Being stopped by a law enforcement officer or getting involved in a traffic accident can be a stressful experience, and even more occur so if these events while you are driving as part of your job. It’s important for fleet drivers to understand the appropriate actions in these scenarios. It’s equally important for companies to recognize their responsibilities in preventing and responding to these events.
Let’s start with what fleet drivers need to know.
If You’re Involved in a Traffic Stop
Knowing what to do during a traffic stop will help ensure your safety, the safety of other motorists, and the safety of the officer. When you see emergency lights behind you, stay calm, activate your turn signal, and pull to the side of the roadway as soon and safely as possible. Turn off the ignition and radio, and stay in your vehicle unless directed by the officer to exit. Keep your hands on the steering wheel so they are easily observable and ask your passengers to remain calm and stay in the vehicle while keeping their hands in plain view as well.
Be sure to give the officer your full attention. Cell phones and mobile devices should not be used by you or any of your passengers when pulled over by an officer. Do not make sudden moves or search for your driver’s license or vehicle documents. Instead, wait for the officer to give you instructions.
If you have a weapon in the vehicle, inform the officer upon first contact. If it’s nighttime, the officer may direct a spotlight at your vehicle once stopped. To assist with visibility, turn on your interior lights as soon as you stop to help the officer see inside your vehicle. The officer will usually explain why they stopped you and may ask you questions about your trip. If the officer isn’t in uniform, they will show you their law enforcement credentials, or you may ask to see them.
Be Safe and Follow the Rules
It’s important to follow all instructions the officer gives you and your passengers. You may be asked to show your driver license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. When driving a company vehicle, know where these documents are kept. If the documents are out of your reach, explain where they are before you reach for them.
If you have questions, politely ask for clarification. If the officer asks you to exit the vehicle, stay safely away from traffic and keep your hands in plain view, and continue to follow the officer’s instructions.
The officer will typically explain whatever action is being taken. You may be issued a warning or a traffic ticket, which may include a fine. If you disagree with the officer’s decision to issue a ticket, don’t prolong the contact by arguing.
Keep in mind that your acceptance of a traffic ticket is not an admission of guilt. If you wish to contest the ticket, you will have the opportunity to explain your point of view of what happened in court.
Also, if you believe the officer acted inappropriately, document the officer’s behavior, and report it to the officer’s agency in a timely manner. You may also compliment the officer for a job well done. The name of the officer and law enforcement agency will be on the ticket, or you may ask the officer to provide this information. The enforcement of traffic laws is an effective safety tool in changing illegal driving behavior and reducing crashes. Good communication can make a traffic stop a safe experience for everyone involved.
In most cases, you will be allowed by law enforcement to continue your journey after a warning or traffic ticket has been issued. Once released by the officer, turn on your turn signal to show your intent to enter back into traffic, and then safely return to your lane.
When you safely reach your next stop or destination, it is your responsibility to report the traffic stop to your company. In most cases, the employee or fleet driver is responsible for all legal repercussions, including fines and court costs, relating to a moving violation, such as speeding. If the traffic stop was due to a vehicle issue, such as a broken taillight, you will need to check with your company to determine responsibility.
If You’re Involved in an Accident
Being involved in an accident can be a very traumatic event, even if the damage is minimal. If you are involved in a minor accident, and both vehicles are able to be driven, you should move the vehicles out of the roadway and call the police. They will coordinate the exchange of personal and insurance information between the drivers. You will be asked to share your perspective of the incident, and it is important to provide only the facts, with no opinions, blame, or acknowledgment of the fault.
In a more significant accident, you may require medical care and/or transportation to a health care facility. As soon as you are able, contact your company to explain what happened so they can secure the vehicle and any cargo and cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation into the accident. Law enforcement will work to determine legal liability for the accident, and your company’s policy will provide information on your personal liability.
If You’re Creating Employee Driving Policy
Waiting until after an employee or fleet driver gets a traffic ticket or has an accident is too late to create driving policies. Take time before an event can occur to develop comprehensive rules to protect the company in these situations.
Your policy should explain to employees that they are a representative of the company when driving company-owned vehicles. It should also clarify when employees are driving for work-related purposes even when they are in personal vehicles. The policy should explain the employer’s responsibility for employees driving while on the job – known as vicarious liability – and outline internal consequences for traffic tickets and accidents.
Additionally, before allowing anyone to drive on behalf of the company, a driver agreement should be signed by both the driver and a representative of the company to clarify liabilities and consequences.
Make Defensive Driver Training a Must for All Employees
You should provide safe driver training to anyone who will be driving as a representative of your company. Of course, the training can be beneficial to all employees, whether they drive on the official company business or not.
If an employee gets into a traffic accident and gets injured, they could miss valuable time away from work. Lost productivity can impact the business in many ways. Making sure that your employees know the rules of the road before they get behind the wheel can save your company money by avoiding costly fines, medical bills, and increased insurance rates.
Online defensive driving courses can also save your company money on insurance and may even help individual employees who qualify earn discounts on their personal auto insurance plans.
Preparation is important. There’s simply no excuse not to provide employees with proper training to stay safe on the roads.