Drowsy Driving Update 2014

National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week runs November 2-9, 2014. Highlighting the need for drivers and safety teams to focus on drowsy driving, the AAA AAFTS Drowsy DrivingFoundation for Traffic Safety has issued a new research report which states that 21% (one in five) fatal crashes involved driver fatigue. Further, the report summary indicates that:

  • 6% of all crashes in which a vehicle was towed from the scene,
  • 7% of crashes in which a person received treatment for injuries sustained in the crash,
  • 13% of crashes in which a person was hospitalized, and
  • 21% of crashes in which a person was killed involved a drowsy driver.

How did we miss the scope of these crashes?  AAAFTS suggests that National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics “are widely regarded as substantial underestimates of the true magnitude of the problem.”  Why?

The statistics reported by the NHTSA are based on data compiled from reports completed by police officers investigating the scenes of motor vehicle crashes. However, unlike impairment by alcohol, impairment by sleepiness, drowsiness, or fatigue does not leave behind physical evidence, and it may be difficult or impossible for the police to ascertain in the event that a driver is reluctant to
admit to the police that he or she had fallen asleep, if the driver does not realize or remember that his or her performance was impaired due to fatigue, or if the driver is
incapacitated or deceased and thus unable to convey information regarding his level of alertness prior to the crash. This inherent limitation is further compounded by the design of the forms that police officers complete when investigating crashes, which in many cases obfuscate the distinction between whether a driver was known not to have been asleep or fatigued versus whether a driver’s level of alertness or fatigue was unknown.

Based on these concerns, many experts have concluded that the NHTSA data was merely indicating the tip of a large iceberg of hidden or mis-coded results.  Compounding this opinion were results from other studies, including naturalistic (camera in cabin, continuously recording) studies showing a much higher rate of drowsy driving related events.

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Of course, this study makes several assumptions and may not present a perfect picture of drowsy driving in the USA.  However, it is reasonable to assertively promote tactics to avoid drowsy driving situations based on the following:

  • drivers are unable to prevent micronapping from occuring – the fatigued body will overpower their mind’s alertness
  • Poor diet, lack of exercise, frequently interrupted sleep periods, lack of consistent sleep cycles all contribute to weak health and drowsiness.
  • Many “home remedies” for drowsy driving may work for a few minutes, but can’t be relied upon for a real solution — many drivers who’ve turned on the air conditioning or turned up the radio still had crashes happen.

Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is quoted as saying;

Despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans deem it ‘unacceptable’ to drive when they are so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open, more than 28 percent admit to doing so in the last month,”…“Like other impairments, driving while drowsy is not without risk.”

AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds sums it up nicely;

Unfortunately many drivers underestimate the risk of driving while tired, and overestimate their ability to deal with it.

Find other articles on drowsy driving at https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/?s=drowsy%20driving

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Driving and Vision Disorders

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers many resources for a wide range of safety concerns.

Here is an example of one of their latest videos:

You can find many more video based resources at NHTSA’s You Tube page — http://www.youtube.com/user/USDOTNHTSA

 

Using cellphone as GPS Legal in CA

PEDESTRIAN-SIGN2According to the LA Times (click HERE) an appellate court ruled that “…Californians may use a cellphone to look at map applications while driving, even if apps are not hands-free.”

A driver from Fresno, CA had received a ticket for using his phone’s navigation system to find an alternative route around heavy traffic.  He fought the $165 ticket and initially lost his bid to have the ticket dismissed.  Fighting an uphill battle, he managed to get a sympathetic ear in superior court.  From the article:

Attorneys for the state had argued the law, which prohibits “using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking,” outlaws any use of a phone that is “hands-on.”

The judges disagreed, writing that such a broad interpretation of the law would lead to “absurd results.”

“Then it would be a statutory violation for a driver to merely look at the telephone’s display,” they wrote in the 18-page opinion. “It would also be a violation to hold the telephone in one’s hand … and look at the time or even merely move it for use as a paperweight.”

