The Proverbial “Low Hanging Fruit” of Driver & Traffic Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a “Status Report” titled “Low-Hanging Fruit”. 

Its principal topic is summed up nicely in the opening paragraph;

“Oftentimes saving a life on the road is as basic as getting people to slow down, buckle up, or don a helmet. Tried and true countermeasures like these usually don’t grab headlines, but if they were more widely propagated across the nation they would yield an immediate reduction in motor vehicle crash deaths.”

The report provides a wealth of details, statistics and recommendations that make a lot of sense (or should) for most traffic safety professionals – safety results come from the mundane stuff of life being practiced consistently and crashes happen when people take short cuts on the basics.

I don’t think IIHS or any other safety professional is turning a blind eye to other blatant safety issues like electronic distractions (i.e. “driving while in-text-icated”, but they realize that we can save lives NOW if we focus on the right actions which can be enacted and enforced in a sustainable fashion.

What’s on their list?  Here are some direct quotes from their report:

  1. Enact primary belt laws: Using safety belts is the single most effective way to reduce deaths and injuries in crashes. Safety belts saved 12,713 lives in 2009, NHTSA  estimates. If all passenger vehicle occupants 5 and older involved in fatal crashes had been restrained, an additional 3,688 lives could have been spared. Institute research has shown that switching from a secondary to a primary law reduces passenger vehicle driver deaths by 7 percent. If all states with secondary laws upgraded to primary laws, an additional 284 lives would have been saved in 2009. Another way to boost belt use is to increase fines for belt law violations. A recent NHTSA-sponsored study found that increasing fines from the national median of $25 to $60 results in gains of 3 to 4 percentage points in belt use. Raising fines to $100 increases belt use even more (see Status Report,March 1, 2011).
  2. Mandate helmets for all riders: Helmets saved the lives of 1,483 motorcyclists in 2009, NHTSA estimates. If all motorcyclists had worn them, an additional 732 lives could have been saved. Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle drivers and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers. Nearly all motorcyclists wear helmets in states with universal helmet laws covering riders of all ages, but only about half do when states either don’t have a law or the rules only apply to some riders.
  3. Toughen teen driver laws: Teenage drivers have the highest crash risk per mile traveled, compared with drivers in other age groups. One proven way to reduce this risk is through graduated licensing laws that phase in driving by young beginners as they mature and develop skills. States with these systems have reduced teen crashes 10-30 percent.
  4. Lower speed limits: Speeding was a factor in 31 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths during 2009, and 10,591 lives were lost in speeding-related crashes. Lowering speed limits has been proven to pay big dividends. Raising them has the opposite effect (see Status Report, Nov. 22, 2003). Congress in 1995 repealed the national maximum speed limit of 55 mph, allowing states to set their own limits. A 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health found a 3 percent increase in road fatalities attributable to higher speed limits on all road types, with the highest increase of 9 percent on rural interstates. The authors estimated that 12,545 deaths were attributed to increases in speed limits across theU.S. between 1995 and 2005.
  5. Use automated enforcement: A proven way to curb speeding and red light running is to use cameras to enforce traffic laws. The most common use in theU.S. is at intersections to record red light violations. Red light running killed an estimated 676 people and injured an estimated 130,000 in 2009.
  6. Conduct sobriety checkpoints: The proportion of fatally injured drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent has remained about a third since 1994 after declining from nearly half during 1982. The Institute estimates that 7,440 deaths would have been prevented in 2009 if all drivers had BACs below 0.08 percent. Sobriety checkpoints help to deter alcohol-impaired driving and catch violators. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that crashes thought to involve alcohol drop by about 20 percent when well-publicized checkpoints are conducted.
  7. Build roundabouts: Used in place of stop signs and traffic signals, these circular intersections can significantly improve traffic flow and safety. Where roundabouts have been installed, crashes have fallen about 40 percent, and injury-related crashes have slid about 80 percent. Some of the most common types of intersection crashes are right-angle, left-turn, and head-on collisions. These can be severe because vehicles may be traveling at high speeds. Roundabouts essentially eliminate potentially serious crashes because vehicles travel in the same direction and at much slower speeds. Keeping vehicles moving also reduces travel delays, fuel consumption, and air pollution (see Status Report,June 9, 2008).

What do you think?  Where should government, safety professionals, fleet managers, employers, and everyday motorists be focusing their effort to reduce crashes?  Feel free to leave a comment here, or join the discussion on Linked In (“SafetyFirst Client Networking” discussion group).

