We’re passionate about driver safety. We live to reduce the frequency of accidents and injuries for our client trucking companies. That’s why we produce outcome-based defensive driving training for truck drivers. For this reason, we were saddened to read the 2015 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bottom line? Too many truck drivers die on the job in vehicular collisions. We believe one fatality is too many, but the report indicated 745 drivers died in 2015 due to accidents.
The Commercial Carriers Journal wrote a cover article discussing the report and a few safety professionals subsequently added their opinions as to 1.) why these trends are bad or 2.) why these figures don’t tell the whole story. You can catch the article here.
I read the article twice, then downloaded the report. It’s loaded with data and charts and all sorts of statistics, but I muscled my way through it. Then, I threw it in the trash while saying some words my mother would have slapped me for saying. If you’re up for the whole Megillah, you can get it here.
Maybe I’m just crotchety or naïve, but the article, the public comments and the report itself rub me the wrong way. Here’s why: nobody gives a rat’s elbow about statistics. I know this sounds like heresy, but please hang with me.
People like me spread their daily newspapers out on the kitchen table and read about 12,000 people who got wiped out in a in a typhoon in Bangladesh; all while sipping our morning Starbuck’s and eating a Danish. Meanwhile, millennials occasionally click web-based “news sites” to catch up the state of the world. They glean headlines about hurricanes, mass shootings and war atrocities, but within 20 seconds get distracted by the incoming photo of their friend at the mall. Neither group cares about the statistics. Nobody weeps. Life goes on.
Every day, I pass an illuminated highway billboard that updates me on how many people died this year in highways collisions. Someone has decided to use my tax dollars to keep me up-to-date on this “important” statistic. But who cares? Nobody. Nobody cares about 550 people who died while driving under the influence of alcohol. Does some bureaucrat think this information is going to inspire a drunk to suddenly change their drinking and driving habits? Baloney. We don’t care about statistics. We care about people.
We have relationships with people: friends, family and co-workers. We have emotional attachments to people we care about. And that’s why the article, the comments and report rub me the wrong way, because they all miss the point. We need to figure out how to make this personal. Our old brain doesn’t care about 550 dead people, but it does care about one person we know well. We make most of our decisions based on emotion, so this is where we must appeal to drivers about safe driving.
We can all agree that 745 fatalities in trucking is a tragedy. Our brains can understand that truck driving is the most dangerous occupation in America today. Our team and those we serve know we can save lives through better driver training. But let’s pause for a moment and think about Matt, who died this morning when his gas-filled tanker rolled over and blew up on I-71 this morning. That made me mad. Maybe, just maybe, better defensive driving training would have given him better driving skills to avoid that Honda Civic cut him off in the curve. Matt inspires my old brain to get back to work to make the world a safer place.