Is Speeding a Serious Safety Issue?

The most recent NHTSA study on crashes in the USA analyzed data from 2010. The results were published in May 2014. From that study:

In 2010, there were 32,999 people killed, 3.9 million were injured, and 24 million vehicles were damaged in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The economic costs of these crashes totaled $277 billion. Included in these losses are lost productivity, medical costs, legal and court costs, emergency service costs (EMS), insurance administration costs, congestion costs, property damage, and workplace losses. 

Key findings included:

  • Alcohol-involved crashes resulted in 13,323 fatalities, 430,000 nonfatal injuries, and $59.4 billion in economic costs in 2010, accounting for 21 percent of all crash costs.
  • Speed-related crashes (where at least one driver was exceeding the posted limit OR driving too fast for conditions) were connected to 10,536 fatalities (another third of the total for the year). This represents 32 percent of all fatalities; 20 percent of all nonfatal injuries, and 16 percent of all property-damage-only crashes.
  • Seat belt non-use represents an enormous lost opportunity for injury prevention. In 2010 alone, over 3,350 people were killed and 54,300 were seriously injured unnecessarily because they failed to wear their seat belts
  • Crashes in which at least one driver was identified as being distracted resulted in 3,267 fatalities…

As a nation of drivers, we continue to struggle with key behavior related issues like drinking and driving, speeding, failure to use seat belts and distracted driving.  Our response to these issues over the years has been to target education and enforcement campaigns to try and convince drivers to change their habits voluntarily.

Social norming” to get behavior change tends to be a very slow process and seems to have hit a plateau — we’ve made great gains in select areas since the 1970s — reducing impaired driving deaths from 50% of the annual total to 30%; increasing seat belt usage to an all-time high of roughly 84% (national average — some states are individually higher).

Unfortunately, we’ve slipped backwards on speeding with the removal of the national speed limit of 55 MPH previously established between 1974 and 1995.  Further, the widespread use of electronic devices has contributed to a new group of crashes caused by driver inattention.

Over the past decade, much legislative and media attention has been devoted to “Distracted Driving” but not nearly as much to other (pardon the pun) ‘drivers’ (factors) of fatal crashes.

Consider society’s view of speeding in contrast to distracted driving.  Most motorists look at speeding as a “non-issue” and not a “big deal” from a safety standpoint (AAFTS traffic safety culture surveys have documented a “prevailing attitude of “Do as I say, not as I do” on the part of American motorists”).

Recently a columnist participated in a “press drive” — a marketing opportunity hosted by a car manufacturer to let journalists test drive new or special edition models out on public roads. While each journalist was admonished to obey all traffic laws, this particular journalist was amazed at the power and acceleration of the test car and wound up getting clocked by police radar at 93 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. (To see his whole article about his speeding incident and subsequent three days in jail, click HERE)

Consider his reaction to the incident:

When I was pulled over during a press drive earlier this summer, I had been living in Washington D.C. for about a year and a half. In that time, I had been warned repeatedly — by ex-Virginia resident Matt Hardigree, by many of our readers, and by a host of other people — that you don’t ever speed in Virginia. But I had no clue just how serious the consequences would be. Maybe “serious” isn’t the right word. After everything that happened, “ridiculous” seems a little more accurate.[emphasis added]

I should probably explain why going into Virginia to have fun in a car is a bad idea in the first place. See, they’re crazy about speeding there. Really, really crazy. Speed limits are set absurdly low, 45 mph on some highways. [Virginia presumably follows the same federally recommended standards, or a derivative of those engineering practices when setting limits on roads based on design, traffic volume, etc.] Radar detectors are illegal, and cops have devices to detect them. And if you get caught going over 80 mph at all, that’s automatically a reckless driving charge.

Reckless driving is not a traffic citation, it’s a criminal charge, and a Class One misdemeanor at that. That means it’s the highest level of misdemeanor you can be charged with in Virginia, right below a felony. The maximum penalty for a reckless driving conviction is a $2,500 fine, a six month driver’s license suspension, and up to a year in jail.

