County Focus Article: Law Enforcement Defensive and Distracted Driver Program
By Robert Benfield, ARM, AINS
SCAC Director of Insurance Services
Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs), a leading cause of officer deaths, are impacting officers’ lives and the budgets of Sheriff’s Offices across South Carolina. Motor vehicle accidents account for more than 20 percent of the law enforcement claims in the S.C. Counties Workers’ Compensation Trust and 80 percent of the law enforcement claims in the S.C. Property and Liability Trust. The prevention of motor vehicle accidents is a top priority for SCAC Risk Managers. Preventing a motor vehicle accident can eliminate three types of claims— workers’ compensation, auto liability, and auto property damage.
To help mitigate this exposure, we partnered with Safety National, County Reinsurance Limited, OSS Training Academy, and Willis Watson Towers to create a pilot Law Enforcement Defensive & Distracted Driver Program. The program included classroom and five hours of hands-on driver training at the Michelin Laurens Proving Grounds in Laurens County on May 3rd and May 5th. The May 3rd class was tailored for sheriffs/chiefs and command staffs, and the May 5th class was “a train the trainer class,” geared for training officers, which also included an online eLearning segment.
The goal of the program was to reduce officer deaths, vehicle collisions, time away from the job, impacts on budgets, and to improve overall officer safety. We had a great turnout for the training with 35 officers representing 17 South Carolina counties participating. All participants were provided with a thumb drive containing training materials, PowerPoints, and instructions on how to set up the training courses in their county.
Due to the success of the program, we will be conducting two more days of training on September 13 and 15, 2022, at the Michelin Laurens Proving Grounds. Another critical element in reducing MVAs is the implementation of a vehicle accident review board with sanctions. The purpose of this board is to review all employee motor vehicle accidents to determine if the accident could have been prevented and if the employee’s actions contributed to the accident.
Not all accidents can be prevented, but many accidents occur due to distractions, driving too fast for conditions, and poor driving habits. It is vital that employees be held accountable for preventable motor vehicle accidents.
We have created a model Vehicle Accident Mitigation Program (VAMP) to help our members reduce MVAs. The core elements of this program address issues ranging from pre-hire driver records checks to the implementation of vehicle accident review boards with sanctions. If you would like a copy of this program, please email Van Henson, Director of Risk Management Services, at Vhenson@scac.sc.