According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crash fatalities are down by one percent after two consecutive years of large increases—which is great, but not enough. There were still around 40,000 fatalities in 2018.
While the recent report for 2018 hasn’t published, it shared that the downward trend has continued into the first half of the year. NHTSA shared the projection of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2018 represented a decrease of around 3.1 percent compared to the first half of 2017.
It’s clear that Americans are driving more than in previous years, but shouldn’t that mean that everyone should be taking extra precautions? On the surface this seems logical and when you look at further analysis compiled by NHTSA, there’s been progress made. But it’s progress that starts with you.
First and foremost, the formula to improve safety performance is complex. There is no “magic pill” to achieve optimal safety performance. So much messaging today, geared toward fleet and safety professionals, seems to reinforce this position and, of course, the “quick fix” is always seductive. However, you can see national highway safety statistics are telling a different story and indicate much more work needs to be done to control losses.
All this being said, the word that comes to mind as the struggle to protect drivers continues, perhaps escalates is: complacency. Deborah Hersman, the National Safety Council president and chief executive, has said, “One-hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Why are we O.K. with this? Complacency is killing us.”
Are fleet operators so disconnected from what is happening that they just shrug their collective shoulders? I would like not to think so. More likely, challenged with ever increasing demands to do more with less, the “quick fix” approach has been unintentionally helping to cultivate an environment of complacency. Employers need to recognize desired, sustainable results will only be achieved when the priority to improve drivers’ safety performance becomes part of an organization’s DNA.
Leadership and those in charge of safety must commit to continuous improvement using the right balance of oversight, engage everyone affected, provide proven methods and support services to improve individual driver performance and leverage safety culture-enhancing communications and advances in technology. It’s serious work that requires a serious commitment.
While the focus is first and foremost about saving lives and protecting drivers from injuries, there is a real economic benefit for employers who remain dedicated to enhancing driver safety performance. Actually, it is one of the last frontiers of cost-savings for fleet operators. While management continues to focus on extracting more pennies from the life-cycle costs to run their vehicles (no doubt a worthy, productive endeavor), complacency about driver safety is leaving dollars on the table.
Before we accept another year of too many motor vehicle crash fatalities, isn’t it time to get outraged, defeat complacency and say “no more”? Is anyone out there up to the challenge? I hope it’s you.