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”

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Merging at Ramps

junction13Accessing a highway can present several challenges to drivers – whether novice or experienced: poor weather, low light levels, road design and the discourtesy of other drivers can each contribute factors that increase our risk of a crash while merging at ramps.

In a perfect driving world, we’d be the only operator and vehicle on the road; however, that’s just not possible.  We face congestion, road work, and delays each day as we go from site to site.  Merging adds stress since we have to cope with limited visibility areas (aka “blind spots”) and finding that gap in traffic flow where we can “squeeze in” to our spot with all the other vehicles.

SafetyZone-Safety GoalJuly’s Ten-Minute Training Topic provides drivers and their supervisors with insights and discussion about merging at ramps.  The driver handout refreshes operators on common problems encountered, and offers reminders about traffic, ramp metering and even wrong-way crashes that happen when a confused (or impaired) motorist manages to take the wrong ramp and rushes head-long into oncoming traffic.  The slideshows also help to illustrate these issues and aids for drivers.

Automotive Fleet Magazine recently posted a nice article and video to promote safe merging at on ramps.  To view these click HERE.

ramp collisions

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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How do we address idling for fuel economy?

A recent article by GEOTAB offered some interesting insights on idling and ways to effectively improve fuel consumption.

The article deconstructs idle time into sub-categories to better understand “WHY” idling is occurring and whether it is “acceptable” or could be curbed by the driver.

They compare two fictional drivers:  Driver A and Driver B.  Driver A logged 300 minutes of idling, and Driver B logged 250 minutes.

idle-2While the immediate assumption is that Driver B was a better manager of idle time, a closer look at their records revealed that most of their idling occurred during their “pre-trip” and “post-trip” time periods.

Specifically, Driver B idles while doing his/her walk around inspections and setting up his/her route plan.  That idling in the yard or at the terminal could have been easily avoided.  Driver A’s idling happened during heavy traffic while on dispatch.

From the article

The majority of preventable and actionable idle time happens during the before trip and after trip segments. This idle time can be reduced by the use of idle reduction campaigns which establish peer pressure, one-on-one communications with drivers, and continuous feedback using idle reports.

Idle time can be reduced by instilling a culture that prohibits the running of the engine during pre-inspections, filling out of paper work, or any activities where the running of the engine is not necessary.

Idle time during the trip can be used in route planning because it can indicate travel conditions for a given route or area. Idle time during the trip is normally attributed to traffic conditions, traffic signals, and driving conditions. While drivers most likely do not have direct control of this idle time, the route and time-of-day can be evaluated to ensure travel delays (idle time) is reduced as much as possible.

To really maximize your efforts in reducing idle time, clear reporting can help you dive deeper to distinguish unavoidable versus avoidable idling.  Productive drivers who are admonished to reduce idle time without distinguishing these factors can easily become frustrated while other operators are wasting fuel during pre-trip inspections or other scenarios.

Selecting the right partner to help you quickly spot these trends also makes a huge difference.  While some firms charge an arm and a leg for telematics “data” (which amounts to “background noise”), receiving superior “insights” (on the most urgently actionable areas) can translate to immediate savings. 

TeleMatics

Electronic Logs for HOS Reporting

Geotab HOSLast month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposed electronic log mandate took another key step forward towards becoming part of the regulations.  The proposal still faces it’s comment period and potential legal challenges before it would become finalized.

Still, this 256-page proposal marks a big change in one of trucking’s older “traditions” — moving from paper log books with their “flexibility” to smudge the lines to electronic devices that demand absolutes from drivers.

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A recent article published at truckinginfo.com (click HERE) summarizes the current proposal’s status:

The agency will take comments on the proposal until about mid-May. After it reviews the comments and publishes a final rule, perhaps later this year, carriers will have two years to comply. Carriers that already have recording devices that meet current specifications would have an additional two years to bring their devices into compliance with the new specifications.

