National Stop on Red Week

redlight cam pictureThe Federal Highway Safety Administration (FHWA) has selected the first week of August as “National Stop on Red Week”  This week is devoted to increasing public awareness of the dangers of red-light running through both education and enforcement activities.

This is an important tie-in to the start of the school season as well — children will be walking to school, along rural roads to bus pick up locations and crossing streets at intersections.  It is especially critical to reduce the frequency of red-light running to minimize collisions with pedestrians — especially school children.

To be as effective as possible, the FHWA encourages local communities to do their part in promoting this cause.  They’ve suggested ten specific ways to boost awareness of the issue that range from holding press conferences to setting up targeted enforcement areas.

The suggestion for employers to issue paycheck reminders (i.e. targeted messages to employees and their families) begs the larger question of how employers routinely educate their drivers (and office bound commuters, sales drivers, etc.) to obey traffic laws, signs and signals.

In the past, SafetyFirst has published Ten-Minute Training Topics on the dangers of red light running, and one of our very first Videos / Online training modules ever produced dealt with this issue, too.

FHWA provides additional information at this web site – http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/redlight/

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also has a page dedicated to red light running – http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/red-light-running/qanda#red-light-running

The Traffic Safety Coalition has produced a video to promote “National Stop on Red Week”:

Here are some more stunning videos of the aftermath of red light running:

Hidden Liabilities for Fleets

Wayne Smolda, President of CEI, offered the following provocative thoughts on his blog (bold added by us for emphasis):

On balance, technological advances are proving to be beneficial to fleets. Vehicles Ediscoveryare safer than ever before and get better fuel economy. When used properly, wireless communications are also helping fleets and their drivers to be more productive in such ways as plotting more efficient routes and enabling drivers to stay in closer touch with their organizations and customers. But there are two applications of wireless communications in the realm of traffic safety that I believe are having a potentially very nasty unintended consequence.

The applications are telematics and traffic cameras, and the unintended consequence is an all-but invisible increase in fleet liability…such systems are also capturing data that could reveal that some drivers are habitually speeding…the data being captured makes it possible for fleets to identify high-risk drivers. Yet, how many fleets are actually converting that data into actionable information…? I submit that many are not – even though the data resides in their computer systems.

A similar challenge comes from the proliferation of traffic safety cameras. Camera-redlight cam pictureissued tickets are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle, but in most cases that is the fleet, not the driver. That means that most of the violations don’t get recorded on one of the major tools fleets use for identifying high-risk drivers, their motor vehicle records. Unless fleets find a way to connect traffic camera violations to the drivers responsible, they are missing another opportunity to use the data they have to identify drivers they ought to reconsider trusting to operate a motor vehicle.

The very real gap in data leading to “compassionate interventions” to address safety issues can be easily overcome by using SafetyFirst’s “Safety Hotline” program and our “E-Another example of a blended scoreDriverFile” system.  Both programs capture telematics alerts AND automated traffic enforcement violations to present on a BLENDED RISK SCORE REPORT.

In fact, we’ve previously published an article showing a one-year decline in GPS speed alerts of 600% based on using our coaching processes to curb the risk taking behavior BEFORE it led to bigger problems.

YOU set the time frames and the score weighting for your own fleet operation, and you can also generate “violation only” scores versus “blended scores” — where one can be used to assign non-punitive training (via our new “SAFETY ZONE” learning management system with the industry’s newest, most provocative refresher modules, and the other can be used for Human Resources (i.e. disciplinary) purposes.

Copy of Copy of EDF LOGO (final)

Another Look at Red Light Cameras…

redlight cam pictureRecently, we posted an article (https://safetyismygoal.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/making-the-case-for-automated-enforcement-newark-nj/) about a success story for traffic safety in Newark, NJ – specifically about how they had selectively used automated red light cameras to help control and reduce pedestrian collisions.

The use of automated enforcement is not without controversy and another article has appeared – in TIME magazine – celebrating the relative explosion of automated enforcement and the grassroots backlash it has spawned.

I find it interesting that the article cites how “…the number of local red-light camera contracts awarded around the country has exploded, from 155 in 2005 to 689 last year.

