Safety campaign spots worrisome traffic trends

A hefty increase in moving traffic warnings and citations for both motorists and commercial vehicle drivers alike during the third annual Operation Safe Driver campaign, conducted Oct. 18-24, highlights a dire need for more outreach on safety issues

A hefty increase in moving traffic warnings and citations for both motorists and commercial vehicle drivers alike during the third annual Operation Safe Driver campaign, conducted Oct. 18-24, highlights a dire need for more outreach on safety issues, according to the event’s primary sponsor, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

Out of the 20,198 commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver traffic enforcement contacts conducted during the campaign, CVSA said 6,887 warnings (0.34 per contact) and 8,067 citations (0.40 per contact) were issue. That’s almost a doubling of warnings alone compared to 2008, when out of 16,784 contacts, 3,247 warnings (0.19 per contact) and 6,143 citations (0.37 per contact) were issued.

“It’s disappointing to see that driver behavior did not improve,” Steve Keppler, CVSA’s interim executive director, told Fleet Owner. “What’s leading to this increase, though, is hard to pinpoint. Overall, highway crashes and fatalities are declining, yet poor driver behaviors are increasing – not just among truck and motorcoach operators, mind you, but car drivers as well.”

For example, he noted that out of 10,928 non-CMV driver traffic enforcement contacts conducted during Operation Safe Driver this year, 3,818 warnings (0.35 per contact) and 10,365 citations (0.95 per contact) were issued. By contrast, in 2008, out of 11,151 contacts, 1,808 warnings (0.16 per contact) and 8,405 citations (0.75 per contact) were issued.

“The data says to me that everyone driving on the roads today is in a hurry and we just don’t appreciate safe driving behaviors; that we still take driving for granted,” Keppler said. “Also, the vast improvement in truck safety systems, I think, gives commercial drivers a false sense of security. But no matter the technological improvements, at the end of the day, it’s ultimately the driver’s responsibility to operate the vehicle in a manner that improves highway safety.”

Keppler stressed, however, that improvements were seen in both drivers and vehicles regarding the number of out-of-service (OOS) violations and citations issued per roadside inspections of commercial vehicles during the three-day Operation Safe Driver blitz, which involved 5,231 law enforcement personnel at 1,177 locations across the U.S. and Canada.

Out of 30,294 CMV roadside inspections conducted during this year’s campaign, 5.4% resulted in the driver being placed out-of-service, compared to a 5.3% rate out of 32,708 inspections in 2008, with 26.1% of the Level I Inspections resulting in the vehicle being placed out of service.

Yet, digging into that data shows the averages dropped significantly in 2009’s campaign compared to last year. CMV drivers averaged 0.44 violations per roadside inspection this year (0.43 in 2008), with 0.08 OOS violations per roadside inspection (0.14 in 2008) and 0.04 citations per roadside inspection (0.08 in 2008). Commercial vehicles averaged 1.12 violations per roadside inspection this year (0.74 in 2008), with 0.19 OOS violations per roadside inspection (0.38 in 2008), and 0.05 citations per roadside inspection (0.11 in 2008).

“While we are making progress in some areas, the data show that we still have some work to do,” said Keppler. “Law enforcement officers also are acutely aware that education is a core component of enhancing highway safety, and in this regard, are being more proactive in their efforts.”

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