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Are Our Highways Safe Enough?

02/02/10

Are Our Highways Safe Enough?

  03:43:33 pm, Categories: regulations , Tags: safe roads

In 2007, 41,259 people were killed in traffic accidents. In 2008, 37,261 people died in traffic accidents. That's a 9.7% decrease in fatalities according to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) Traffic Safety Facts published in June 2009. In this same report, the first quarter of 2009 saw 7,689 deaths while the same quarter in 2008 saw 8,451 deaths – a continued drop of 9.0%.

What about the transportation industry? What role, if any, have we had to play in this decline in traffic fatalities?

According to the Fatalities Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Query System, 4,301 fatalities were truck related in 2007, while only 3,787 fatalities were truck related in 2008. This is a 13.5% decrease in truck-related deaths. The transportation industry is getting involved in making our highways safer for not just truck traffic but for all traffic. How can we help make this trend continue?

What are the great concerns we, as the transportation industry must continue to work on to make these statistics drop even further?

There are three major issues on our highways today that need to be addressed:

  1. Driver fatigue. Following the existing DOT regulations for legal driving times and getting the required amounts of sleep is the #1, most imperative action that must be eliminated by drivers and those who dispatch them. This includes keeping accurate and legal logs. The days of fudging, carrying two log books, etc are in the past. As an industry, we must lead the way to reduce driver fatigue.
  2. Cell phone usage. The fact that cell phones are a distraction is well known. Many states have outlawed the use of cell phones while driving. But that isn't the worst part of cell phones. There is a new menace besides just talking on cell phones – texting while driving.
    Is texting a bad thing? No, texting is a fantastic technological breakthrough for getting information to and from drivers in a timely manner without wasting a lot of time 'talking' on the phone. But when a driver is reading or answering a text he has just received, he is less able to maintain control of his vehicle even more than an alcohol impaired driver.
    CNN.COM reported on Jul 31, 2009 that "A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study … showed truck drivers are 23 times more likely to be in a crash if they're texting, and several fatal accidents have been blamed on drivers or train operators who were distracted by texting."
  3. Alcohol consumption. Alcohol and drug use have been the bane on our highways since the first accident in the days of horse and buggy. For some unknown reason, we as human beings think we are not impaired after we have had "one for the road". The statistics could go on and on about the effects alcohol and drugs have on driver impairment, but we won't go into them here. Suffice it to say, the transportation industry must do all it can to help eradicate drinking and driving.

Are our roads, byways and highways safer than they were 10 years ago? Yes, they are. But are they safe enough? As long as one person is killed on our highways in a preventable accident the answer is no. The transportation industry needs to be applauded for the strides we have made in making our roads better and safer. But now is not the time to sit back on our laurels and relax. We must continue to lead the way in safer and more efficient equipment and in safer and more focused drivers.

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

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