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Operation Safe Driver Week is Ultimately Self Defeating

Operation Safe Driver Week is now upon us. While law enforcement such as highway patrol and the DOT as a whole will be extra careful to track driving habits of commercial vehicles. Come the 20th of July, there is a chance we will all be back to normal levels of enforcement, as if the week never happened. This raises the question: is it really worth it in the end?

Safety is a Full-Time Job

The purpose of all this work is to minimize injuries and casualties. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • There were 36,560 casualties related to automobile crashes in 2018, over 100 per day on average.
  • There were 885 fatalities in 2018 of people in large trucks. This is about 2 per day and 2.4% of all traffic crashes in 2018.
  • Compared to 2017, 2018 deaths dropped in general but rose for large trucks. In 2017, large trucks accounted for 2.3% of all traffic crashes.
  • Of all deaths resulting from collisions, 4,951 in 2018 involved a heavy truck, regardless of whether the victim was operating a heavy truck or not. This is 13.5% of all deaths, and (coincidentally) is about 13.5 people per day.
  • In a separate document from the NHTSA, large trucks made up 4.25% of all vehicles on the road in the USA in 2016. To compare for the same year, the total death percentage from collisions involving a heavy truck in 2016 was 12.3%.

Deaths involving a heavy truck as a percentage of all collision-related deaths are rising. Being 4.25% of all vehicles but being involved in 12.3%-13.5% is no joke, especially when heavy trucks have more weight to throw around in a crash.

So Why the Week?

Operation Safe Driver Week is a time where enforcement ramps up, but what happens the other 51 weeks? Do crashes not happen then?

Stopping all traffic-related fatalities is Sisyphean, even during Operation Safe Driver Week, but organizations can take steps to reduce the overall annual count, which is going down for other automobiles but is only going up for big rigs.

One such way would be to better enforce all year round. Operation Safe Driver week puts much higher scrutiny for a single week, but if a fleet wanted to avoid the mess, they could plan to take the week off. A four percent increase in enforcement of safety faults such as inoperative tail lights all year round would result in many fewer deaths than doubling enforcement for only a week.

Conclusion

It is hard to argue against the principles of Operation Safe Driver Week, but having a week-long inspection extravaganza is not a solution for the long term. Only through a consistent increase in monitoring safety hazards can heavy truck collisions and fatalities be reduced to be in line with other automobiles. Just as it takes more than a single week of healthy eating to lose and keep off weight; it is more effective to adopt small, long-term changes to keep roads safe.

What are your thoughts about Operation Safe Driver Week? Is it a good idea to make the roads safer? Let us know in the comments below!

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