After last month’s Operation Safe Driver Week, rescheduled from earlier in the year due to the pandemic, inspectors, along with law enforcement, found at least 66,000 drivers operating with less-than-safe behavior across North American roadways.
The boosted enforcement event brought 71,000 warnings and citations issued to drivers between July 12th and 18th, and was Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s first safety enforcement campaign of 2020.
“Despite the challenges associated with the pandemic, 3,681 enforcement officers from 55 Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions interacting with 29,921 commercial motor vehicle drivers and 36,500 passenger vehicle drivers during this year’s special enforcement event,” said the CVSA.
The most common citations given to truckers specifically included: speeding and driving too fast for the conditions, failure to wear a seat belt while operating a commercial motor vehicle, failure to obey traffic control, texting or otherwise using a hand-held phone while driving, and improper lane change.
State and local driver violations were also given for certain observations made by officers during a traffic stop, like expired license plate tags, inoperative lamps, and mirror equipment violations.
In regard to speeding, which was the focus of this year’s efforts, inspectors gave 14,378 citations and 11,456 warnings to passenger vehicle drivers, and 2,339 citations and 3,423 warnings to commercial motor vehicle drivers. Therefore, 56.3% of all warnings and 50.2% of all citations given to commercial motor vehicle drivers were for speeding alone. This hyper-focused approach to speeding comes after 2017’s data showing one driver-related factor caused 32% of all large truck-related fatal crashes, and 54% of passenger vehicle-related fatal crashes.
The second-most identified traffic enforcement offense, failure to use a seat belt, accounted for 12.5% of all warnings and 21.4% of all citations. “Safety belt use remains one of the cheapest, easiest, and most important means to protect commercial motor vehicle drivers,” CVSA said. In 2017, 13% of big rig occupants in all fatal crashes failed to wear a safety belt, and 45% of those people were killed in the respective crash. Still, CVSA said overall seat belt use by CMV drivers continues to rise, with a record high of seat belt use rates for medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses found to be at 86%.
Thirdly, hand-held phone use made up 4.35% of all issued warnings and citations, and was the fourth-highest on the top violations list. “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration restricts the use of all hand-held mobile devices by drivers of commercial motor vehicles,” CVSA noted. FMCSA has found that involvement in a crash or near-crash rises by six times as much for CMV drivers who use a hand-held mobile phone while driving as compared to those who don’t. “Penalties [of hand-held phone use] can be up to $2,750 for drivers and $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device while driving,” CVSA said.
Additionally, even though CMV drivers are completely prohibited from using any hand-held communications device while operating their vehicles, it was the fourth-ranked citation for the truckers with 269 overall citations, while only ranking 12th for passenger vehicle drivers, with 58 citations.
According to CVSA, passenger vehicle drivers were cited for speeding more than six times as much as CMV drivers, and were given three times as many warnings and citations as CMV drivers for all infractions.
Because this safety enforcement effort took place in the midst of a national pandemic, CVSA found that nearly 700 fewer interactions occurred between law enforcement and CMV drivers than during the safety enforcement operation of 2019. Last year, officers issued more than 17,000 citations for speeding across North American highways, and 92% of those citations were given to passenger vehicle drivers alone. Officers also interacted with 30,619 drivers in July of 2019, and 29,921 this year.
“When commercial motor vehicles and passenger vehicles collide, no matter who was at fault, the results can be catastrophic, especially for the smaller and lighter passenger vehicle,” said John Samis, Delaware State Police sergeant and CVSA President. “Preventing crashes from happening requires every driver–commercial and personal–to be aware of how to safely share the road with other types of vehicles.”