Forty-four percent of risk factors were connected to human risk factors (see Fig. 2). Speeding was the most typical human risk factor. About one fourth of the drivers had exceeded the vehicle speed limit and nearly one third of the drivers had exceeded the road speed limit just before the accident took place. Physiological or psychological condition of the 196

3 driver, e.g. illness or fatigue comprised 15 % of human risk factors. Nearly one fourth of the most responsible drivers had violated the law of drive and rest periods during the accident trip. Not using safety belt was a common risk factor. However, there was a change in law regarding safety belt use in Finland in Since 1 st of May in 2006 the use of safety belt has been obligatory also for professional drivers. Therefore the safety belt use was analysed before and after The law increased the use of safety belt among drivers of HGV (see Fig. 4). Before 2006 only 7 % of drivers of lorries had used the safety belt whereas after 2006 the figure was 58 %. Failure in anticipating of traffic situation or behaviour of the other party was the fourth typical type of human risk factor. Vehicle risk factors comprised 27 % of all contributory risk factors. Most of these vehicular risk factors were related to things that resulted severe consequences after the accident had taken place. Heavy mass of the vehicle or loss of steering ability after the accident (69 %) increased the severity of the consequences. Risk in load and securing comprised 9 % of all vehicular risk factors. Risks connected to tyres and risk connected to brakes comprised both 5 % of vehicular risk factors. Environmental risk factors comprised 28 % of all contributory risk factors. The most typical risk factor was the possibility to drift to the opposite line (there was no middle barriers). Flaws in the construction of the crossings were typical environmental risk factors (17 %). Bad road and weather conditions comprised 17 % of environmental risks. System level risks were reported seldom. road speed limit just before the accident took place. Physiological or psychological condition of the driver, e.g. illness or fatigue comprised 16 % of human risk factors. Drink driving was a very rare risk factor: less than one percent of drivers had been impaired by alcohol. Not using the seatbelt was a common risk factor especially before the law renewal in 2006 (see Fig. 4). Before 2006 when the safety belt usage was not obligatory for professional drivers only 21 % of drivers of trailer lorries used the safety belt. After the law renewal the figure was 73 %. About one third of contributory risk factors were connected to vehicle. More than half of the vehicular risk factors were related to things that resulted severe consequences after the accident had taken place, e.g. heavy mass of the vehicle or loss of steering ability after the accident. Risk in load and securing comprised 12 % of all vehicular risk factors. Risks connected to tyres comprised 7 % of vehicular risk factors. Environmental risk factors comprised one fourth of all contributory risk factors. The most typical risk factor was the possibility to drift to the opposite line (there was no middle barriers on the road). Eleven percent of environmental risk factors were connected to construction of crossings. Bad road and weather conditions comprised 16 % of environmental risks. System level risks comprised 4 % of all contributory risk factors connected fatal accidents of trailer lorries. Half of the system level risks were connected to risks of occupational driving and risks on level of transport companies. System risks System risks 4 % Environmental risks 28 % 1 % Human risks 44 % Environmental risks 24 % Vehicular risks Human risks 39% Vehicular risks 33 % 27 % Fig. 2. Division of the contributory risk factors regarding fatal accidents of lorries Contributory risk factors connected to fatal accidents of trailer lorries There were 1090 contributory risk factors in all listed for accidents of trailer lorries (note: there were several contributory risk factors for each accident). Of these nearly 40 percent were connected to human risk factors. The most typical human risk factor among drivers of HGVs was speeding. Speed related risk factors comprised of 31 % of all reported human risk factors. About half of the drivers had exceeded the vehicle speed limit and more than one third of the drivers had exceeded the Fig. 3. Division of the contributory risk factors regarding fatal accidents of trailer lorries Fig. 4. The proportion of drivers of HGVs who used safety belt during the accident took place. Before = safety belt usage was not obligatory for professional drivers. After = safety belt usage was obligatory for professional drivers 197

