FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, September 1, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249 (C)
Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: Protecting Workers on Our Roads Honors the Spirit of Labor Day
As we approach Labor Day, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) encourages everyone to think about the origin of the holiday which was created more than a century ago to celebrate the contributions of workers in the U.S., including those whose workplace is behind the wheel and on our roads. Truck drivers, transit workers, passenger vehicle drivers, first responders, road maintenance and construction workers, and other essential employees all have jobs that require navigating roadways which have seen marked increases in speeding and reckless driving since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. They deserve the safest possible work environment, a goal which can be achieved in part through ensuring widespread use of proven vehicle safety technology and employing reliable countermeasures that reduce dangerous driving behavior. Requiring proven crash avoidance systems in all new vehicles, deploying technology to reduce impaired driving, upgrading state laws to reduce distracted driving, and rejecting proposals that will increase truck driver fatigue or permit larger or heavier trucks will benefit all road users. This Labor Day, Advocates urges lawmakers in Washington D.C. and state capitals to prioritize the safety of those who call our highways and local roads “the office.”
Clear safety risks for those working on or near the roadway
- Driver/sales workers and truck drivers are among the most dangerous occupations. There were 831 heavy and tractor-trailer truck driving fatalities in 2018 alone (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)).
- There are more than 600 fatal crashes on average each year in work zones (National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse).
- More than a dozen police officers are killed each year after being struck by a vehicle (National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund).
- More than 100 people were killed in crashes involving emergency vehicles in 2017 (NHTSA).
- Bus, paratransit, taxi and rideshare drivers face dangers on our roadways and an unprecedented safety threat in the form of COVID-19, which impacts ridership and poses health risks.
Four ways to significantly improve roadway safety for workers
- Reduce and Mitigate Crashes With Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS): Automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW) and blind spot warning (BSW) are technologies that have been proven to reduce and mitigate crashes involving passenger vehicles. The lifesaving potential of these verified innovations would be greatly advanced by enactment of the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act (S. 2700 / H.R. 4871), the Safe Roads Act of 2019 (H.R. 3773), the School Bus Safety Act of 2019 (H.R. 3959/S. 2278) and the 21st Century Smart Cars Act (H.R. 6284). While each bill has its own tactic, they would require ADAS to be installed as standard equipment in new vehicles, including trucks and buses, subject to minimum performance standards to give consumers assurance that they will operate safely and reliably. In addition to ADAS, technology to detect the presence of an occupant and issue a warning that attracts attention exists today, is inexpensive and could be preventing deaths that occur when children are unknowingly left inside a vehicle or access a vehicle without anyone’s knowledge. The Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), a comprehensive transportation bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 1, includes ADAS and “hot cars” detection and alert technology requirements.
- End Impaired Driving: Drunk drivers are a well-known safety threat, contributing to approximately 30 percent of traffic fatalities each year. Bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL), the Reducing Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act (S. 2604), and similar legislation introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), the HALT Drunk Driving Act (H.R. 4354), require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue a final rule for technology to prevent impaired driving. The Moving Forward Act also includes a directive to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require passive impaired driving prevention systems as standard equipment in new cars. This approach, which holds the promise of preventing thousands of drunk driving-related fatalities, should be advanced without delay.
- Curtail Distraction: Nearly 3,000 people were killed and approximately 400,000 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2018, and due to known issues with underreporting of crashes involving cell phone use, the actual number is likely higher. Crash risk increases dramatically – as much as four times higher – when a driver is using a mobile phone, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the percentage of drivers visibly manipulating hand-held devices while driving increased by 250 percent between 2009 and 2016. To address this evolving safety threat, Advocates’ annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws urges states to pass strong laws to limit visual, manual and cognitive distraction behind the wheel. Driver monitoring technology also has the potential to prevent distracted driving.
- Prevent Truck Driver Fatigue: In 2018, crashes involving large trucks killed 4,951 people – a staggering increase of 46 percent since a low in 2009. Additionally, 148,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2017, the latest year for which data is available. Fatigue is a major contributor to this death and injury toll. Advocates opposes efforts to weaken rules on hours of service (HOS) and electronic logging devices (ELDs), safeguards designed to keep truck drivers from driving when they are fatigued. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is planning to move forward in late September with egregious rollbacks to HOS rules. Advocates has sought to delay this process and urges U.S. DOT to heed the serious warnings about the implications of this proposal. Additionally, Advocates has repeatedly opposed efforts to permit larger or heavier trucks on our roads, which endanger truck drivers and other road users, as well as inflict excessive wear and tear on our road and bridge infrastructure.
Our Nation’s preeminent crash investigators, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), has repeatedly recommended the implementation of crash avoidance technology in new vehicles to avert crashes, end impaired driving, eliminate distractions and reduce fatigue-related crashes on its “Most Wanted List” of transportation safety improvements.
Early estimates find that more than 36,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2019. Included in this horrific sum are needless fatalities of workers who spend the bulk of their days in this dangerous environment. Yet, solutions are available, and Advocates continues to pursue a range of safety improvements to make the roads safer for them and all road users. We also urge all motorists to drive sober, put away distractions, buckle up, wear motorcycle helmets, obey speed limits, and stay alert, especially during the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.