See what I mean when I told you it’s serious? They hand it out like it’s Halloween candy, too. You drive 20 mph over the limit, it’s reckless driving. They even charge you with it for failing to properly signal, or when you’re found to be at fault in a car wreck. I’ve heard of some cases where people get 30 days in jail if they speed over 100 mph.

Other Class One misdemeanors in Virginia include animal cruelty, sexual battery, and aiming a firearm at someone. This is how the state regards people who drive over 80 mph.

I do think Virginia’s speed laws are absurdly harsh, especially as a native of Texas where 80 mph is an almost universally accepted highway speed by most drivers and where a toll road just outside of Austin lets you go 85 mph. There, this probably would have been a really expensive speeding ticket; maybe even one I could get dismissed with defensive driving.[emphasis added] I covered the courts for a long time when I was a newspaper reporter in Austin, and I was floored to learn Virginia actually sends people to jail just for speeding.

But that doesn’t excuse what I did. I came into Virginia and broke their laws; I drove way too fast. This is my fault and no one else’s. (Well, maybe the ZL1’s.) This wasn’t one of those moments where I got nailed going 5 mph over in some ridiculously low section of a county designed only for revenue collection; how could I justify going 93 in a 55 when I went to court, I wondered?

So, the driver hired an attorney to broker a plea deal with the court.

The best plea deal I got was a fine of about $400 with court costs, a 10-day suspension of my license in Virginia, and three days in jail. The judge has an option of giving one day in jail for every mile an hour over 90 mph, and he would exercise it here.

So I took the plea, but I was pretty despondent over the outcome for weeks. The fees and license suspension weren’t a big deal, but I was alternately livid and depressed that I’d be going to jail, even for a short stay. I didn’t hurt anyone, or kill anyone, or sell drugs, or drive drunk, or beat my wife, or steal; I was going to jail because I drove too fast in a car.

The best news of all this was that I wasn’t fired. Matt said the last thing you’ll ever get fired for at Jalopnik is speeding. It’s just an occupational hazard for us. And when I emailed Gawker’s editorial director Joel Johnson to apologize, he replied saying, “I don’t give a f**k,” and added that he found the matter “hilarious.”

Would this story have been different if the citation were for texting while driving instead of speeding?  Would the editorial director have had the nerve to consider the situation “hilarious”?

From the recent NTHSA study:

The fact that a vehicle was exceeding the speed limit does not necessarily mean that this was the cause of the crash, but the probability of avoiding the crash would likely be greater had the driver or drivers been traveling at slower speeds. A speed-related crash is defined as any crash in which the police indicate that one or more drivers involved was exceeding the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions, driving at a speed greater than reasonable or prudent, exceeding a special speed limit or zone, or racing.

As long as we consider speeding to be our right, speed limits to be merely suggestions, and tickets as only a way for states to make revenue over a non-issue, we will continue to have a plateau in our traffic safety results.  Things can not improve (i.e. people will not stop dying) until this nation breaks it’s obsession with speeding as an acceptable practice for motorists.

What do you think?  IS speeding a non-issue?  Or is it a deathly serious issue?

If your friends think getting a speeding ticket or spending three days in jail for speeding is “hilarious” then consider some of these Public Service Ads from countries that are more progressive in their safety attitude than the USA….

Australian PSA on how reducing speed (even by only 5 KPH) can save lives

Rushing = letting emotions control our better judgement when driving (Australian PSA)

Speeding – is it a ‘mistake’? New Zealand PSA

Irish PSA on speeding “you can’t control the consequences of speeding”

Rear-End Collisions

NAFA FS 4 2014In the April, 2014 issue of “Fleet Solutions” (a publication from the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA)) the topic of rear-end collisions was closely examined.

In most cases, the driver who contributed to the crash wished he/she had “just one more second” to react and avoid the collision.

“You want to teach something in terms of prevention that is much more addressed to the holistic fact that there are many, many things you can do that can help prevent crashes,” explained Paul Farrell, CEO of SafetyFirst Systems, LLC

Indeed, there are many options to get drivers focused on their duty – – from showing them the potential consequences of distracted driving to explaining why the company policy is written as it is (to protect the employee and the company) to using technology that actually alerts the driver of impending collisions.

