GREENBELT, Md. — The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) 2020 Operation Safe Driver Week will go on as scheduled, July 12-18, according to a May 12 statement.
During the weeklong traffic-enforcement safety initiative, law-enforcement personnel throughout North America will be looking for drivers who are engaging in unsafe driving behaviors. Identified drivers will be pulled over by law enforcement and may be issued a warning or citation.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, having less traffic on the highways during the COVID-19 pandemic may be encouraging some drivers to ignore traffic safety laws, including speed limits. Many jurisdictions report seeing a severe spike in speeding despite the lighter volume of traffic.
As the number of vehicles on roadways decreased in March and April, average speeds measured during the first week of April increased significantly in the five largest U.S. metropolitan areas. According to recent data, the average speed on interstate highways, state highways and expressways in those areas increased by as much as 75% compared to January and February.
- In New York City, transportation officials reported an increase of more than 60% in the number of speed camera tickets issued in March compared to a year ago. At the same time, traffic was down more than 90% compared to January.
- In Washington, D.C., traffic decreased 80% in March compared to January, while officials recorded a 20% increase in March speeding tickets. Of those tickets, violations for driving 21 to 25 mph over the speed limit rose by nearly 40%.
- During just one weekend, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, police charged 18 drivers with stunt driving, at speeds of 80 to 106 mph on the Don Valley Parkway, a major freeway that’s limited to 55 mph.
- California reported an increase in speeding violations, and although the California Highway Patrol’s call volume has decreased, the crashes they have recently responded to have been worse.
- In Tucson, Arizona, police reported a 40% increase in one-vehicle wrecks, which usually happens when a driver is going so fast that they lose control of the vehicle.
- In Minnesota, motor-vehicle crashes and fatalities more than doubled compared to the same time period in previous years. Half of those deaths were related to speeding or careless or negligent driving.
- In Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah, police have clocked highway speeds of more than 100 mph.
- Chicago and Los Angeles went from travel speed increases of 35 to 38% above average to 74 to 75% above average in just one week.
To address this trend of increased speeding on North American roadways during the pandemic, CVSA selected speeding as the focus for this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week.
“It’s essential that this enforcement initiative, which focuses on identifying and deterring unsafe driving behaviors, such as speeding, go on as scheduled,” said CVSA President Sgt. John Samis with the Delaware State Police. “As passenger vehicle drivers are limiting their travel to necessary trips and many commercial motor vehicle drivers are busy transporting vital goods to stores, it’s more important than ever to monitor our roadways for safe transport.”
Historically, drivers’ actions have contributed to 94% of all traffic crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts report. In addition, although NHTSA’s 2018 highway crash fatality data showed a 2.4% decline in overall fatalities, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks increased by 0.9%.
“While, of course, we’re pleased to see a decrease in the overall number of fatalities, it was also devastating to learn that the number of fatalities involving large trucks increased. Any increase whatsoever in roadway fatalities is unacceptable,” Samis said.
According to CVSA’s May 13 statement, data shows that traffic enforcement interactions between drivers and law enforcement reduces targeted problematic behaviors. CVSA’s Operation Safe Driver Week aims to reduce high-risk driving behaviors through traffic enforcement strategies.
In addition to a focus on speeding, examples of other dangerous driver behaviors that law enforcement will track during Operation Safe Driver Week include distracted driving, failure to use a seatbelt, following too closely, improper lane change, reckless or aggressive driving, failure to obey traffic-control devices, evidence of drunk or drugged driving, and more.