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Road Law
Preventable v. non-preventable accidents

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

Q. I was recently terminated from my job as a truck driver for being involved in an accident. The company said it was preventable and my fault, but they didn’t seem to care much about the facts. I haven’t been issued a traffic ticket yet for the accident. What do I most need to know and what should I do?

A. First, most if not all carriers have a safe driving program. How well that program works depends on the management and the personnel involved in adequately investigating an accident.

Many carriers use the National Safety Council criteria or some “Defensive Driving Code” to determine the preventability of an accident. Some examples:

If a driver did not do everything reasonable to avoid the accident, then it is a preventable accident.

If a driver did everything reasonable he/she could do to prevent an accident, then it is a non-preventable accident.

Seems easy enough, but what is reasonable? The following criterion is likely the operative one that most carriers use:

Did the CDL driver make no mistakes, control the CMV to account for the weather, road conditions and traffic and to ensure that any mistakes by other motorists did not involve the CDL driver in an accident?

If the answer to that question is “yes,” then you have a non-preventable accident.

Q. Can you list the types of accidents that are preventable and non-preventable?

A. While there isn’t space in this column to analyze every conceivable accident scenario and subsequent determination, we can summarize the concept as follows:

All accidents are preventable if a driver operates at a speed that is reasonable for the current road, weather and traffic conditions. As well as any failure to control speed, other factors are distance, available clearance, right of way or violation of company procedure, rules and regulations or traffic laws.

Q. What about when the reason of the accident was because of mechanical defects with the truck? Can I be charged with a “preventable” accident when the equipment failed?

A. Mechanical defects are generally considered preventable if the defect should have been detected on a pre-trip/en route inspection or should have been detected while operating the CMV. Also, abusive handling of the CMV by the driver causing a defect is considered preventable as well.

Q. What can I do to dispute what I believe was a wrong decision that an accident was “preventable?”

A. You have several options.

First, take a look at your company policy/procedure handbook and see if there is a method for appealing the decision within the company. If your company reports the information to USIS aka DAC Services, then you will want to file a rebuttal statement and explain your side of the story. Then a future employer can decide whether your actions were so unreasonable as to warrant not hiring you. LL


Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to:
Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City,
OK 73134, call 405-242-2030, fax 405-242-2040, or e-mail