Naturally, the key to vigilant driving is to avoid all sorts of distractions like eating, shaving, applying make-up or reading maps, etc.  Distracted driving comes from three basic sources:

  1. Visual Distraction:  anything that takes your eyes off the road while driving
  2. Physical Distraction:  anything that takes your hands off of the wheel while driving
  3. Cognitive Distraction: anything that takes your mind off of your driving duties

EdiscoveryEach of these types of distractions is problematic, and drivers may be distracted to the point of crash by many different things.

The lesson in this instance is that while it may be legal to access apps on a hand held phone because the current law was written before phone apps existed (and was not described clearly to distinguish these as distractions) it doesn’t make it a good idea to fiddle with your hand held phone while driving.

In the same train of thought, it’s not a good idea to let your mind wander by listening to talk radio, but that’s also legal.

Summary

We each share a responsibility to drive with vigilance and discipline.  There may be times when we are distracted momentarily, and sometimes those distractions are necessary (receiving hand signals from a police officer or construction flagger who is directing traffic may distract us from cross traffic, but it’s a matter of juggling our focus appropriately)…..Nonetheless, we should work hard to keep these instances to a bare minimum and keep our focus on the road.

You tell his mommy

Study: Fatal Car Crashes Involving Marijuana Have Tripled « CBS Seattle

drugged driving 2Study: Fatal Car Crashes Involving Marijuana Have Tripled « CBS Seattle.

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study on drugged driving (click HERE to see full report).  According to the abstract, there is increasing public concern over substance abuse affecting traffic safety results.

The study assessed trends in alcohol and other drugs detected in drivers who were killed within 1 hour of a motor vehicle crash in 6 US states (California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) that routinely performed toxicological testing on drivers involved in such crashes.  Their findings?

Of the 23,591 drivers studied, 39.7% tested positive for alcohol and 24.8% for other drugs. During the study period, the prevalence of positive results for nonalcohol drugs rose from 16.6% in 1999 to 28.3% in 2010 (Z = −10.19, P < 0.0001), whereas the prevalence of positive results for alcohol remained stable. The most commonly detected nonalcohol drug was cannabinol, the prevalence of which increased from 4.2% in 1999 to 12.2% in 2010 (Z = −13.63, P < 0.0001). The increase in the prevalence of nonalcohol drugs was observed in all age groups and both sexes. These results indicate that nonalcohol drugs, particularly marijuana, are increasingly detected in fatally injured drivers.

In short, fatal car crashes involving pot use have tripled in the U.S. during the study period.

“Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,” Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia, and co-author of the study told HealthDay News.

Other comments and quotes offered in the CBS article included:

“This study shows an alarming increase in driving under the influence of drugs, and, in particular, it shows an increase in driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs,” Jan Withers, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, added.

“MADD is concerned anytime we hear about an increase in impaired driving, since it’s 100 percent preventable,” Withers said. “When it comes to drugged driving versus drunk driving, the substances may be different but the consequences are the same – needless deaths and injuries.”

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Of course an article that ran in Forbes (click HERE) suggests that the study may have been flawed and that testing for certain chemicals may provide “false positives”:

If “drugged driving” means operating a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of cannabinol in your blood, “drugged driving” inevitably will rise after legalization as consumption rises. But having cannabinol in your blood is not the same as being intoxicated.

Still, driving while impaired in any way endangers yourself and other drivers.  We each have a responsibility for traffic safety results and must be vigilant, sober drivers to continue to see improvements in crash rates.

rx-for-dui

Incremental Gains Add Up Over Time

The Tortoise and the Hare is one of Aesop’s Fables.

The story concerns a Hare who ridicules a slow-moving Tortoise and is challenged by the tortoise to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, takes a nap midway through the course. When the Hare awakes however, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him. (Summary from Wikipedia)

“Slow and steady wins the race” is how I’ve heard the moral of the story expressed.  It’s a simple concept for leaders to embrace.   Incremental gains in effectiveness and efficiency may not seem all that important (or glamorous), but as long as you keep improving in small but very steady ways, you’ll soon leave the competition in the dust.

Consider this article titled; “What Would Happen If You improved Everything by 1%: The Science of Marginal Gains” (Click HERE).  The author, James Clear, paints the picture vividly by recalling the efforts of the British cycling team to win the Tour DeFrance:

No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), that’s what Brailsford was asked to do.

His approach was simple.

Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as the “1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.

But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.

He was wrong. They won it in three years.

