In an effort to reduce crashes involving trucks, buses and passenger vehicles alike, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is joining with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and other organizations to target aggressive and distracted drivers of all vehicles on the highway in a national enforcement and education effort to run Oct. 18-24.
“It’s been a continual challenge over the years to broadly address the driver issues because we’ve traditionally thought of the car driver as a completely separate entity from truck and bus drivers,” Stephen Keppler, CVSA interim executive director, told FleetOwner. “Yet all of them operate together, simultaneously, on the same roadways.”
Keppler noted that 73% of all large truck crashes involve multiple vehicles, which is why car drivers are being targeted in CVSA’s latest enforcement and education efforts. “That’s why we need to broaden our net to influence overall driver behavior, and why we’re engaging with other organizations to do this,” he explained.
Those other groups include: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Governors Highway Safety Association, American Trucking Associations, United Motorcoach Association, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the National District Attorneys Association.
Car drivers are being added to this effort is because they are the “trigger” for the majority of truck-car crashes, noted Francis “Buzzy” France, CVSA’s new president.
“Better than 50% of truck-car crashes are caused by the car drivers,” he told FleetOwner. “And in a truck-car collision, the severity is more heavily felt by the car driver than the truck operator. They are more at risk, which is why we need to address their behavior behind the wheel.”
France, a member of the Maryland State Police’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, said younger drivers especially are far more at risk, as they are more prone to speed and use a cell phone or engage in texting while driving – all behaviors that vastly increase crash risks.
Keppler noted that a recent analysis of NHTSA’s FARS [fatality analysis reporting system] data between 2003 and 2007 by CVSA found that 26.2% of all truck-car collision deaths involved drivers between the ages of 16 and 25. “When you discover that over a quarter of all fatalities in these types of crashes are young people, holy cow, you’ve got to do something,” he stressed.
That’s why a new component of the Operation Safe Driver program this year takes the issue of aggressive and distracted driving by car drivers around large truck and buses directly to teenagers across the country, Keppler pointed out.
Many schools will be teaching teenagers about the risks of dangerous driving behavior during the week of Oct. 18-24, concentrating on the unsafe driving practices of drivers who share the road with large commercial vehicles – part of a “Teens and Trucks” training course developed by the Arizona Trucking Association, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, CVSA, FMCSA and ATA.
“This year’s campaign takes the importance of highway safety directly to our young people so they can adopt safe driving habits for a lifetime of safe driving practices,” added Rose McMurray, FMCSA’s acting deputy administrator. “That will help Operation Safe Driver convey the message that every driver behind the wheel of a vehicle has a personal responsibility to make our highways as safe as they can be.”