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:

“Cross This Way”

New York City has embraced a traffic safety plan called “Vision Zero”.  This program aims to materially improve safety results through targeted education and enforcement.  From their website (click HERE):

…approximately 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and more than 250 are killed each year in traffic crashes. Being struck by a vehicle is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14, and the second leading cause for seniors. On average, vehicles seriously injure or kill a New Yorker every two hours.

This status quo is unacceptable. The City of New York must no longer regard traffic crashes as mere “accidents,” but rather as preventable incidents that can be systematically addressed. No level of fatality on city streets is inevitable or acceptable. This Vision Zero Action Plan is the City’s foundation for ending traffic deaths and injuries on our streets.

One of the tools introduced to help school children improve their knowledge of how to cross streets safely is a video presentation with a catchy tune and lyrics that emphasize good techniques.  Here’s the video:
The Vision Zero web page wisely states; “There is no silver bullet that will end traffic fatalities. But previous successes that have combined the efforts of people, their governments and private industries to save lives are not difficult to find.”  We agree.

Traffic safety (pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses, cyclists, et.al.) all share a responsibility to interact with each other in a respectful and responsible manner.  We each have a role to play in preventing collisions by obeying rules and learning how to better practice safe techniques.

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Please don’t become a “textpert”

A colleague sent me a link to an odd, funny and “catchy” video (embedded below) that features a pair of rappers who are trying to make a point to “the younger generation” of drivers:

…you may think that you’re an expert at texting while driving (a “textpert”), but you’re kidding yourself that your actions are somehow safe…

Take three minutes to watch the video below.  For some of us it may appear “silly” but if educational efforts make any impact on changing behavior in our teen and young adult drivers, I’m all for it.

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Summer = Road Construction

April showers may bring May flowers, but soon after comes road construction.

Highway work zones are typically seen as a frustration to motorists as they increase congestion and slow our normal commute or delay the start of our long-desired vacation.

For highway workers; however, the signs, cones and barrels provide a whisper thin line of defense separating fast moving traffic from bodily injuries.

Work Zone Awareness USDOT

According to a recent (4/7/2014) study by the Associated General Contractors of America (Click HERE) the danger is very real for both highway workers AND motorists passing through work zones:

Forty-five percent of highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year…Association officials added that the study found work zone crashes are more likely to kill vehicle operators and passengers than construction workers.

“There is little margin for error when you work within a few inches of thousands of fast-moving vehicles,” said Tom Case, the chair of the association’s national highway and transportation division and senior vice president of Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction. “As the data makes clear, not enough drivers are slowing down and staying alert near work sites.”

But Case suggested that the best way to improve safety was for motorists to be more careful while driving through highway work zones: “Ensuring proper work zone safety starts and ends with cautious drivers.”

While National Work Zone Awareness Week was conducted in early April, there’s never a bad time to review educational resources that may save a life.  To learn more about Work Zones check out this web page that is loaded with resources:  http://www.workzonesafety.org/news_events/awareness_week/2014

Wrong-Way Crashes

Imagine you are taking your family on a long distance vacation.  In the middle of the night, you see headlights in the distance and then, suddenly, you realize that the headlights are in your lane of a divided highway — coming straight at your car or van.  What can you do?

Thankfully, the number of head on collisions that occur on freeways is (statistically speaking) quite low; however, they often result in fatalities.

Common characteristics of these collisions include (but may not be limited to):

  • driver impairment,
  • confusion over on-off ramp signs, and
  • late night/early morning time periods when people are less alert and prone to mistakes.

Three fatal head-on collisions happened during the past week in Arizona.  Seven people have died, including an off-duty police officer.  All of these deaths were linked by cause — someone driving the wrong way on a divided or limited access highway.