The rule will apply to drivers who have to prepare paper logs. Drivers who don’t have to prepare logs may use the electronic devices but won’t have to. Drivers who use timecards will not have to use the devices. And drivers who use logs intermittently can stick with paper logs unless they use them more than eight days in 30 days.

Of course there are many technical details to be addressed:

The technical specifications spell out how ELDs should work.
The basic requirement is that the device record specific information – date, time, location, engine hours, mileage and driver, vehicle and carrier identification – and make it available to inspectors.

The driver must be identified by his full license number and the state where his license is issued.

The device has to be synchronized with the engine to record on/off status, the truck’s motion, mileage and engine hours.

The device will have to automatically record a driver’s change of duty and hourly status while the truck is moving. It also must track engine on/off, and the beginning and end of personal use or yard moves.

The agency is proposing that the devices use automatic positioning services: either the satellite-based Global Positioning System, land-based systems, or both.

Many carriers now have onboard information systems that warn the driver when he’s approaching his hourly limits, but the agency is not requiring that capability in its proposal.

The devices won’t have to print out the log, but may have that feature as an option. They will have to produce a graph grid of a driver’s daily duty status, either on a digital display unit or on a printout. This is the first time the agency has proposed using a printer, and it’s looking for comments on the costs and benefits of that approach.

If your fleet may be subject to this proposal, and you’re not sure where to start to learn about your options, costs and benefits.  SafetyFirst can help.  We work with multiple hardware providers and have found a wide range in costs for similar systems.

Depending on your fleet’s specific operations, you may want to install a more robust offering at higher cost, but for many fleets a basic, proven system is also available that increases productivity, reduces fuel costs, addresses key safety issues and handles the compliance portion in an easy to understand interface.

http://www.geotab.com/gps-fleet-management-solutions/compliance.aspx

http://www.safetyfirst.com/gps-telematics.php

TeleMatics

Telematics in Non-Trucking Markets

The use of telematics to help manage fleet operations has been growing over the past thirty years for several reasons:

  1. The cost of the systems has been decreasing
  2. Long term contracts have given way to month-to-month packages (allowing easier upgrade paths as technology improves)
  3. The amount of valuable data developed by the “typical” system has been increasing
  4. Early adopters (aka “pioneers”) have worked out the “snafus” and overcome initial obstacles thru trial and error
  5. Case studies have evolved from “sales pitch stories” to helpful, detailed accounts of how peer fleets are using the data to modify their operations for improved efficiency and effectiveness
  6. Management reporting has evolved from simple “data dumps” to dashboards and metrics that help managers understand the trends more clearly
  7. Specialty applications for targeted niche markets are becoming affordable as simple “add-ons” instead of fully customized adventures
  8. More industry segments that use “wheels” in their daily operations are identifying ways that telematics packages can help them streamline and enhance their daily practices.

While Over-The-Road truckers were the main group of early adopters, many other types of commercial fleets are expected to eclipse this segment in the next five to ten years:

  • Municipalities (to track completed operations like plowing, salting, trash collection, etc)
  • Taxi/Limo/Bus operations (to integrate into consumer apps that enable automated pick up requests, routing, peak equipment utilization, etc.)
  • Construction fleets (to locate equipment and manage the distribution from job site to job site, etc.)
  • Local delivery operations (to take advantage of the pioneering work of the long-haul fleet experience)
  • Service Industries (to keep consumers happy with on-time arrivals, updates on wait times, etc.)

Even school bus fleets are seeing tremendous benefits for issues like accounting for student pickups and drop offs, bus ETA, wait times, etc.

It can be difficult to accurately estimate the number of fleets using telematics as there are different ways to count “active use” — it could mean “has a fleet ever installed a single unit”? Or it could mean “has a fleet installed a test group of units”?

Regardless, most estimates place 1 in 5 fleets having tested or deployed telematics in some format (whether testing of a handful of units or something greater).