Clearly, municipalities have bought into the concept either by networking about the success or by being contacted by equipment sales teams.  Think about it, the rewards of installing cameras are significant – fines are rolling out (since people won’t change their behavior without a stimulus) and more people are paying attention to spot the warning signs of a camera controlled intersection.  From a safety standpoint, the worst argument I’ve heard is that the total number of crashes (in aggregate) hasn’t gone down considerably, but the nature of the crashes has shifted from intersection meets to “rear-enders” when the first car stops short and the following car hits them.

Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of skepticism out there, too.

Fueling the doubt are stories like the one reported in the TIME article –

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that in June the city will be dropping its contract with Redflex, a Phoenix-based firm that operates 384 cameras in the city, due to what the Chicago Tribune described as “a $2 million bribery scheme involving the former Chicago official who oversaw the red light program for a decade.” Four Redflex executives resigned as a result of the scandal.

Its not surprising that some people might be tempted by all the money these systems tap….the cost of a red-light ticket in California can be as high as $480…and with millions of cars, trucks and buses on the highway, that’s a lot of dollars on an annualized basis.

Still, from a safety standpoint, enough studies have shown that lengthening the duration of the YELLOW light can make a huge impact (pardon the pun) on collisions AND violations at traffic signal controlled intersections.  A recent column at the Wall Street Journal stated;

In Tampa, hundreds appear to have received tickets because a busy yellow was set at three seconds when the state minimum is 4.5. In Georgia, after a new state law adding a second to the yellow, several towns canceled their camera programs as no longer profitable.

Regardless of automated enforcement, those fleets using our safety hotline program still receive reports of red light running (6 reports per day so far in 1Q2013 for just this category alone), and all sorts of risk-taking behaviors that would not normally show up on most GPS or electronic safety systems (tailgating = 55 times per day!).  This doesn’t detract from those electronic-on-board systems, but complements them with added insights, training, behavioral safety modifiers and more.

The TIME article can be viewed by clicking HERE.cropped-cars-rushing.jpg

Making the Case for Automated Enforcement – NEWARK, NJ

redlight cam pictureA recent article in the Star-Ledger by James Queally covered the release of a short video produced to make the case for automated enforcement (red light cameras) in the City of Newark, NJ. (To read the article, click HERE)

There are a number of factors that led to the City installing cameras at two crash-prone intersections (dubbed “Project Red Light” — more details available by clicking HERE).

One of the significant factors is the much greater than average percentage of residents who don’t own or operate a car.  The pedestrian traffic in downtown Newark increases the risk of pedestrians being hit or killed when motorists run red lights.

Preliminary reports show significant reductions in crashes at these intersections:

“Total crashes at the Project Red Light intersections have dropped 36%. Additionally, severe right-angle crashes, which are directly attributed to red light running, have been reduced by 42%.  Same direction crashes, such as rear-end collisions, were reduced by 25%…”

Of course, the program generates revenue for the City, as well.  According to the Star-Ledger article “Each ticket costs drivers $85, and Newark keeps $39.50 from each ticket.”  A June 2010 Star-Ledger article found the city issued 93,634 tickets in 2009, resulting in a nearly $2.8 million boon for the city.

Intersection Collisions – Time for a Fresh Approach?

sideswipe illustration FHWAIntersection collisions tend to be the ugliest, most prolific and deadliest of motor vehicle crash scenarios.  Statisticians and traffic safety experts could argue this point, but to the family of someone who died in a crosswalk, or while driving their car it’s a moot point as compared to the loss they’ve suffered.

Drivers can do their part by obeying speed limits, increasing their following distance, monitoring traffic signals more closely as they drive and by minimizing in-cabin distractions.  However, safety professionals have suggested two primary mechanisms to deal with intersections:  red-light cameras and roundabouts (aka “traffic circles”).  Each has its benefits and limitations or costs.

redlight cam pictureFirst, I’d like to address the popular use of red light camera devices.  A lot of stats have been thrown around the safety industry for the past decade.  Some argue that red light cameras significantly reduce the occurrence of the traditional intersection collision (i.e. T-bone collision where vehicle 1 runs into the midsection of vehicle 2 – typically on the driver’s side creating a fatal impact); therefore we should aggressively pursue the expansion of these systems.  Others argue that there’s been an increase of “rear end collisions” where vehicle 1 suddenly brakes to avoid running the red light (which has just changed from yellow) and vehicle 2 (which was following too closely) impacts vehicle 1 (sometimes pushing it into cross traffic); therefore, we shouldn’t expand the use of these systems.

