During the height of the pandemic in 2020, the number of road traffic fatalities increased over 7% in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has now reported that, compared to 2020, 1st quarter 2021 fatalities, increased another 10%! NHTSA is now projecting over 40,000 fatalities this year. These sobering statistics have led fleet and safety professionals to renew their efforts in finding ways to better train drivers and reduce driving fatalities.
Doing so requires a strong commitment to provide coaching that helps drivers eliminate risky driving behaviors and focus on habits that ensure safe driving in all conditions. These avoidable traffic fatalities should help shake up any complacency people might have felt about falling traffic fatality numbers in years past. Clearly, there is more work to be done on driver safety.
Worse Traffic Fatality Numbers Since 2007
Released in June 2021, the preliminary traffic fatality numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA’) showed that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020. That’s the largest projected number since 2007 and a 7.2 percent increase over 2019.
Surprisingly, it happened in a year when Americans drove much less. An analysis by NHTSA showed the main causes for the increase included impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.
“Loss of life is unacceptable on our nation’s roadways, and everyone has a role to play in ensuring that they are safe. We intend to use all available tools to reverse these trends and reduce traffic fatalities and injuries,” Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator, said in a news release.
Fatal crash numbers increased for passenger vehicle occupants, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and pedal cyclists. While it decreased slightly for large trucks and older drivers, that may be because fewer were on the road.
And, as reported, the latest 2021 update shows even a worse trend.
Ways to Reduce Driving Fatalities
The numbers clearly show that knowing the basics, such as wearing seatbelts and driving within the speed limit, would have saved many lives on the nation’s roads in 2020. For fleet operators, the ways to reduce driving fatalities is a more complex challenge. Drivers must master skills and improve behaviors to consistently drive safely and eliminate risky driving habits.
The road to improving driver safety and reducing driving fatalities must travel through the following steps.
- Commercial fleet operators must commit to provide driver safety programs that produce sustainable results
- Continuous improvement of drivers’ safety performance must become part of the company culture
- Fleets must find the right balance of oversight and engagement with drivers, providing them proven training methods and support services
- Fleets should reap the benefits of using innovative technology in improving driver performance
Improving driver performance reduces the risks of crashes and saves lives. It also offers fleets a way to cut costs associated with crashes. No matter what type of fleet they operate, commercial transportation companies can benefit from making a commitment to better driver training. It’s a proven way to reduce driving fatalities.