Simply stacking driver education course upon education course is likely to lead to numbed and bored drivers who fail to incorporate the lessons into their daily habits — we need a smarter approach that respects the driver, asks for a real commitment and plainly shows them the consequences of making the wrong choice or taking one too many risks.

Again, more training isn’t the answer, but the “right” training may be the answer.  One online training provider boasts 400 titles on fleet safety alone — at their average course length that’s 280+ HOURS (or almost 38 business DAYS) of content.  Yet, their clients do not have the time to take advantage of those courses, nor do they typically see a material decline in collisions — because it’s not just about VOLUME or DURATION — it’s about a tailored, thoughtful approach to changing habits:

  1. Driver qualification (MVR review and scoring)
  2. Driver performance monitoring (GPS/Telematics/How’s My Driving)
  3. Driver Coaching on spot issues as they occur
  4. Escalated Coaching on recurring issues with short refresher courses (online)
  5. Building a culture of “safety awareness” within your organization through monthly reminders, payroll stuffers, posters, micro-messaging (starting meetings with a safety reflection)
  6. Investigation of post-collision data to learn lessons, share insights, benchmark with peers and monitor trends in rates

Take time to check out the original article at NAFA’s web site or by Clicking HERE

TeleMatics

SafetyZone-LMS

A New Approach to Traffic Safety Culture?

SafetyFirstSome traffic safety professionals monitor the actions and activities of their peers around the world — to see what’s working, what new problems are emerging and to collaborate wherever possible.

SafetyFirst’s team has worked with colleagues in roughly 40+ countries around the world by email, making presentations at International Road Safety conferences, and webinars.

NZ video captureRecently, we were amazed by a fresh approach to getting motorist’s attention about the issue of speeding and common traffic mistakes that tragically lead to injuries and deaths.

In New Zealand, they are trying to get people to recognize their own contribution to crashes instead of assuming “it’s the other guy who doesn’t know how to drive” AND that these seemingly small mistakes add up to very horrible results (emphasizing the personal cost of the crash).

Cosider the impact of reading the following paragraph versus watching a 1-Minute video to convey the same idea:

Most road users recognise the risks of driving at speed and support police enforcement of the speed limit. But these statistics show that drivers don’t always practice this when driving: speed is still a contributing factor in 20% of all fatal and serious injury crashes on New Zealand roads.

Now, take a moment to watch this embedded video, below.

What do you think of this approach (the video) to get people thinking about their own choices?

The NZ Transport Agency offers this discussion about their choice to go in this direction:

Our approach

Previous campaigns have shown that the faster you go the less time you have to react, the longer it takes to stop and the bigger the mess when you do stop. But people still deny this truth or think it doesn’t apply to them. Their speed may be over the limit but it is minimal, e.g. 107 km/h in a 100 km/h area. In their minds they’re not ‘speeding’, but driving comfortably, and they feel in control.

This campaign aims to reframe the way that people look at their speed when they’re driving. A person may be a good driver but they can’t deny that people do make mistakes – after all, to err is only human. And in life, mistakes are made often. We usually get to learn from our mistakes; but not when driving – the road is an exception. Even the smallest of mistakes on the road can cost us our life, or someone else’s.

In a Safe System no one should pay for a mistake with their life. When we drive, we share the road with others so the speed a person chooses to travel at needs to leave room for any potential error – whether it is theirs or someone else’s. At speed, there is less opportunity for a driver to react to a mistake and recover, and this is the key message for this campaign.

The target audience

Our new campaign targets competent drivers who regularly drive and put the ‘Ks’ in. These people drive ‘comfortably’ fast; typically a bit faster than the posted speed limit or other traffic. But they don’t consider it to be wrong or anti-social because it’s not really ‘speeding’ in their minds. They feel competent and in control of their vehicle.

Join our discussion at our Linked In Group, Facebook page, or leave a comment here if you like or dislike this approach to getting people to check their own choices.

Study: Increased Risk of Problem Births for Pregnant Women involved in Crashes

mvr crash sceneA new study looked at records for 878,546 pregnant women, aged 16–46 years, who delivered a singleton infant in North Carolina from 2001 to 2008.  The study’s goal was to look for trends or patterns in the data.

