Learning from Crash Events

There’s a lot being reported about the crash on the New Jersey Turnpike which involved a Tractor Trailer and a chauffeured limousine-van transporting comedian Tracy Morgan. Tragically, several people were injured and one passenger died.

Some of the clear facts include:

  • The tractor trailer was traveling above the posted (construction zone) limit of 45 MPH.
  • The event occurred during the early morning hours when visibility is reduced and all drivers are more prone to drowsiness.
  • The tractor trailer operator had been on duty for most of his allotted-by-regulation time (suggesting fatigue as a possible contributing factor).

According to other reports (Star Ledger, et.al.):

  • The tractor trailer “…was equipped with sophisticated collision-avoidance systems that included forward-looking radar with interactive cruise control — all designed to begin automatically braking the big truck when it sensed traffic slowing down. It was programmed to notify the driver of any vehicles stopped ahead in the roadway. There was an on-board computer, blind spot sensors, and electronic controls limiting its top speed to 65 miles per hour.”
  • ATA executive vice president David Osiecki was quoted as saying that speeding is “the highest cause and contributing factor” in most crashes.  Further, “We want to return to a national maximum speed limit. Some states are at 80. Some at 75. That’s the biggest safety problem on the highways.”

So what can we conclude — how do we learn from this to prevent similar tragedies in the future?  The National Transportation Safety Board and the NJ State Police are actively investigating to follow up on questions like:

  • Did the on-board collision warning and avoidance system fail to function correctly?
  • While the tractor trailer driver was within his regulated allotment of duty/driving hours, should the regulations be modified further?
  • Was a lack of enforcement of speed limits in a construction zone play some role in creating a culture of speeding on that highway?
  • Were seatbelts in the limo adequate to prevent further/greater injuries or could their design be improved, too?

All road deaths and injury producing crashes are tragic, and we need to learn from each occurrence to determine ways to prevent future events.

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Avoiding Pedestrian Collisions

At crosswalks and intersections, near schools and shopping centers, in parking lots and along the rural road, pedestrians and motorized vehicles interact on a daily basis. 

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most current data, there were 4,092 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes and another 59,000 injured in a single year – that’s more than 11 deaths and more than 161 trips to receive medical attention each calendar day of the year. 

Although deaths and injuries from ANY type of vehicle crash are serious, the number of pedestrian deaths compares to the number of deaths related to cell phone use (995/year per NHTSA) on a 4:1 basis (for every driver killed while talking on their cell, there were four pedestrians killed regardless of cell phone use or not).

Understanding why pedestrians and motorists get into crashes helps us understand what might be done to improve results.  NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have published some interesting facts about pedestrian deaths: 

  • 72% of the deaths occurred in urban settings (drivers should be extra careful in congested urban areas);
  • 76% occurred at non-intersections (pedestrians crossing the road where they might not have been expected);
  • 17% were “hit and run” collisions (where prompt notification of the authorities might possibly have saved a life);
  • 25% of the deaths occurred between 6 pm and 9 pm; and an additional 22% occurred between 9 pm and midnight (speeding at night reduces the “effective” illumination distance in front of the vehicle).

Ultimately, pedestrians and drivers each share responsibility to prevent these collisions. 

  • Pedestrians should use crosswalks, cross with the light, look before stepping into the roadway, wear light-colored (reflective if possible) clothing and carry a flashlight when walking between dusk and dawn. 
  • Additionally, drivers need to pay attention to their surroundings since pedestrians may appear from: between parked cars; behind view blocks; or in strange locations.  Drivers can be extra careful when driving near shopping areas, entertainment centers, sports fields, schools, transit stops, and any other area where pedestrians would be expected.

Each month, SafetyFirst publishes a “Ten-Minute Training Topic” to share with drivers, their families and even office workers who commute to work.  This is included in our driver safety hotline package at no extra cost.  

This month’s topic was on avoiding pedestrian collisions and included specific tips for commercial and non-professional drivers, too.  The package includes driver handouts, manager supplements, and power point slideshows.  Subscriptions to the monthly training packages are available for separate purchase if your fleet does not use a safety hotline service.