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Operation Safe Driver Week 2021: July 11-17

Safe driving is a topic that should always stay front of mind – for commercial fleets and personal driving – it is a growing nationwide concern. This week we spotlight Operation Safe Driver Week July 11th – 17th,  promoted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

As the nation continues back into a sense of normalcy off the heels of the pandemic, travel is at the top of the list for many throughout the country this summer. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimated that nearly 50 million Americans traveled during the past July 4th weekend, with 43.6 million of those traveling by car – a staggering 87%. This equates to the second highest volume of travelers ever recorded over an Independence Day weekend in history. These figures indicate an increase of nearly 40% over last year’s pandemic-stricken 4th of July holiday weekend, the lowest level of travel in decades with just over 34 million travelers hitting the road.

If relying on logic, one would assume that the number of traffic related fatalities would’ve fallen during the pandemic based simply on the reduction of number of vehicles on the road and less miles driven, especially taking into consideration a record plunge in unemployment and months and months of many employees working from home. Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) decreased by 430.2 billion miles (reduction of 13.2% from 2019) according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2020, yet there was an increase in fatalities overall.  In fact, 2020 results produced the highest number of fatalities since 2007. Although quantifying data to specific cause of death can be difficult given the variables such weather and other distractions, the analysis completed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows the main behaviors that drove this increase year-over-year include impaired driving, speeding, distracted driving & failure to wear a seat belt. 

With the average weight of a vehicle in the U.S registering at 4,094 lbs. (U.S. EPA)., when adding the law of inertia, one can understand how severe of an impact a vehicle accident can be on both individuals and companies alike. Hence increasing emphasis on Operation Safe Driver Week, in an attempt to yield increased attention from law enforcement centered on passenger and commercial vehicles engaging in risky driving behaviors.

According to CVSA president Sgt. John Samis with the Delaware State Police, “Data shows that traffic stops and interactions with law enforcement help reduce problematic driving behaviors”.  There will likely be less flexibility given to drivers engaging in such behaviors during this targeted safe driver week.  Instead of warnings, tickets will be on the mind of law enforcement, which tend to encourage higher compliance to road and traffic laws.  Think of the time you received a ticket for speeding on a certain roadway or not coming to a complete stop at an intersection.  Then think of your driving habits for the period immediately following that infraction.  Most people tend to be more cognizant of traffic laws after such ticketing offenses – tickets often serve as a great reminder to obey traffic laws and signals when behind the wheel.

Understanding we all have the ability to “control of what we can control”, take this time to assess your driving habits and address any at-risk behaviors that can lead to accidents and injuries. Simple reminders including keeping distractions such as cell phone at bay or utilizing features such as “Do Not Disturb” while driving should be considered.  Remember to slow your speed during inclement weather – heavy rain and wet roads create increased hazards. Lastly, better planning your trips to always allow additional time for traffic delays.

For questions or assistance on driving related questions and concerns, please reach out to Dana Vorholt, Director of Risk Engineering at dvorholt@sentinelra.com.

Dana Vorholt earned his Master’s degree in Safety and Environmental Management from West Virginia University, and is an accredited Associate of Risk Management. As Director of Risk Engineering, Dana’s professional passion puts Sentinel clients on the path to workplace safety, compliance and optimal profitability. Vorholt is widely known and well respected in the loss control arena. He provides workplace and occupational safety guidance and training, assuring compliance standards are met for businesses with a diverse set of operational risk portfolios.