In actuality, both of these conditions can exist simultaneously.  Federal studies suggest that, at camera controlled intersections, certain types of collisions decrease and others increase.  When examined clinically, the trade off (and more arguing) is that the decreases exceed the increases in terms of economic impact and lives saved.

Fueling this debate over the efficacy of the camera systems is the suspicion that government officials are mainly motivated to install the cameras as a revenue generation scheme rather than genuine motivation to improve public safety.  If both goals can be achieved without unethical means such as shortening the length of the yellow indication to “trap” more motorists in the intersection, then why not reap both benefits of safety and revenue?

Still, the headlines typically focus on the money collected (often millions of dollars per year) rather than the lives saved, but that’s controlled by the press, not the families affected by the installation.

Over the past two years there has been an economic downturn that has made many governments consider ways to increase revenue and many have been looking at automated enforcement programs.

A recent article published by kmov.com (a tv station in St. Louis, Mo.) titled; “Jefferson County bans red light cameras, seeks safety alternatives” states:

“Another local community is doing away with red light cameras…It’s a backward trend from what we had been seeing over the years as city after city raced to install the cameras. The Missouri Department of Transportation recently studied 55 red light camera intersections and found an overall 14% increase in accidents.  A Jefferson County councilman says in fact, at the intersection of Richardson and Vogel Roads, accidents nearly quadrupled since the cameras were installed…councilman Bob Boyer says the cameras, which are meant to change drivers’ behavior, aren’t working as promised.  He points to statistics that red light runners in Arnold nearly doubled in the past five years. “Last year alone we had 9,400 people running red lights,” Boyer says.  “Anybody with common sense can see that if you have that many people running red lights, there’s obviously a safety issue there.” But instead of cameras, Boyer met with MODOT to make yellow lights run longer. “That showed that if you increase yellow light times by one second, you have a 40 percent reduction in red light running,” Boyer says.  He hopes other cities — and the state — will get on board.  Right now two bills to ban automated enforcement state-wide are currently working their way through the Missouri legislature.”

I haven’t seen or heard of similar studies where lengthening the duration of the yellow indication would cut red light running crashes, but it is an interesting idea.  The duration of the yellow (or “amber”) indication is set by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a Federal publication.  Some of the factors in determining the ‘amber time’ of traffic signals include the width of the road, number of lanes, whether the road is curved, and the prevailing speed of traffic through the intersection.

wb banner traf circleAnother mechanism to reduce fatalities is the roundabout or “traffic circle”.

This roadway design’s popularity has swung like a pendulum:  communities have spent a lot of money to remove roundabouts in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but many are now investing in restoring them or building new ones.

Honestly, I’m not convinced that one solution (roundabout versus intersection) is universally better or worse than the other.  I think that’s been the problem – people are eager to find a “solution” and apply it everywhere.  There are locations, based on traffic density, surrounding businesses, and other factors, which would probably be much better suited to one approach over the other.  I don’t claim to be a traffic expert or a roadway design engineer; however, there’s a lot of ground that can be covered by applying “common sense” and logic.

The “bottom line” for me is saving lives trumps annoying drivers.  Traffic safety results are everyone’s responsibility – not just governments, police departments, insurance carriers, corporations or big trucking companies.  Everyone who walks, rides a bike, drives a car to the office or something bigger for their job (i.e. a commercial, professional driver) has to do their own part.  At the same time, we need to keep on top of developments like camera systems, roundabouts and longer amber times on traffic signals in case these can cut crashes.

If you want to learn more about SafetyFirst and our approach to helping companies cut crashes, call us (1-888-603-6987) or check out our main web site (www.safetyfirst.com).  We provide those blue and white “Safety is my goal” stickers for company vehicles.  The calls we process are turned into coaching sessions with training for affected drivers – not because they’re bad drivers, but because they (like us all) occasionally slip into bad habits and need a wake up call that’s less severe than a ticket or crash.  It’s simple, it’s proven effective, and it’s far less costly than the alternatives.

Here are some recent news articles on this topic (I’m not responsible for their content, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, legal stuff….)