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Communities across the U.S. are facing uncertainties and grappling with how to address the needs of individuals while combating the historic COVID-19 pandemic. People are adapting rapidly, changing the way we work and educate, staying closer to home than usual and discovering strength by finding new ways to support neighbors. We are facing an unprecedented challenge, and it is heartening to see individuals and organizations rising to meet it.
Transportation – and our way of thinking about transportation systems and roadway fatalities – have been impacted by coronavirus, too. For years, roadway fatalities, a public health crisis in their own right, have been the primary focus of transportation officials and advocates as they work to find and implement life-saving strategies. Now, more than ever, we must make our streets safer so our first responders and healthcare workers can remain focused on treating and containing the virus.
The nearly 40,000 lives lost on the roads each year never strike the same kind of urgency this global pandemic has created, except among those working in transportation safety and planning, including the Road to Zero Coalition and National Safety Council. For us, zero is the only acceptable number. As we look at how COVID-19 is impacting transportation safety, we have an opportunity to make changes that will yield long-term success and help us rethink our transportation systems.
People are acting quickly, decisively and collectively around issues of safety. Roadway safety can and should be a part of this. Currently, fewer people are driving, and many are using alternative forms of transportation they might not have previously considered. Driving safely has become a form of civic responsibility; no one wants to overburden our healthcare system by redirecting resources to preventable crashes.
For the Road to Zero Coalition, the actions and discussions taking place at the local, state and national levels demonstrate that we can change the way people use and think about transportation to create systemic changes and reduce fatalities and injuries. It expands our way of thinking, bringing a multi-modal approach to transportation and emphasizing the need to have goods and services within close distance to where people live. It challenges how we think about our roadways and whether they can be a destination as well as a route. It brings transportation into the discussions of public health, environment, access and equity. In time, we can realize our goal of zero roadway deaths if we have the will to make necessary changes.
Over the next several months, the Road to Zero Coalition will release a series of posts, webinars and resources to help illustrate how transportation and roadway safety is being transformed through COVID-19 and how the Road to Zero strategy can inform conversations both today and tomorrow. We will be looking at our existing Road to Zero strategy to not only make recommendations for reducing roadway fatalities in the time of COVID-19, but improving transportation safety in the post-pandemic world.
- Heidi Simon, NSC Senior Program Manager, Road to Zero
During the COVID-19 pandemic, fleet and workplace drivers have been recognized as heroes keeping America’s supply chain open. They’ve been impacted as federal regulations have been loosened relating to hours of service and how breaks are calculated.
In some cases, this has rekindled the old tug-of-war game of compliance versus safety. While it may be legal to put in long hours, is it safe? For drivers, studies show being awake for between 18 and 24 hours can be similar to the effects of alcohol-impairment.
Managing fatigue is more important now than ever as the rest of the U.S. workforce begins to return to work. More than 40% of workers are sleep-deprived in normal times. Fatigue doesn’t care what the circumstances are, and its effects can be far-reaching, impacting all aspects of daily life. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to reach peak performance levels. In fact, researchers agree a good night’s sleep can reduce stress levels, increase memory and lower your blood pressure.
During March, as shelter-in-place orders took hold and the roads largely emptied, speed and reckless driving behaviors contributed to a 14% nationwide year-over-year jump in traffic fatality rates per miles driven. Moving forward, as the roads once again become more congested, mental distractions are likely to occur at a greater rate than before. That, combined with physical distractions, makes for a risky combination.
People are worried about their own health and the wellbeing of their family and struggling to come to grips with challenges of putting food on the table and making monthly rent or mortgage payments. Their minds are racing. Safe driving requires full attention.
In this environment, safety leaders need to check in often with employees and lead communications with an empathetic voice. Evaluation policies and procedures take on greater importance as this is not business as usual, not yet.
Drivers can benefit from basic reminders and training refresher courses. The rules of the road still apply. Safety is a non-negotiable core value. Safety is also a way to build a better future.
- Lisa Robinson, NSC Senior Program Manager, Transportation Safety
June is National Safety Month, and safety is more critical now than ever.
All month long, the National Safety Council is offering free materials to help employers address pressing workplace issues, including driving risks.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the workplace, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many additional driving risks into the spotlight. Speeding, in particular, has become more common across the country, as many streets have seen significant drops in traffic. While this drop in traffic has helped lead to a decrease in roadway deaths, the U.S. has actually seen an increase in the fatality rate per miles driven. Distraction makes this problem even worse, which is why NSC is offering resources to address it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in more instances of drivers and pedestrians sharing the road, further amplifying the dangers of distraction. Pedestrians – many of whom are adjusting to emptier streets – may enter the road suddenly to physically distance from others. Others may opt for the street over the sidewalk to avoid others entirely. Though every road user has a responsibility to behave safely, these situations place an especially high demand on driver attention. To stay safe, drivers must avoid distractions and expect pedestrians everywhere.
National Safety Month addresses each of these risks, and employers can ensure change happens at the individual level. Help us create a culture of safety in every workplace across the country. Sign up for free materials at nsc.org/nsm to help keep your workers safe this June and beyond.
Get Data at Injury Facts® Visit injuryfacts.nsc.org to get the latest injury and fatality data for presentations, benchmarking and more.
Check for Vehicle Recalls Over 53 million vehicles have open recalls. The free website, checktoprotect.org, helps you ensure fleet and employee vehicles are recall-free.
Update Your Driver Safety Training
National Safety Council is a leader in driver safety training. Keep your employees safe on and off the job at nsc.org/ddc/nsm.
Join the Safety Ambassador Program
Help employees bring a safety mindset to their communities. Learn more about the Safety Ambassador Program at nsc.org/safetyambassadors.
Complete the Children in Hot Cars Training Free online training provides vital information about pediatric vehicular heatstroke, commonly called hot car deaths, and how to prevent them. Ask employees to take this course at nsc.org/hotcars.
Get Resources for Parents at DriveItHome Parents of teens can help them become safe drivers for life with the resources at driveithome.org.
Read the Safety First blog
Insightful stories and interviews of interest to safety professionals at nsc.org/safety-first-blog.
Join Road to Zero Webinars Join the Road to Zero for a new webinar series featuring our RTZ working groups and the winners of our Safe Systems Innovation Grants. Register for an upcoming webinar.
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The National Safety Council eliminates preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Donate to our cause.
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