2012 Calendar for Ten-Minute Training Topics

Driver education takes many forms in many companies.  A variety of methods helps assure that drivers receive the message that’s being sent by the management team. 

We recognize that there are many really wonderful driver “training” programs out on the market, but many approach the educational program by making the driver sit in a class or in front of a computer for more than an hour at a time.  This cuts into their productivity and may become “mind-numbing” after the first 12 to 15 minutes – especially if they’ve already been through this topic in the recent past.

We’ve built a “reminder” or “refresher” program to supplement our driver coaching program.  It’s designed to remind drivers of what they should already know and be practicing on a regular basis.  Also, it’s designed to do this in a very short time span — typically a ten minute tailgate talk or similar approach (i.e. self-study; coaching sessions, etc.)

Each year we publish a new calendar for our popular Ten-Minute Training Topic series.  These driver training packages are included in our very popular “driver safety hotline” program that some firms continue to call a “how’s my driving” program.

The monthly training package for drivers includes:

  1. A driver handout with statistics about the issue, a description of why they should care and tips to consider when driving.
  2. A manager’s supplement report that includes current news stories about that month’s topic, links to web sites with additional resources and a discussion of how the month’s topic relates to company policies and procedures.
  3. A pair of power point presentations — one for easy copying/printing and one with full graphics and images to help drivers relate to the message at hand.

Occasionally we’ve tested other elements — word searches, handbooks and quizzes, or other training delivery formats.  All in all, our 4,000 clients have agreed that “keep it simple” has worked best and they really enjoy working with our materials.  It’s easier than dealing with bandwidth/kiosk issues for many clients and yet we’re also working on the release of an online, interactive training program, too (featuring four-minute length reminder videos followed by a very short quiz).

The very first Ten-Minute Training Topic was published way back in May of 2003.  We’ve been publishing a new or re-written topic each month since then — building an archive of over 80+ topics at our customer website.

During 2012, we will be publishing several interesting topics based on client requests and feedback:

  • January – “Check Your Vehicle
  • February – “Rollovers
  • March – “Roadway Defects and Debris
  • April – “Rain & Fog
  • May – “Right of Way
  • June – “Your Turn Signals
  • July – “The Other Driver
  • August – “School Zones
  • September – “Traffic Congestion
  • October – “Vehicle Clearances
  • November – “Unexpected Breakdowns
  • December – “Impaired Driving

In the past, we’ve published topics on Aggressive Driving, Cell Phones/Distracted Driving, Drowsy Driving, and many other pertinent and timely issues related to driver safety.  Current clients may substitute older issues for current issues by going to our site and downloading the older topics as they see fit.

In addition to providing these topics as a benefit of participating in the “driver safety hotline” program, some clients subscribe to the training topics as a stand alone program — separate from the hotline program. 

If you have an interest in receiving a courtesy copy of one of our monthly programs, let me know!  Additionally, if you’d like to see a preview of our supervisory training programs, or our interactive training programs, we can arrange a web cast.

Are You Ready for Winter Driving?

During 2011, December 22nd signals the start of Winter.  Are you ready for Winter Driving?

Winter conditions vary greatly throughout the USA and Canada.  Fog, rain, snow, sleet can occur at different elevations and only miles apart from areas where it’s relatively clear and sunny.  Even on a “nice day” the lower angle of the sun on the horizon can contribute to road glare and make it difficult to judge the positions of other vehicles in their lanes.  Traffic congestion, especially in urban areas, can increase dramatically causing delays and frustration for drivers.

Appropriate preparations for this season will also vary slightly, too.  Have you gotten your vehicle and your attitude toward driving set to go?

While most people have heard about the various precautions and preparations, now is a great time to remind employees, family members and friends of their responsibilities as they drive during these changing conditions.

There are four key strategies to dealing with winter driving:

  1. Prepare your vehicle for winter conditions
  2. Prepare yourself for winter driving techniques
  3. Prepare for emergencies such as mechanical breakdown or crash
  4. Watch out for other drivers who are not prepared

Each of these four strategies is covered in our monthly driver training kit that has already been sent to the supervisors at our 3,800 clients.  However, if you missed out on that dispatch, there are a number of great web sites available with summaries of the most important points:

 General Tips:

Most state department of motor vehicles publish tips related to their particular area of the country.  Here’s only one example:

Many also publish information in additional languages to help their residents who may not master English as their primary language:


Whether you encounter, snow, fog, or rain in your area of the country, how you choose to prepare for and respond to these conditions will determine your success in dealing with them.  Remember that it is not only how you drive, but also being prepared for the “other driver” and the “unexpected” events that can occur like a mechanical breakdown. 

