In the last year, many have stayed in and limited their travel. Whether it was going from one state to another or visiting friends in the same city, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to stay still and lessen our mobility. Both commercial and non-professional drivers are no longer used to hours of traffic and daily road congestion. Mapping and navigation company TomTom found that Minneapolis, Nashville, and San Francisco experienced the most days of reduced congestion. The National Safety Council’s (NSC) manager of statistics, Ken Kolosh, reports that Americans drove 13% fewer miles in 2020. Apart from roads with more space and faster travel times for truck drivers, the trucking industry adjusted to new safety and health protocols like staying inside during vehicle loading and issuing electronic receipts to avoid contact.
Despite the spacious roads and reduced congestion, the National Safety Council reports that 426,060 people died from vehicle crashes in 2020. Even 4.8 million were injured from crashes in 2020. The injuries and deaths increased despite having fewer people on the road. The main causes behind this surge? Distracted driving and reckless behavior. The Insurance Information Institute attributes 9% of fatal crashes to distracted drivers. The reckless drivers abused the wider spaces, causing more fatalities despite the stay-at-home orders, according to Michael Hanson, director of the Minnesota Public Safety Department Office of Traffic Safety.
Most states have lifted mask mandates and eased restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals. California is now enjoying a fully reopened economy that no longer requires physical distances and implements more relaxed mask rules. Connecticut is no longer requiring masks outdoors and indoors for vaccinated individuals, while also opening retail, entertainment, offices, places of worship, and restaurants. The return to normal is increasing road traffic, congestion, and the demand for commercial vehicles. With more people on the road, fleet safety managers, drivers, and commercial vehicle drivers need to drive defensively and pay attention.
How can your fleet company prepare drivers as the US economy reopens this month? Here’s what you need to emphasize and for your drivers to focus on once they’re deployed in different areas:
Speeding is a common mistake that endangers many lives on the road. Going a little over the limit may seem harmless, but the NHTSA reports that it has killed 9,378 people. With such a large number from a pre-pandemic year, there’s a likelihood non-professional drivers will be speeding even more as they rush to see their friends, eat at restaurants, go shopping, and visit their favorite city sights. But our hunger for physical interaction and real-life experience doesn’t justify putting others at risk. Speeding can be avoided with simple acts. Always plan your route and follow the speed limit signs. Even with other drivers speeding, drive defensively and do not let road rage guide your foot on the pedal. Be always aware of your surroundings and keep everyone’s safety in mind.
Distracted driving acts such as cellphone use, multitasking, and daydreaming have cost 3,142 lives in 2019. Texting is considered the most dangerous distraction, despite it only taking a few seconds. The 5 seconds taken off the road is equivalent to driving an entire football field with your eyes closed at 55 mph, according to the NHTSA. Individual acts aren’t the only distractions. More people are likely to share rides, so conversations can easily distract the driver behind the wheel. Anyone accommodating another rider should be prepared and be mindful of these potential distractions.
For those preparing for long drives, be sure to avoid the other distractions. Eat all your meals before getting behind the wheel. Place your phone on silent mode and do not place it somewhere visible. Leave early to avoid traffic and other distractions that could make driving more dangerous on the road. Don’t forget to always drive defensively to ensure everyone’s safety.
Defensive driving also means avoiding common traffic violations such as rolling stops, running a red light or stop sign, and improper lane change. You may also end up not wearing a seatbelt in your excitement to leave the house. The chances of an accident from these violations are high. A 2019 AAA report indicated that 939 people were killed from someone running a red light. Following these simple rules assure order and in effect, the safety of all as more cars go on the road. Fleet drivers also have more at stake. These violations are permanent on your record and repeating them can cost your job. Your company will see you as a liability considering the fines from these violations.
If you are recently returning to work, be sure to review your area’s traffic laws. A refresher will bring back any rules and guidelines that you may have forgotten in the last year. Be extra careful once you’re behind the wheel and stay aware of other drivers’ behavior. As stated earlier, avoid distractions, and come prepared for your entire route.
The lifted restrictions and relaxed mask mandates bring us closer to all the events and people we missed in the last year. The time spent away, however, has changed our habits and the shift will take some getting used to. This includes reviewing safety road rules and guidelines. Our anticipation to travel must be met with all the necessary precautions, including defensive driving and stronger safety culture. Fleet managers and drivers alike need to be patient with the influx of cars they’ll meet on the road. If there’s anything we can bring from the pandemic, it’s that everyone’s safety and health matter first. Don’t forget to also review the CDC guidelines on COVID-19 for fully vaccinated individuals and other preventive measures. If you have any questions about driving technology that can help sustain your fleet safety culture, feel free to contact us.