Posted June 13, 2022

Operation Safe Driver Week - Tips for Becoming a Safer Driver

By Sarah Mehlert

In an effort to encourage safe driving and prevent fatal traffic crashes, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will be conducting Operation Safe Driver Week from July 10-16, 2022 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Law enforcement throughout these countries will be on the lookout for risky driving behaviors even more so than usual, and will be issuing warnings and citations for commercial motor vehicle drivers and passenger vehicle drivers engaging in such behaviors. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was a 17% increase in speeding-related fatalities in the U.S. in 2020, and an overall increase in fatal car crashes of 6.8%, compared to 2019. Since data has shown that traffic stops and interactions with law enforcement can reduce risky driving behaviors, law enforcement hopes this week of increased efforts will reduce the occurrences of these behaviors, such as speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving and drivers not wearing their seat belts, to make our roadways safer.

As a commercial driver, it is important to not only prepare for Operation Safe Driver Week, but to create safe driving habits that are consistent year-round. Truck driving is one of the most dangerous professions, with a high number of injuries and fatalities on the road every year. However, many traffic accidents are preventable with the right safety protocols. Below are some safe driving tips to protect you and other drivers on the road, as well as prevent you from getting costly traffic tickets, especially during Operation Safe Driver Week.

Pay Attention to Your Speedometer

The sheer size and weight of your truck makes it more difficult to maneuver than a typical passenger vehicle. While it may be more difficult to accelerate uphill, trucks can gain a lot of speed going downhill. Make sure you are paying close attention to truck speed limits in the area you are driving in, and when in doubt, slow down. Speeding is one of the most frequent causes of crashes for both commercial motor vehicles and passenger vehicles. Make sure you are frequently checking your vehicle speed and adjusting based on road conditions and curves in the road, which can cause speeding trucks to flip over. Speed limits are put into place for good reason, and when you go above that limit, you are more likely to lose control of your vehicle and you increase your stopping distance. Should you get into a crash, you are also increasing the severity of that crash.

Practice Defensive Driving

Defensive driving can be an extremely useful tool to prevent accidents. There are certain techniques you can adopt that will improve your safety on the road as well as others’ around you. Defensive driving is a form of driving where you are constantly identifying potential hazards in order to avoid them. Some of the key techniques of defensive driving include consistently checking your mirrors and blind spots, especially when changing lanes, staying calm and not engaging in any sort of road rage, following at a safe distance, and paying close attention to changing road conditions. Blind spots alone are responsible for a high number of accidents every year, so it is crucial to be looking over your shoulder and out your window when switching lanes, and not relying solely on your mirrors. These simple acts can reduce your likelihood of an accident greatly and are just in general good driving habits to implement to avoid traffic tickets and unsafe situations.

Don’t Drive Distracted

Distracted driving took the lives of 3,142 people in 2020, according to NHTSA, and according to the FMCSA, is the number one cause of accidents for truck drivers. Distracted driving can be defined as partaking in any activity that takes your attention and your eyes away from the road, including texting or talking on the phone, eating or drinking, putting music on the stereo and more. All of these things prevent you from focusing on safe driving and increase your likelihood of getting into an accident. Using your cell phone while driving is one of the most common forms of distracted driving, and one of the most dangerous. If you must take a phone call or text, make sure you do so when you are safely pulled over and the vehicle is not in motion. You can also try putting your phone on “do not disturb”, or another similar setting designed for driving, which will prevent non-emergency texts and calls from coming through and tempting you to look at them.

Wear Your Seat Belt

Wearing your seat belt at all times is one of the easiest things you can do to practice safe driving. The NHTSA reported that of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants that were killed in 2020, 51% were not wearing their seat belts. Not only is it relatively easy for law enforcement officers to spot drivers that are not wearing their seat belt, thus prompting them to pull you over and write you an expensive ticket, wearing your seat belt can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 60%. Make it a habit to buckle up as soon as you get into your vehicle every time. It’s also important to educate yourself on proper seat belt wearing in order to maximize its effectiveness. The lap belt should be secured across the pelvis and should rest on your hips, and the shoulder belt should be secured across the rib cage, resting in the middle of your chest and away from your neck. You should never put the shoulder belt behind your back or arm, as it can cause serious injury. Not wearing your seat belt or wearing it improperly can put you at high risk for fatality or serious injury in a crash, and it will be one of the key things law enforcement officers are looking for during Operation Safe Driver Week.

Never Drive Under the Influence

While this tip is pretty self-explanatory, it’s worth mentioning that in the United States, someone dies of drunk driving once every 45 minutes. This number has increased 14% from 2019; drunk driving is inarguably one of the riskiest driving behaviors. Impaired driving should be avoided at all costs, whether it is alcohol or a prescription drug that impairs your judgment. The minute you get behind the wheel while you are under the influence, you are not only putting your job and livelihood at risk, you are also risking your own life as well as every other person’s on the road. Drunk driving accidents are entirely preventable, and it is up to all of us to avoid driving when we are impaired.

Operation Safe Driver Week is an opportunity to reduce preventable fatalities on the road and instill safe driving habits in drivers everywhere. This year from July 10-16, law enforcement will be looking for drivers not following the tips mentioned above and will be ready to write them warnings or citations. Make sure you are prepared not only for this week of increased scrutiny, but also to keep up these habits year-round in order to make our roadways safer and prevent you from getting traffic violation tickets. Safe driving benefits everyone, and together we can lower the number of crashes, deaths and injuries caused by risky driving behaviors. Commercial truck driving is a great responsibility, and precautions must be taken to ensure our roadways are safe for everyone.