If you need additional help getting prepared for Winter Driving, please let us know.  We can share a courtesy copy of our training package with you to help with your family driving, office commute or commercial vehicle operations. 

If you plan to drive in a way that minimizes your risks of collision, then you can say with confidence that “Safety Is My Goal“.  Thanks for doing your part to improve safety results on the road.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” Enforcement Campaign

Message from NHTSA: “Drinking and Driving This Holiday Season Could Lead to a Gift of Time…Behind Bars

As you celebrate the holiday season enjoying traditions, food, family and fun, be reminded that Local Law Enforcement Teams will be out in force this holiday season from December 16, 2011, to January 2, 2012, to arrest anyone caught driving drunk behind the wheel.

The message is simple, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.  Drinking alcohol and driving do not mix.  If you plan to consume alcohol, you should also plan not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle or ride a motorcycle.  

Unfortunately millions of drivers on America’s highways still think they are invincible, and they choose to jeopardize their safety and the safety of others on our roads:

  • Alcohol-impaired driving is a deadly crime that is especially common among young males 21 to 34 years old.
  • During the holiday season, many adults celebrate and enjoy themselves with a couple of drinks, but even one too many increases the risk of a crash while driving a motor vehicle.  
  • During December 2009, there were 753 people killed in traffic crashes that involved drivers or motorcycle riders with blood alcohol concentrations  of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.

There will be no spreading holiday cheer behind the bars of a jail cell.  Don’t let your 2011 holiday season end in an arrest or worse, death.  Also, consider these costs:

  • Not only do you risk killing or injuring yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be significant.
  • Drunk driving violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver licenses, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses ranging from attorney fees, court costs, car towing and repairs, and lost wages due to time off from work.
  • Don’t let your 2011 end with an arrest.  Plan before you go out, and remember, whether you’ve had way too many or just one too many, it’s just not worth the risk.
  • Refusing to take a sobriety test in many jurisdictions may result in the loss of your license on the spot and enhanced penalties, not to mention that having to inform family, friends, and your employer that you lost your license will add to your embarrassment and humiliation.

Remember, whether you’ve had way too many or just one too many, it’s not worth the risk. 

You may want to consider these simple tips for a safe holiday season:

  • Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin;
  • Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home;
  • If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;
  • Identify and be ready to use/recommend any available community sober ride programs;
  • If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact your local law enforcement; and
  • Remember, Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over. If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take that person’s keys and help him or her make other arrangements to get home safely.

Even if you don’t plan on drinking (at all), your friends may, and you can help them realize the risks before it’s too late.  Don’t be bashful in sharing this information around your social network!

SafetyFirst would like to thank NHTSA for providing these talking points and reminders that traffic safety is EVERYONE’s responsibility — not just the “other guy”.

‘Tis the Season to Drive Sober

NHTSA’s Pre-Holiday Season Impaired Driving Prevention Campaign runs from November 27th to December 11th, 2011

Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving…

During the holiday season, many adults celebrate and enjoy themselves with a couple of drinks, but even one too many drinks increases their chances of crashing while driving  motor vehicles.  

That is why SafetyFirst Systems wants everyone to put safety before the party this holiday season by assigning a sober designated driver to get them home.

According to crash statistics from the most recent year on file, during December (alone) there were 753 people killed in crashes that involved drivers or motorcycle riders with blood alcohol concentrations of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.  That’s far too many funerals and tragic grief during what should be a joyful and festive time of the year.

Unfortunately, millions of drivers still jeopardize their safety and the safety of others on our roads, by driving under the influence of alcohol.

It’s Just Not Worth the Risk!

Before you head out to parties, consider the cost of pushing your luck:

  • Sacrificing your life and the life of others by driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle after a few drinks can result in tragedy for you and your loved ones.
  • Having your driving privileges taken from you will certainly put a damper on your holiday season.
  • Drunk driving offenders receive plenty of unwanted gifts like:
    • Attorney fees,
    • Court costs,
    • Car repairs,
    • Lost time at work, and
    • Higher insurance rates  

Consider these “Holiday Safety Tips” from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to Prevent a Drunk Driving Misfortune:

  • Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin;
  • Before drinking, designate a sober driver and leave your car keys at home;
  • If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation so you are sure to get home safely;
  • Use your community’s sober ride program;
  • If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact your local law enforcement; and
  • Remember, Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. If you know people who are about to drive or ride with someone who is impaired, take the driver’s keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

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