The benefits and applications of telematics are many.  To summarize these efficiently, we echo the “four pillar” concept that we’ve learned from GeoTab:

  1. Compliance – telematics can provide electronic logging of hours of service, and can prove your fleet’s movements with accurate time/location mapping (and we can integrate data into our E-DriverFile platform for efficient data management, too)
  2. Fleet – fuel economy, idle reduction, remote diagnosis of engine details, and equipment utilization are key to most operations
  3. Safety – driver behaviors in the form of aggressive driving and overt risk taking can be monitored and used to trigger appropriate coaching and educational programs (and our integration of Training and MVR solutions can maximize the GPS data value in both identifying and addressing risky behaviors)
  4. Productivity – knowing when your drivers go off route, backtrack to missed stops or simply dawdle at lunch time can increase your productivity immediately.

From the earliest satellite platforms that cost thousands of dollars per truck to implement and maintain to today’s “plug and play” packages that start around $35-$40 per vehicle per month, your fleet can benefit from telematics applications.

The key concerns are typically identified as cost, ease of installation, ease of use, driver acceptance, quality of reporting and avoiding “hidden charges”, but all of that comes from selecting a partner who provides trustworthy service, supports your team, helps with analysis and can integrate your data into additional portals for enhanced reporting.

SafetyFirst has decades of experience in driver safety programming, and we’ve been integrating telematics data into our existing programs since 2001 as a data aggregator for enhanced reporting.  We have the “know how” and the “can-do” attitude to support your expansion into telematics.

CSA Enforcement Up in 2014

cropped-truck-traffic.jpgThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to step up the enforcement of its regulations by targeting the worst performers.   In 2014 the FMCSA has revoked the operating authority of more than 75 unsafe bus and truck companies, as reported by Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT) Magazine.

In a recent article by HDT (click HERE) they profile a recent shutdown of a carrier based in Texas.  From that article:

In the past 12 months, the company was involved in five preventable crashes and has a crash rate nearly 25% higher than what FMCSA considers unsatisfactory. In two of those crashes, FTW Transport drivers were cited with careless driving. The agency also found on 10 separate occasions in the last 12 months, FTW drivers have been cited with violations demonstrating that they were failing to obey fundamental driving safety laws, including speeding and failing to obey traffic signals and texting while driving, the agency said. 

Atri 2011 coverA very clear emphasis is being placed on safety results as documented by driver violations and crashes.  The two activities are strongly linked — drivers with violations are much more likely to become involved in subsequent collisions — a link validated by two studies completed by the American Transportation Research Institute (and summarized on this blog site – HERE and HERE).

Considering that FMCSA is strengthening its resolve to audit and enforce with it’s new targeting system, I would think that enacting a strong “Unsafe Driving Remediation Plan” would be critical for most motor carriers and those companies who are subject to regulations but do not consider themselves in the transport industry (i.e. telecom, power distribution, contracting, etc.)

E-DriverFile(Click HERE to see our article on Safety Remediation Planning).

Further, the clear link between violations and crash rates should encourage carriers to fine tune their MVR review programs — tightening standards for MVRs can directly reduce crash rates by curbing unsafe driving and disallowing the ongoing accrual of violations by drivers. (Click HERE for our article on Digging Deeper on MVR Review)

cropped-more-thanksgiving-traffic.jpgSafetyFirst has been a leader in providing a single portal system to warehouse, sort and report on violations, compliance, at-risk driving events (telematics) and remedial efforts to improve behavioral results.

Our system can automate your annual performance reviews; pull and score MVRs (to your standards) and even assign multiple, tailored refresher training modules based on newly received violations or risk-taking alerts.

Another example of a blended scoreAll of the activity is documented to provide a paper trail that escalates to top management and highlights those drivers who are burning your scores within CSA’s SMS.

Even if your fleet isn’t regulated, but you need to mitigate your fleet safety losses and strengthen results, our system has been deployed with great success at non-regulated corporate fleets, too.  Compliance with corporate safety policies and tracking results gives you the ability to track your team’s efforts for full accountability.

SafetyZone-LMS