What happens next?
You should receive a notification (it may take a few weeks) as to whether it is considered an accident or an incident. If it is judged an accident you will also be informed as to whether it is preventable or non-preventable.
How these determinations are made. First, the Risk manager will determine if it is an accident or incident. Is there damage to the coach, another vehicle, property or a fixed object? Second, is there an injury? Is there a visible injury or a claim of injury of coach passenger(s), pedestrian or person in another vehicle? (Including bicyclists) If the answer to these is no, then it may be judged an incident. If the answer is yes, then it will probably be judged an accident.
If it has been judged as an accident then it goes to the Director of Training. That is where the determination of preventability is made. The video and pictures of the event will be looked at and the coach operator’s event report as well as the supervisor’s report looked at. Any statements made by others involved, courtesy cards and police reports will also be looked at. After viewing all of the information, a determination will then be made.
Remember, there is a difference between fault and preventability. Even if someone else caused the accident, the question will be asked, “Did you do everything within reason to keep this accident from happening?”
Over the last 6 years, I have been an ATU appointed advocate assigned to help CT/ATU employees, who have received a notice of a preventable accident, and wish to appeal that judgment at the Accident Review Committee or ARC. As such, I am able to view files, videos, and pictures of different accidents. Many times, the judgments that have been made concern not only the actual event itself, but also the actions of the driver just prior to the accident.
Here are some of the things that while not directly causing the accident, may be considered in the outcome of the judgment.
1. Did the driver follow the 2 Second Rule? a. At a stop sign, did the driver completely stop for 2 seconds? b. At a stop light, did the driver wait for 2 seconds after the light turned red and/or vehicle in front of you began moving?
2. Was the driver at a proper following distance? 6 sec. for 30 & 40 ft. coaches; 8 sec. for 60 ft. coaches? (More if inclement weather.)
3. Was the driver’s speed appropriate for the conditions? a. Was the driver over posted speed limit? b. Was the driver going too fast for weather or light conditions? c. Did the driver adjust the speed for traffic conditions?
4. Did the driver read the road ahead? a. Were brake lights coming on around the driver? b. Did the driver notice objects or people in or near lane of travel? c. Did the driver look left, right, and left at the intersection? d. Was the driver moving his or her head around at intersections or at zones to make sure he or she could see anyone or anything in blind spots?
5. Did the driver wait for passengers to be seated or hold on? These are just some of the things that are taken into consideration in accident judgments.
The best way to help yourself is to employ your best defensive driving skills at all times. But if there is a problem, and you do need to fill out the dreaded paper work, remember:
1. Always be as informative as possible, but never do the “shoulda, coulda, woulda's” (I should have, could have, would have). Just stick to the facts.
2. Take your own pictures of the scene, if possible.
3. Have another responsible person go over your event report with you. Fresh eyes may see something in your report that you don't.
Remember, sometimes the greatest prevention is to take care of yourself. If you are tired, stressed, uncomfortable or under extreme stress, you may not be at your peak safety level. If you are running late and not getting a break and you need one, take one. If you need to stretch, use the restroom, eat or drink something, do it. If you are uncomfortable while driving, then you are more likely to be distracted, and less likely to be thinking fully about safety. If needed, call dispatch and let them know that you will be running late due to driver maintenance.
If you are given a preventable judgment, immediately send a request to appeal it at the ARC. You only have 10 days to ask for an appeal. If you decide later that you don’t want to follow through with the appeal, you can rescind that request, but if you do not ask for the appeal within the allowable time you are out of luck. Not all accidents can be overturned, but don’t miss your chance to appeal.
Also, the judgement notification may also state a requirement to schedule a post-accident training. Go ahead and schedule that through the scheduling department. While we all try to be as defensive as possible, accidents can and do happen, so please continue to do your best and be safe out there. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.