So in business, and in our personal life, small but deterministic changes can lead to bigger and better results.  I think this can be true in safety areas, too.

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x287From the driver’s perspective, habits (productive or risky) develop over time from small choices made and small risks taken which are reinforced as acceptable (i.e. speeding daily without having a crash, using a hand held cell phone repeatedly without a crash, etc.)

These choices (good or bad) either take us to better performance (eating more healthy each day, getting more rest from a consistent sleep schedule, etc.) or lead us towards a bad outcome (crashes due to unchecked risk-taking.)  Driver coaching feedback should get drivers to incrementally change to conform to existing policy.  We’re not suggesting letting them break rules, but consistent monitoring and reinforcement of following the rules may work better than trying to get them to change overnight by means of hours of re-training, etc.

Driver Communication Plans foster two-way discussion about goals and outcomes (results) that can be a valuable tool in getting strong performance (https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/driver-management-communication-plans-part-1/)

smc 1Similarly, from a management standpoint, arriving at a poor BASIC score isn’t (typically) done overnight with one bad event, but over time with holes in the enforcement of policies designed to keep drivers safe, cargo secured, etc.

The discovery that a driver has become a chronic risk taker, or that a management team has developed inappropriate BASIC scores isn’t something that can be changed immediately.  Just as it took time to get to this point, it will take discipline and patience to get everything back on track.

marginal gains

Leveraging your current investment in safety programming (fine tuning for improved performance) is a great place to start.  Details like policy enforcement, training utilization, maximizing vendor relationships, fine tuning management reporting to identify key performance metrics may be mundane, but can yield significant dividends.

You might also consider setting highly tailored, short term objectives related to recent trends in loss (Crash/Injury) activity, and pushing for verified achievement before tackling additional areas of improvement (no one can easily win a wrestling match against an eight-armed octopus — focus and step-wise implementation are important).

TeleMaticsI recently attended a GPS conference where a very large delivery fleet (thousands of trucks ranging from class 3 thru class 8) talked about their success in rolling out telematics.

While they recognized that telematics could help them in hundreds of ways, they focused on one metric to start with and mastered that one thing, then moved on to another until it was mastered also.  Did they “leave money on the table” by not setting multiple goals in multiple areas?  They felt that if they had tried to tackle too many details all at once they might have failed in all areas.  By staying focused and working the incremental gain, they mastered their system and are getting amazing results (with plenty of ROI waiting in the wings, too.)

Communicating each “small win” to the team helps keep them motivated, too.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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More Drivers Testing Positive for Pot…

CDOT Drugged driving 1Several news reports have been published recently citing an apparent increase drivers testing positive for marijuana in Washington State since it was legalized in January.

According to Reuters:

In the first six months with pot legal in the state, 745 drivers stopped by police tested positive for the drug’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, in their blood, the data show.

Over half of those were over the state’s new legal limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

By contrast, in each of the last two full years, about 1,000 drivers who were pulled over tested positive for THC.

The increase comes despite the fact that recreational-use pot stores will not open in Washington state until next year.

Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said the findings, while preliminary, indicate more people may be driving impaired than was the case before Washington and Colorado in January became the first states to legalize recreational use of the drug.

Whether people are driving under the influence of pot, alcohol or prescription drugs, Calkins said, “It all comes back to a bad decision to drive while impaired.”

Interestingly, the number of people pulled over by the State Patrol (on suspicion of driving under the influence of EITHER drugs or alcohol) during the same time period was roughly the same as each of two prior years (they’re not pulling more people over, but more have been testing positive).

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A New York Daily News article that covers the situation in Washington State mentioned the following:

Washington State Patrol says it found THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, in the bloodstream of 745 drivers pulled over this year.

That’s a nine percentage point increase from where we were last year at this time, Sgt. Jason Hicks explained.

“It was previously illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana and it remains illegal,” Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told the Daily News.

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Distracted Driving Video from 1953!

Way back in 1953, National Safety Council produced a film on paying attention to the road — concentrating on the task at hand.  I doubt they could have imagined our electronic world would be placing so much pressure on drivers to text, talk, check maps, check emails, and surf the web while driving.

Its a quaint look backward, but it provides a strong message for today — we must focus on the road when driving!