TORONTO, Ont. – Speed kills, and it’s one of the reasons why the issue is once again a focus of Operation Safe Driver Week – a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) initiative that begins July 12.
“Speed continues to be a factor in at least quarter of all fatality crashes,” says Chris Turner, CVSA’s director of crash and data programs. “It doesn’t mean speeding was necessarily the cause, but speeding was identified by at least one of the vehicles in a collision.”
Given that, it’s not too surprising that the alliance decided last September to repeat the same focus that was in place last year. But Covid-19 has made it particularly relevant because of the higher speeds that have emerged in the midst of lighter traffic volumes.
“Generally we’ve seen the crashes have gone down but the fatality rates have not,” Turner says, referring to cases of stunt driving and street racing that have involved speeds above 100 mph (160 kmh).
During 21 years as an enforcement officer, he stopped no more than a couple of cars doing speeds like that.
While Operation Safe Driver Week has a commercial focus, much of the attention is on the way other vehicles act around trucks.
“One of the things that all truck drivers know — and all of us who work in crash-related fields — is that generally, when a commercial motor vehicle or a large truck crashes, it is not their fault. Generally speaking it is the fault of another four wheel vehicle around that commercial motor vehicle,” he says.
“We’ve known that since the Large Truck Crash Causation Study in 2003, and every data set from states or national studies continuing through today has shown that consistently to be true.”
Speed isn’t the only factor to be addressed, though. About 94% of all crashes are linked to driver behaviors like failing to use a turn signal, pulling out in front of a truck too soon, passing when it’s unsafe, or following in a truck’s blindspot, Turner says.
“Unfortunately now we’ve seen the trend line for drug impairment, and even specifically drug impairment in commercial motor vehicles, on an upward trend line that is really consistent and almost mirroring the number of fatalities and crashes.”
The enforcement veteran has heard anecdotally that some truck drivers choose to book vacation time around Operation Safe Driver Week. But he’s encouraging drivers to stay on the job, and actually participate in the blitz.
“This week is the week we’re stopping vehicles who are making a poor driving decision around your commercial motor vehicle. This is the week you should feel the safest,” he says.
“Every time you’ve wondered, ‘Where’s a cop when I need one, to stop this person who just cut me off?’ we’re out there next week, actively looking for those folks to do our very best to keep you safe. Partner with us. Wave us down.”
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