Among the findings:

  • Women involved in a crash while pregnant had elevated rates of preterm birth, placental abruption and premature rupture of the membranes, compared to pregnant women who were not involved in a crash.
  • Pregnant women who were not using a safety belt at the time of the crash were nearly 3 times more likely to have a stillbirth than those who were buckled up.
  • The risk of any adverse outcome increased if multiple crashes occurred during the pregnancy.

Researchers said that more research is necessary to further study how multiple crashes and vehicle safety features influence the outcomes of pregnancies.

The study was published online Oct. 8 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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Profiling Driver Event History

All motor fleet operations generate or collect various data on their driver’s performance:

  • Violations/Tickets
  • How’s My Driving Alerts
  • Crashes (at-fault, preventable, etc.)
  • Telematics (GPS, EOBR)
  • Driver Logs
  • Toll Receipts (EZ Pass, etc.)
  • Automated enforcement violations (which come direct, not through MVR data)

Additionally, fleets track information about other types of driver “events”:

  • Completion of training classes (online, classroom, tailgate talks, etc.)
  • Completion of year or years with no crashes (ie. Awards)
  • Internal Company Violations
  • Customer Complaints
  • Supervisory Observation Reports

Historically, each of these data sources have been in their own “silo” or “compartment” — but what if we could get all of this data together in one spot?  We could:

  • Another example of a blended scoresegment all drivers by relative risk taking behaviors
  • segment all drivers by crash risk
  • segment all drivers by age, tenure, training completed and then compare their crash histories to build a profile
  • determine which factors precede a collision (i.e. how many incidents, which types of incidents, etc.)
  • assign a predictability score to each driver based on actual data trends and schedule them for additional coaching or training to modify their habits and risk taking.

More simply put, we’re trying to leverage data to build awareness and reduce crash likelihood.

Fantasy?  Millions of dollars needed?  Nope. It’s real, and it’s happening right now among some of the nations largest fleet operators.

Imagine searching through 6500 driver records to find the “at-risk” needles in the haystack. Now imagine doing that with the push of one button.

One of several SafetyFirst clients implemented our E-DriverFile system three years ago on a pilot basis, but then rolled it out to their entire corporation.  This enabled them to cut the number of “at-risk” drivers in half within the first year simply by targeting their current training and supervisory resources on those people at greatest risk of becoming involved in a collision?

Pyramid 2011 for blog

Further, our new, online safety training modules are laser cut to fit specific issues surfaced by our How’s My Driving Hotline and our E-DriverFile profiling system.  These modules zero in on those risk taking habits, and remind drivers that there are serious consequences to the choices they make when behind the wheel.

At five to seven minutes each, they represent the next generation of online learning — focused, sharp, brief, emotive and able to convince drivers to “internalize” the need and desire to driver more safely — to make wiser choices — to take fewer risks.

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To learn more, call us toll free at 1-888-603-6987

Copy of Copy of EDF LOGO (final)

Safety Policy Expiration Date

EdiscoveryWhen did you last review and revise your company’s driver/vehicle safety policy?  What is it’s “expiration date”?

Creating an effective, enforceable safety policy to govern how drivers drive, how vehicles get maintained, what to do in the case of a crash and so on is vitally important for a host of reasons:

  1. Education:  you need to communicate your expectations as a management team so that the drivers know what to do and how to do it.
  2. Compliance:  your standard provides a benchmark for enforcement of minimum acceptable performance
  3. Anticipates contingencies:  well crafted and communicated policies enable managers to deal with the vast majority of situations that may arise during a day, week or month without having to seek guidance from above while providing an escalation path for true exceptions

One thing that the best policy can’t become is “timeless” — the world changes around us continually and as new technologies are introduced and case law is established our policies need to be reviewed to determine whether these changes warrant a revision to the policy.

Setting an artificial “expiration date” on driver/fleet safety policies would be one way to assure that the review is scheduled, budgeted and completed on a periodic basis.  Assuming that policies will be reviewed and revised “on the fly” as changes occur may be fruitless as the demands of the moment may rob even the most dedicated manager of the time needed to complete the review/revisions in a timely fashion.  By scheduling the review in advance, the manager can take a deliberate approach to the review.

