For those of you who have been around a while, the Back to the Future Movie trilogy, launched in 1985, is a fantastically entertaining trio of movies that tugs at many of us that would like to go back in time to try to fix things in the future. Well, the American Transportation Research Institute has just released its latest version of predicting the future in its own Quadrilogy that is known as its Crash Predictor Research. First launched in 2005, the principal research objective of this series has been to determine whether driver performance-based indicators can foreshadow future crashes. Indeed, ATRI has met this objective through their research.

Those of us in the driver safety space have relied on this work for years. It has helped to define how we structure safety programs to avoid crashes. In this latest issue, ATRI studied more than 583,000 unique CMV drivers over a two-year period from 2017-2018, looking at roadside inspection violations, crashes and conviction data to determine which are most predictive of future crashes. What they found was a Failure to Yield Right-of-Way violation, Failure to Use / Improper Turn Signal conviction, a Past Crash and Reckless Driving violation all increased future crash likelihood by more than 100 percent. Nine other violations increase crash likelihoods between 31 and 53 percent, and twelve other convictions indicate increased crash likelihood, with the majority above 50 percent.

What is especially interesting are the trends across all four reports. The top 5 stable crash risk predictors across all 4 models are Reckless Driving violations at 114% future crash likelihood, Failure to Use / Improper Signal convictions (89%), Past Crashes (88%), Failure to Yield Right-of-Way violations (85%), and Improper Erratic Lane Change convictions (79%). As all of us contemplate how we can work to change the troubling trajectory of CMV crashes in the U.S., this research needs be a key part of our toolbox. On a related point, as FMCSA contemplates changes to its Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program it should use ATRI’s work as an important input to revising its severity weightings. Like the good Doctor Emmett Brown, ATRI is helping lead us to predicting the future. Let’s make sure we are heeding their advice, and staying below 88 miles per hour.