Safe Driver Week results: Fewer checks but speed-related violations rise

Possibly because of the pandemic, Safe Driver Week this year saw declines in almost every measurable data point compared to last year.

All told, enforcement officials handed out 71,343 warnings and citations to drivers of commercial and passenger vehicles they pulled over July 12-18. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) runs the annual Safe Driver Week in areas of the U.S. and Canada.

In 2019, officials gave out 46,752 citations and 87,624 warnings, for a total of more than 134,000. 

Of the citations this year, 42,857 were traffic enforcement violations — which are moving violations — and 28,486 were nonmoving violations. Chris Turner, director of crash and safety programs at CVSA, noted that not only is the primary focus of Safe Driver Week the commercial vehicle sector, but it is also aimed at moving violations.

One of the key numbers showed regression from 2019. This year, CVSA says enforcement officials handed out 2,330 citations and 3,423 warnings to commercial vehicles for speed-related violations. Last year, that number was 1,454 citations and 2,126 warnings.

The citations and warnings were handed out after enforcement officials pulled over 66,421 vehicles, commercial and passenger, in what the CVSA describes as “drivers engaging in unsafe driver behaviors.” Multiple citations and warnings could be issued in a single stop. 

Although the primary goal of Safe Driver Week is the behavior of the drivers of commercial vehicles, that doesn’t mean that passenger vehicles don’t get caught up in it. The number of interactions with commercial vehicles was actually less than half the total interactions. The commercial vehicle total was 29,921 commercial vehicles this year out of that total number of 66,421 vehicles, with passenger vehicle interactions clocking in at 36,500.

The comparison for the 66,421 vehicles to last year is imprecise, according to Turner. He said the totals for last year and years prior to that included “driver assist,” where for example an enforcement officer would pull over when he saw a disabled vehicle. CVSA no longer reports numbers such as those. The driver assist number last year was about 6,400 off a base of 107,429.

That means the total number of drivers pulled over in 2019 was a bit over 100,000, and that is the closest number to compare to the 66,421 vehicles that received the equivalent of a knock on the door during this year’s Safe Driver Week. 

Even though the number of total interactions was down, the CVSA noted that the number of contacts between law enforcement and commercial drivers didn’t change that much: 29,921 contacts this year versus 30,619 last. The difference came in passenger vehicle contacts. 

Some of the highlights of the commercial vehicle aspect of this year’s report:

— Although the number of commercial vehicles engaged by enforcement officials was about 45% of all engagements, the number of warnings and citations weighs far more toward passenger vehicles: 32,121 for passenger vehicles and 10,736 for commercial vehicles.

— Speed-related violations led the list of citations for both types of drivers. But the gap there was big: 14,738 for passenger and 2,339 for commercial vehicles. 

— Where commercial drivers did worse than passenger vehicle drivers was in violating handheld device laws. There were 269 citations for that among commercial vehicle drivers and just 58 for passenger vehicles. 

— Commercial vehicle drivers fared worse on seatbelt use. Warnings and citations for violating that law were 1,763 for commercial vehicle drivers and 1,364 for personal vehicle drivers.

Turner said the plans for Safe Driver Week were not greatly altered by the pandemic. The number of U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions engaged in the effort was 55; that includes U.S. states, Canadian provinces, and territories such as Puerto Rico.

But things were different on the road. Fewer passenger vehicles were stopped, Turner said, “because there were fewer of them on the road.”

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