There is no substitute for effective truck driver safety training. You can add all the technology in the world to your trucks, but in the end, you’ll actually have more accidents if this is done instead of proper safety training.
National Public Radio recently ran a feature story about the alarming increase in traffic accidents and fatalities during the past two years. Roadway deaths increased by 7.2 percent in 2015 compared to 2014 – a total of 35,092 deaths. The trend continues in 2016 as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates 17,775 traffic fatalities in the first half of 2016 – an increase of 10.4 percent compared to the same time frame in 2015.
The NPR journalist and safety experts they interviewed all posed the same thoughtful question: “why are we having more accidents, even as we add new safety devices and technologies such as anti-lock brakes, proximity sensors, and backup cameras?” Americans are forecasted to drive an all-time high of over 3.1 trillion miles in 2016. However, this increased exposure can only attribute to about a half of the increase in traffic fatalities. NHTSA states that “ninety-four percent of crashes can be tied back to human choice or error.” Humans know the risk of drinking and driving, speeding or not wearing a seat belt, but it still happens every day. Not paying for a cab, getting to work sooner or saving the 10 seconds to not put on a seatbelt are little rewards that reinforce our decision to cut a corner. The more you get away with it, the more you feel comfortable taking that risk because you saved a little time or money.
Dr. Gerald Wilde published an interesting article some time ago that describes human nature and the phenomenon of risk homeostasis. It turns out that each and every human being has a natural level of risk tolerance. Some people are just more careful than others. Adding safety devices, equipment or protective gear does little to impact accidents, injuries, and deaths because humans adapt their behavior to changes in the environment. This seems counter-intuitive. After all, safety equipment should make us safer. But instead, safety equipment can subconsciously cause us to take greater risks due to the feeling that we’re “being safe”. It’s crazy, but proven to be true.
Our focus has to be on the driver. If 94 percent of all accidents are the result of driver behavior, why add bells and whistles to the truck? Attempting to engineer risk away is a noble mission but humans will always adapt to their environment. Never underestimate the human ability to make dumb decisions.
Until Budweiser delivers all of its beer with an autonomous vehicle from Otto, driver behaviors will be the cause of nearly all accidents. Focus your time on improving driver behavior. Behaviorally-based driver safety training provides ten times more value than electronic gizmos do. If you want better safety results and fewer claims, give your drivers what they need: engaging and entertaining safety training that teaches them proper defensive driving techniques.