Safety is our number one priority at DOT, and it's a full time job. Fortunately, we have a number of safety partners who help us do some of the heavy lifting. And last week, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) did exactly that with its annual Operation Safe Driver week.
Each year, nearly 4,000 people are killed in crashes that involve a large truck or bus. And nearly 90 percent of those crashes have driver-related causes. As CVSA executive Director Stephen Keppler said, “These deaths are the direct result of unsafe and aggressive driving practices by both passenger and commercial vehicle drivers.”
Every year, law enforcement officers across North America actively target these drivers during Operation Safe Driver week, a program sponsored by CVSA and DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
This year, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro kicked things off at Southwind High School in Memphis. Why talk about commercial motor vehicle safety at a high school? Because we know that less-experienced drivers really need to develop safe driving habits from the start. And because the data indicates that fatal crashes with commercial vehicles disproportionately involve teens.
Young drivers need to learn about the particular visibility and maneuverability limitations that challenge large truck and bus drivers. Educating novice drivers about other vehicles' blind spots is a key part of CVSA's "Teens & Trucks" campaign. So the Tennessee Highway Patrol was also on hand at Southwind for a "Stay Out of the No Zone" demonstration that taught teens how to safely share the road with big rigs and buses.
But, because crashes involving large trucks and buses are not necessarily the fault of commercial drivers, we also need to continue educating young non-commercial drivers about the dangers of these distractions. To get that conversation going in Memphis, Administrator Ferro joined the Southwind High chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions in asking students to sign a large poster with a "No Texting Promise."
Look, America's economy and our day-to-day lives rely on commercial vehicles. The simple message of CVSA's Operation Safe Driver week is that we must all learn to safely share our roads.