Work-related traffic injury

Number of crashes and injuries

In the United States, Australia, and for EU countries in general, work-related motor vehicle crashes are estimated to contribute at least one quarter to over one third of all work-related deaths [42] [46] .

Using a very wide definition of work related accidents it was estimated that, in Britain, up to a third of all road crashes involved someone at work [15]. More recent data based on journey purpose coding suggests that a figure of around 20% may be more appropriate for those casualties who are directly involved in a work related journey. A French study indicated that around 10% of road traffic injuries were sustained during the course of work [9]. The majority of work-related road deaths occur on the public highway [27].


In a survey of over 1000 organizations in Scotland about work-related road safety, cars were the most common type of vehicle used by organizations, followed by light goods vehicles and then large goods vehicles. The majority of crashes occurred during travel by peripatetic staff and in the delivery or collection of goods. Of the work-related road crashes occurring during the past 3 years, the majority of organizations experienced a maximum of 10 crashes with 3% claiming to have had 50 or more crashes [31].


Risks of crashes and injuries

All work-related driving: A Norwegian study found that professional driving is a highly hazardous activity, involving risks far higher than those encountered in virtually any other occupation or most other activities of daily life. In addition, and despite the fact that their rate of death in road crashes is lower than for other groups of road users, professional drivers impose substantial risks on other groups of road users [17]. An in-depth study in Britain showed that work-related drivers, when considered as a whole, were more likely to actively cause crashes than become involved as blameless or passive participants. Lorries, light vehicles, pickups and company cars had a lower risk of involvement than that associated with emergency vehicle, minicab and taxi drivers [10].


Dangerous goods: Research shows that tankers carrying flammable goods have a 70-80% lower risk of crashes than heavy goods vehicles in general. Factors may include more stringent training of drivers of tankers for flammable goods, stricter standards for vehicles, and differences in the road and traffic environment in which tankers carrying flammable goods and other heavy goods vehicles travel [16].


Cars and light vans: Research in Britain indicates that car and light van (up to 3,500kg gross vehicle weight) drivers with high proportions of work-related mileage have a 53% greater risk of injury crashes than other drivers of similar age, sex, annual mileage and motorway mileage. Those with 80% or less of their total mileage engaged in work driving had, on average, about 13% more crashes than non-work drivers who were otherwise similar in terms of age, sex and mileage [5]. This study confirmed earlier research which found that car drivers with high proportions of work-related mileage have a much greater risk of crashes (including damage only of between 29% and 50%) than other drivers of similar age, sex, and annual mileage [32]. Research has shown that those driving company cars included in a company perks package and sales staff appear to be particularly at risk of crashes, whilst those driving their own car and liveried vehicle drivers experienced similar risks to those of the general population [8].


Motorcycles: While there are, as yet, few published studies, the involvement of motorcycle dispatch riders has also been highlighted [37].


Key risk factors and hazards

Research shows that work-related crashes are not fundamentally different in their causal structure to any other road crashes, except in certain conditions such as the risks engaged in, of necessity, by emergency drivers [10]. An international study indicates that the characteristics and main hazards associated with driving for work in three countries under review were similar [13].


Occupational drivers are, however, a heterogeneous group and further research is required to allow fuller analysis of the work-related risk factors which affect the different groups.


The reasons for the increased liability of occupational drivers, termed by researchers as the ‘fleet driver effect’ are not well understood, although several tendencies have been noted.


A British study found that car and light vehicle drivers with very high proportions of work-related mileage tend to have an elevated crash risk and tend also to drive while fatigued (e.g. driving on long journeys (more than 50 miles) after a full day’s work, under time-pressure to reach a destination (so they speed), and while distracted by in-car tasks such as mobile phone conversations, eating and drinking [5].



A British study found that speeding amongst company car drivers was common for over half the sample, and excessive speeding was common for 13% of the sample. The most important reason was the desire to arrive at meetings on time, even if this meant breaking the speed limit combined with a reduced perception of excess speeding as an important accident risk factor and lower driving experience [1].


Research has shown that company car drivers, on average, drive faster than other drivers [50]. An Australian study found that higher driving speeds were associated with business or work car use, driving a large, relatively new car owned by someone other than the driver, a relatively high level of driving exposure, being on a long trip and driving relatively little in built-up areas [28].



An Australian study of fatigue involvement in work and non work-related road traffic casualty crashes found that heavy and light trucks were likely to be involved in fatigue-related crashes. Work-related fatigue-involved crashes tended to occur around dawn whereas work-related non-fatigue crashes occurred in peak hour traffic [54].


Truck driver fatigue: Research undertaken in some EU Member States indicates that driver fatigue is a significant factor in approximately 20% of heavy commercial transport crashes [18]. The results from various surveys carried out at different times, show over 50% of long-haul drivers have at some time fallen asleep at the wheel [26]. One of the most important findings concerning the causes of all fatigue-related crashes is that peak levels at night are often 10 times higher than daytime levels. French research into lorry driver working times and habits showed that risk levels vary with three key factors as regards the general problem of fatigue [23] [24] [25] . There is an increased risk of crashes at night (see also the Polish study by Zużewicz and Konarska [57]), an increased risk the greater the length of the working day, and also with irregular working hours. Driving time is only a part of the total working time for commercial drivers, who have many more tasks than driving. Most studies show that it takes around nine or ten hours of driving, or eleven hours of work, before accident risk starts to rise [33] [23]. After 11 hours of work, the risk of being involved in an accident doubles [23].


Car driver fatigue: A survey of car drivers in the United Kingdom found that 29% admitted to having felt close to falling asleep while driving in the previous year [34]. An Australian study reported that over a third of driver fatigue crashes or near crashes occurred on work-related journeys [19]. In another study 43% of respondents who had a fatigue incident (a crash, near miss or moved out of their lane because of fatigue) stated that their trip was work-related [29].


Other factors which have been identified include larger average engine size of fleet cars, reduced personal cost of crashes, and psychological characteristics such as aggression or extroversion [10].


Crash characteristics by type of work-related use

A recent in-depth study of work-related crashes in Britain explored the different crash circumstances of different types of work-related motor vehicle crashes [10]

The crash-involved drivers were almost all male.

  • Company car drivers had more of their crashes on slippery roads, or while under the influence of alcohol, or while speeding, than would be predicted by chance compared with drivers of other vehicles used for work purposes.
  • Lorry drivers had a higher proportion of close following, fatigue/illness crashes as well as crashes resulting from load/handling problems associated with this type of working vehicle.
  • Bus drivers showed a higher proportion of close following and failure to signal crashes although another driver shared blame with the ‘at fault’ bus driver in the majority of cases.
  • Taxi drivers were the only group (albeit very small) that showed over-involvement in crashes caused by deliberate recklessness or failure to correctly judge gaps in traffic before making a manoeuvre.
  • Emergency vehicle drivers showed over-involvement in crashes involving time pressure (understandably) and excess speed.
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