Life on the Road
Buckle up for safety
Over-the-road professionals, as a group, are among the safest drivers on the road on a per-mile-driven basis, but they could be even safer if they all took a few seconds every time they climbed into the cab to buckle their seatbelts.
According to the Department of Transportation, 80 per-cent of U.S. motorists wear seatbelts, yet only half of commercial truckers do. If you think the 80,000 pounds of machine and freight you’re driving will protect you, think again: Half of the 620 truck drivers killed in 2003 were unbuckled. In 171 of those fatalities, the truck driver was ejected from the cab—and more than 80 percent of those drivers did not have on their seatbelts.
“Far too many truck drivers take it on faith that the size and weight of their rigs will protect them and that if they are a really good driver, they don’t need to wear a belt,” says DOT Secretary Norman Min-eta. “But driving unbuckled is like playing Russian roulette—you are tempting fate, because you never know when the loaded chamber will come around.”
Mineta made his remarks at the Mid-America Trucking Show during a session on driver safety. Another panelist suggested that more effective truck driver training could have a positive impact on seatbelt usage. FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg noted that the government is implementing other initiatives to improve truckers’ safety. To a huge round of ap-plause, she described a pilot program in the state of Washington in which passenger-car drivers are targeted for safety. The idea is to place a trooper in the truck cab to identify car drivers that cut off truckers. The trooper in the truck then calls ahead to other officers who pull over the offending car driver for a citation.
Meanwhile, newly released statistics show that a national pilot program conducted in Virginia on
I-95 between Petersburg and Freder-icksburg increased safety belt use among truckers by 11.5% in less than one month. Before the big rig initiative, a survey showed that fewer than 59% of truckers were wearing their safety belts; a post-campaign survey indicated that 70% were buckling up.
Federal guidelines require that truckers wear their belts. Virginia State Police are
charged with enforcing the guideline.
During the first week of the three-week project, truckers were informed of the initiative through a variety of public information methods, including alerts on CB radio, mobile billboards, truck stop events and radio announcements. Enforcement was stepped up for the second and third weeks of the program, with the public in-formation activities continuing, as well.
The project was funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “This initiative is so important because safety belts, in many cases, are lifesavers,” says the FMCSA’s Sandberg.