Posted June 17, 2024

Why Operation Safe Driver Week Matters

By Gigi Tino

Every year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) conducts an annual enforcement and awareness initiative known as Operation Safe Driver Week. The event focuses on improving the driving behaviors of both commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers and passenger vehicle drivers through heightened enforcement of traffic laws and increased educational outreach. This year’s Operation Safe Driver Week is only a little ways away, scheduled for July 7th through the 13th. Operation Safe Driver Week often has specific focus areas each year based on prevalent issues or trends in traffic safety. The focus for this year is reckless, careless, or dangerous driving. As always, this event is crucial for truckers to understand, prepare for, and participate actively.

Operation Safe Driver Week is a collaborative effort involving CVSA, law enforcement agencies, industry stakeholders, and safety organizations working together to promote road safety and prevent accidents. Reckless driving is defined by the CVSA as “any person who drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” A vast number of bad actions can fall under this definition. Law enforcement agencies across North America will be on a heightened lookout for drivers engaging in risky behaviors such as speeding, distracted driving, aggressive driving, and other violations of traffic laws.

Truck drivers are crucial ambassadors for this event's message. The event presents a valuable opportunity for professional truckers to reiterate their commitment to safety and showcase their dedication to responsible and conscientious driving. Truck driving is among the most dangerous professions, with a high incidence of injuries and fatalities on the road each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 42,795 fatal traffic crashes in the United States in 2022. Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows 5,904 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2021, an 18% increase from 2020. However, many traffic accidents are preventable with the right safety protocols and smart driving habits in place.

Distracted driving is a notorious form of reckless driving involving any activity that diverts attention from the road, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, or adjusting your vehicle’s entertainment or navigation system. Although distracted driving has been an issue since the beginning of motor vehicles, the advent of smartphones and other technological advancements has skyrocketed safety concerns. Data from the NHTSA shows that in 2022, 3,308 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. To better put the danger into perspective, the average text can take a person’s eyes off the road for five seconds. When driving at a speed of 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. It only takes a split second for something to change, such as a vehicle ahead coming to a sudden stop, animals wandering into the road, or debris falling in your path. Not to mention, a semi-truck traveling at 65 mph can take five to six seconds (525 feet) to come to a complete stop safely. That is why every moment on the road deserves your undivided attention!

Another area of concern during Operation Safe Driver Week is the adherence to speed limits. Speeding, a common type of reckless driving, significantly increases the likelihood of accidents, especially for vehicles as large and heavy as trucks. For over 20 years speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. In 2022, the NHTSA found that speeding was a contributing factor in 29% of all traffic fatalities. Furthermore, according to research from the Institute For Safer Trucking, there has been a 67% increase in fatal crashes involving large trucks from 2010 to 2022. The number of trucks involved in fatal crashes on roads with a 65 mph speed limit increased by 58% in that time frame, while there was an even more staggering increase of 440% for roads with 75 mph or more speed limits. Their data also shows a 78% increase in fatal crashes with trucks due to traveling too fast for conditions, compared to a 3% decline for other vehicles. These statistics speak to a dire need for comprehensive speed management and enforcement strategies for the heaviest vehicles on our roads. Truck drivers must be mindful of their speed, allowing enough time to reach their destinations safely without risking the well-being of themselves and others!

Preparation is key for professional truck drivers as they gear up for Operation Safe Driver Week. Taking the time to ensure their vehicles are in top condition, reviewing and adhering to regulations, updating logs and records, and refreshing their knowledge of safety protocols are all essential steps for truck drivers to take. Although truckers should be cautious drivers at any time of the year, eyes will be watching the actions of truckers with elevated scrutiny throughout the week. By dedicating yourself to these preparations, you can contribute to a safer operation during this critical week and avoid any citations.

Operation Safe Driver Week is a vital initiative that underscores the importance of safe driving practices. A week dedicated to safety awareness and enforcement can significantly reduce the number of accidents and promote a culture of safety on the road. For truckers, this event is an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to safety and professionalism. Safe driving not only protects lives but also enhances the reputation of truck drivers and the trucking industry as a whole. By preparing adequately and adhering to safety guidelines, you can contribute to a safer driving environment, avoid penalties, and uphold the professional standards of the trucking industry. Stay safe and drive responsibly!