You can investigate the particular details in a series of news reports:

The Arizona DOT has also issued a press release (Click Here) that addresses the concerns and safety issues of “Wrong-Way Drivers

Some ideas or tips that have been considered to address the issue include:

  • Re-positioning “Wrong-Way, Do Not Enter” signs to be closer to driver’s eye level
  • Installing red reflectors in the road way so that any driver trying to access an off-ramp would see the red reflectors at night and get a clue that they’re going up the wrong ramp
  • Install detectors at ramps that sense when a vehicle has gained access to a divided highway and is traveling in the wrong direction — then immediately send alerts to programmable billboard (alert) signs to warn drivers of the oncoming and errant driver
  • Educate drivers about the increased risks of driving at night – especially on Fridays and Saturdays when there is a statistical increase in drunk driving activity
  • Staying out of the far left lane except to pass since oncoming drivers will typically use that lane (they believe that they’re in the far right lane based on their direction of travel).
  • Be ready to move to the right (if it’s clear to do so) to evade oncoming traffic
  • Increase the efforts to crack down on drinking/drugged driving with ignition interlocks
  • Call in a report to 9-1-1 if you witness a “wrong-way” driver so that they can intervene or warn other motorists.

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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.

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Getting People to Change their Driving Habits

Following yesterday’s post about exploring fresh ways to address traffic safety culture, a colleague shared a link to an excellent blog called “Mobilizing the Region”   At this site (http://blog.tstc.org/2014/01/14/better-safety-education-campaigns-could-reduce-traffic-fatalities-in-the-united-states/) there’s a great article comparing the typical USA-based Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for traffic safety to those used elsewhere in the world.

Many of the US-based ads send a message of “DON’T GET CAUGHT“, implying that the unlawful, ill-advised behaviors and habits are fully expected and normal — just avoid detection and it’s OK.  Worse, some speeding PSAs send a message that speeding is OK, just expensive (if you can afford the fines, you’re somehow justified in speeding).

This past year a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted seven experiments. Two of them measured the behavior of drivers at four-way intersections and at crosswalks.  Conclusions?

  • “Drivers of more expensive cars are more likely to cut off other drivers and violate pedestrians’ right of way.” and
  • “Upper-class individuals’ relative independence from others and increased privacy in their professions may provide fewer structural constraints and decreased perceptions of risk associated with committing unethical acts.”

This seems to reinforce the PSAs who suggest the only reason to drive at or under the speed limit is if you can’t afford to pay the fine, but if you can afford it, set your own limit based on your wallet’s contents.

A recent article in Wall Street Journal “Should Wealthy Drivers Be Fined More for Speeding?” (January 12, 2014) discusses the emerging trend in Europe to base traffic safety fines on the net worth of the individual in order to curb reckless and aggressive driving habits.  The article suggests that “For a multimillionaire, a $100 speeding fine is simply a small price to pay for saving time on the road.” therefore, a rich Ferrari driver with a history of violations in Switzerland was recently given a $290,000 ticket–a world record. The article continues “Such fines, pegged to wealth, are becoming increasingly common in Europe. Germany, France, Austria and the Nordic countries are issuing higher speeding fines for wealthier drivers. In Germany, the maximum fine could be $16 million.

Do you think increasing fines (tied to personal worth) are feasible in the USA?  Would this approach make any difference or only confirm that driver safety culture can be bought at a price?  

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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Update: “Google Glass”

Link — The Next Big Traffic Safety Debate: Google Glass.

While we’ve previously posted on the “Google Glass” device and whether it might pose a traffic safety distraction, here’s an update.

A driver from San Diego, California, has been ticketed for driving while wearing “Google Glass”.  The citation references CA Vehicle Code Section 27602 which says you can’t drive while some form of visual display is operating and is located in front of the driver’s seat or is otherwise visible to you while driving. Although mapping displays and GPS systems are allowed under that law, determining where wearing Google Glass fits in requires parsing a host of technicalities.

Other emerging technologies (like smartphones that get worn like a wrist watch) could open up interpretations of current law or trigger the creation of new regulations.

Regardless, our concern is with the level of distraction actually posed and whether it contributes to such a level of risk to warrant specific legislation such as texting while driving.

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.

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