4 Safety suggestions connected to fatal accidents of lorries Forty percent of all safety suggestions concerned the human factors. The most frequently mentioned safety recommendation was that traffic safety education and information giving for the drivers should be increased. The second frequent safety recommendations were that police surveillance should be increased and develop to be more effective. vehicles. There were suggested e.g. technical equipments that assist the driving performance or some structural changes in vehicles that prevent drivers or passengers from being severely injured in accidents. traffic environment. The most frequently mentioned environmental safety suggestion was that the main roads should be equipped with middle barriers to separate the traffic flow of opposite directions. Eight percent of safety suggestions concerned system level, e.g. legislation, orders and responsibility of transport companies. Safety suggestions connected to fatal accidents of trailer lorries Twenty-nine percent of all safety suggestions concerned human factors. The most frequently stated safety recommendation was that volume of police surveillance should be increased or developed to be more effective (e.g. automatic speed surveillance). The development of basic and further education of professional drivers was also mentioned frequently as well as general traffic safety education and informing of drivers. Twenty-eight percent of safety suggestions concerned vehicles. There were suggested that vehicles should be provided with the technical devices that assist drivers e.g. in controlling the vehicle when driving on slippery or in the distance approximation and observing obstacles when reversing. Further there were suggested some structural changes in design and function of vehicles that would prevent accident parties from being severely injured in accidents. Suggestions regarding load and securing comprised 12 % of all safety suggestions regarding the vehicle. traffic environment. The most frequently mentioned suggestion was that middle barriers should be installed on the main roads or otherwise to separate the traffic flow of opposite directions. Eight percent of safety suggestions concerned system level, e.g. legislation and responsibility of transport companies. 5. Conclusions HGVs were involved in nearly one fifth of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in Finland during the study period. There were no big changes in the proportion of HGVs in fatal accidents during the study period. Typically the drivers of HGVs were not the main responsible parties of the accidents. Nearly one fourth of all collisions with an oncoming car were purposeful crashes (suicides) committed by the car drivers. The main risk factors were typically human factors (81 %). The contributory risk factors connected to the fatal accidents of HGVs were found from human, vehicular, and environmental factors. System level risk factors were rare. This paper studied the risk factors for lorries and trailer lorries separately. There were no large differences between the two types of lorries. Drivers of lorries failed to use the safety belt more often than drivers of trailer lorries. Drivers of trailer lorries exceeded both the vehicle speed limit and the road speed limit more often than lorry drivers. Speeding was the most typical contributory risk factor. More than one third of the drivers had exceeded the road speed limit and half of the drivers of trailer lorries had exceeded the vehicle speed limit. Speeding was typical for both the most responsible and the less responsible parties of the accidents. Although the exceeding the speed limit was typically less than 10 km/h it might have been the crucial factor for accident happening in some cases. Further, the speed increases the severity of injures in accidents. In Finland HGVs are equipped with speed limiters but these are typically adjusted up to the speed of 89 km/h. Therefore exceeding the vehicle speed limit is always possible and exceeding the road speed limit is possible on the roads with speed limits lower than 90 km/h. Fatigue of the driver comprised of 15 % of contributory human risk factors. Drink-driving was very rare among professional drivers. The vehicular risk factors were typically related to consequences of the accidents, not the causes of the accidents. The most frequent environmental risk factor was that the traffic environment enabled the collision with an oncoming car i.e. the traffic flow of the opposite direction was not separated. For example, most of the collisions with suicide drivers could have been prevented by middle barriers on the roads. The system level (e.g. the whole transport chain, legislation, education systems) risk factors were rare. System level risks are more hidden than human risk factors. Fatigue and speeding are easily seen as human risk factors but these risks might arise on system level. The time schedules of carriage might be too tight to enable driving according to the traffic rules, and therefore the driver is forced to exceed speed limits or to drive while fatigued in order to get cargo carried in time. References Arnold, P. K.; Hartley, L. R.; Corry, A.; Hochstadt, D.; Penna, F.; Feyer, A. M Hours of work, and perceptions of fatigue among truck drivers. 198

5 Hernetkoski, K. M.; Keskinen, E. O.; Parkkari, I. K Driver suicides in Finland are they different in northern and southern Finland. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 68(3): Laapotti, S. & Keskinen, E Fatal drink-driving accidents of young adult and middle-aged males a risky driving style or risky lifestyle? Traffic Injury Prevention, 9: LVM. (2005). Heavy road transport safety situation and research needs (in Finnish). Publications of the Ministry of Transport and Communications 31/2005. Helsinki. Olkkonen, S.; Ylä-Outinen, A.; Pulkkinen, R-L The national report on working conditions in road transport in Finland. Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Lappeenranta. Taylor, A.H.; Dorn, L Stress, fatigue, health, and risk of road traffic accidents among professional drivers: the contribution of physical inactivity. Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 27: VALT Method, Finnish Motor Insurers Centre / VALT. Road Accident Investigation Delegation, Helsinki. VALT, Data base on fatal accidents in Finland, years from 2000 to Finnish Motor Insurers Centre, Helsinki. 199

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