The November 2013 issue of Traffic Safety Facts, published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contains some interesting statistics. Since transportation incidents account for the highest percentage of workplace deaths these numbers could be helpful to safety specialists, fleet managers, and just about anyone who drives a car.
As can be seen by the above figure, the total number of fatalities in 2012 rose slightly over the previous year, the first time this has occurred since 2005. 33,561 people lost their lives in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This represents a 3.3% increase from 2011. However, when those numbers are broken down further here is what we see:
- Both the fatality rate and the injury rate increased over 2011; 3.6% and 6.7% respectively.
- Fatal crashes involving large trucks increased 3.7%
- Total alcohol-impaired driving fatalities rose 3.3%
This seems to be all bad news; however, these are changes just from 2011 to 2012. If we look at the bigger picture and compare data from a longer time frame the numbers are certainly more encouraging. For example, 2012 had fewer fatalities than any other year back to 1963 with the exception of 2011.
The composition of fatalities has also changed significantly over the years. As you can see here, vehicle occupants represent a much smaller percentage of the fatalities in 2012 than they did in 2003. This speaks to the improved safety systems and increased seat belt usage in our vehicles today. Unfortunately, a higher percentage of motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are killed than in 2003.
So, what does all this mean? Driving a vehicle is still likely the most hazardous activity we all do each day. Since the numbers went up from 2011 to 2012 we should take this very seriously; someone dies from a vehicle accident in this country every 16 minutes.
There are steps we can take to decrease the odds of becoming the next statistic.
- Driver training is often forgotten… after all, we all know how to drive, right? Reviewing the basics of speed, following distance, braking technique, driving in adverse weather, distracted driving, and vehicle maintenance issues can be very helpful for any driver regardless of age or experience. Remind employees that arriving safely, even a little late, is far better than risking a crash by speeding, tailgating, or driving aggressively.
- Review your electronic device policy for drivers. Every effort should be made to ensure people are not distracted by cell phones calls or texting while driving. Keep in mind it really doesn’t matter if the phone is handheld or hands free; the cognitive distraction of the conversation is the real hazard.
- Vehicle maintenance is critical for safe operation. Drivers of company vehicles should be completing daily pre-trip inspections and all organizations should have routine maintenance schedules. Tire pressures and tread wear are one of the most important factors in vehicle control so keep a close eye on those.