ANSI Z15 2012 coverSelf Audit Against an Industry Standard

One way to assure that any policy review is comprehensive would be to conduct a self-audit of the existing policy against a published industry standard or benchmark.  The ANSI Z15.1 “sets forth practices for the safe operation of motor vehicles owned or operated by organizations” and was most recently revised in 2012.  The standard covers seven key areas including “Definitions, Management, Leadership and administration, Operational environment, Driver considerations, Vehicle considerations, Incident reporting and analysis.

While the standard may not cover all details of a specialty operation with unique exposures to loss, it does provide a baseline for comparison.  For the vast majority of fleets, it will cover those critical areas that are found in most driver/fleet safety policies.

Fleets who discover gaps in their current policy can document why the gap exists and whether the gap should be filled or ignored (i.e. the fleet doesn’t engage in that type of operation or the scenario will not present itself in the context of the fleet’s current or anticipated operations, etc.)

Realignment of Policies with Priorities

Many progressive fleet managers and safety managers take time during these reviews to realign safety goals and tactics to assure seamless compliance from both managers and Motivating Drivers to be saferdrivers — in the past, policies were often mis-aligned where drivers were expected to do X while managers told them to do Y. Recrafting the policy to make it work saves frustration, restores confidence in safety leadership and enables people to actually perform properly instead of ‘deceptively’ (either the manager or driver breaks the rules when goals are misaligned with policy).

This is also the time to address the effectiveness of the current policy as measured by past enforcement efforts — if the policy is unenforceable, or very difficult to monitor compliance, then a fresh discussion about compliance monitoring is appropriate.  A policy that is not followed, nor enforced isn’t much of a policy when called to testify on a witness stand following a tragic, and arguably preventable, collision.

All the News Fit To Print…

Another way to address periodic reviews/revisions is to keep a file of news articles announcing changes to regulations or laws that may affect your fleet operation.  Additionally, if any guidance is published about these changes by memorandum, keep a copy of each memo handy to incorporate into the review/revision at the scheduled date.

As the changes are incorporated into the new policy, keep a list of changes made to this edition so that it’s easier to communicate a short list of changes along with the final, revised policy.  This can boost your education efforts since most people would not want to have to re-read the entire policy solely to determine what has been updated.

Summary

Our company helps fleets to re-engineer their existing programs to get stronger results from the vendors they already use. Sometimes they’ve invested millions into programs that worked well for the pilot and then fell flat. Refreshing their approach and assigning Some parallels worth examininganalysts to “work the data mountain” into “urgently actionable” conclusions instead of frustrating “background noise” can rescue ROI from the gutter. Most of this comes from management teams who “wrote policies and bought silver-bullet systems” then stuck the notebook (policy) on a shelf and turned their attention back to their “day to day” after the vendor sales team leaves the building. Building discipline to deal with the mundane and tedious separates the winners from the whiners.

When was the last time your team reviewed your policy from start to finish?  Maybe you can leverage a standard like Z15 to help complete the review quickly, and focus on communicating the policy changes to your drivers and managers as a way to increase safety awareness and shake off complacency before any further collisions take place.

If you need help in conducting a review, call on us, we’re here to help.

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Trailer Under-ride Guards (Don’t Lose Your Head in a Crash)

Though our headline/title may seem a like a very bad joke, we’re deadly serious.  Motorists who drive too fast, tailgate or drive “distracted” behind large tractor-trailer rigs are putting themselves in harm’s way — they could become decapitated if they crash into the rear corner of a trailer at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts many different kinds of crash testing. Recently (this March) they conducted crash testing of many different brands of trailers to see the effects on a 2010 Chevy Malibu and its crash-test-dummy occupants.  Only one brand of trailer saved the dummies in all three types of testing scenarios.  This was accomplished by using a different approach to the manufacturing of the under-ride guard.

Since most motorists won’t be able to pick and choose which type of trailer they crash into, they need to give tractor-trailer rigs a wide berth on the highway — stay out of their “no-zone” or blind areas, especially the area immediately behind the trailer.

To better illustrate the seriousness of the situation, please take a moment to watch this informative video from IIHS.