According to FMCSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, 87% of commercial vehicle crashes are due to driver behaviors. Data from NHTSA indicates that for light vehicles this number is 94%. Still other research indicates up to 75% of the time in multi-vehicle crashes between cars and trucks, the fault belongs to the casual motorist.
To help combat this epidemic, law enforcement across North America conducts Operation Safe Driver. This week-long enforcement blitz targeting the unsafe driving behaviors of commercial and the passenger vehicle drivers driving unsafely around them.
The event is coordinated by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), an organization whose members include commercial motor vehicle law enforcement, motor carriers and other industry stakeholders. This year’s Operation Safe Driver week is scheduled for July 9-15, 2023, and has several key objectives:
- Target unsafe driving behaviors by passenger vehicle drivers and commercial drivers
- Educate youth about safely sharing the roads with large trucks and buses
- Offer commercial driver educational and awareness programs to the motor carrier population
- Increase awareness to the general motoring public about safe operations around commercial motor vehicles
- Aim to improve commercial motor driver regulatory compliance
- Conduct passenger vehicle and commercial motor vehicle traffic enforcement initiatives
The focus of this event will, once again, be on speeding. It was chosen, in part, because the latest annual traffic crash data (2021) found speed-related fatalities increased by 7.9% in 2020, despite a reduction in average vehicle miles traveled among all drivers.
Speeding continues to be one of the most often cited driver-related factors in highway fatal crashes, along with impairment and driver distraction. CVSA also chose to focus on speeding because it supports the Biden administration’s National Roadway Safety Strategy which incorporates the Safe System Approach to focus on both human mistakes and human vulnerabilities.
During Operation Safe Driver, state and provincial agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico will be increasing traffic enforcement efforts by patrolling highways looking for unsafe driving activity. In addition to speeding, law enforcement will be on the lookout for other dangerous behaviors such as distracted driving, following too close, improper lane changes, impaired driving and failure to wear a safety belt. These driving behaviors are those most-often linked with crashes and fatalities, as documented in the American Transportation Research Institute’s Crash Predictor Study.
Given the traffic enforcement focus during Operation Safe Driver Week, truck drivers found to be operating unsafely can expect to be pulled over on the shoulder of the road versus being inspected at a weigh station. These locations can be an unsafe environment for both the driver and the officer, and once stopped, drivers should wait in their truck for the officer to approach the vehicle. Officers need to see the drivers’ hands as they approach so it’s strongly recommended that drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel when the officer approaches the vehicle.
Additionally, respect toward the officer goes a long way to making a traffic stop a smoother event for the driver. Traffic stops can be frustrating since it interrupts drivers’ schedules and might delay them on their routes, but during this event, police officers are working to ensure highway safety for everyone involved, including themselves and the non-commercial drivers around them. CVSA has created a number of helpful educational outreach materials to assist carriers for engaging with their drivers.
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