Three seconds to salvation

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I know, I know: you‘ve heard the mantra “Always wear your seat belt” since you graduated driver‘s ed umpteen years ago. Problem is, many truck drivers still DON‘T wear them - about 41%, according to figures compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) last year.


Yet it‘s the lowly seat belt that‘s the final line of defense in not only preventing a driver from getting killed in an accident, but also reducing the severity of any injuries sustained in a wreck. And all it takes is just three second - three MEASELY seconds - to buckle up, thus vastly increasing your chances (and that of your drivers) to not only survive a crash but suffer fewer injuries as well.


Farmers Insurance just completed an in-depth study of seat belt effectiveness using 2006 fatal crash data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation to back this up - and while it looked mainly at car and light-truck occupant stats, the lessons for truck drivers are still really profound, I believe.


“Once again, we find strong statistical evidence that seat belts remain the most important protection for the driver,” noted Kevin Mabe, staff economist at Farmers, who headed up the insurance carrier‘s analysis. “We found that when a driver used a seat belt, the odds of a fatality dropped nearly 70% compared to a driver who did not.”


Mabe said Farmer‘s analysis incorporates a logistic econometric model with forty-one variables, accounting for factors such as road and traffic conditions at the time of the fatal accident, location and time, accident events, vehicle specifics, driver demographics, and safety features. “Controlling for these additional external factors allows us to more precisely isolate the degree to which safety belts save lives,” he explained.


Several other factors showed significance in decreasing the odds of a driver‘s death, Mabe said. For example, rear-end collisions proved less deadly than head-on or “T-bone” collisions. Larger vehicles, such as trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and vans, appeared to protect the driver better than a typical automobile due to their larger size (Duh!). Dry roads, in contrast with wet roads, decrease the odds of a fatality by over 10%, suggesting that drivers should use caution when navigating slick roads.


Other factors increased danger on the roads. “Nighttime and winter driving tended to produce more deadly accidents, and drivers should continue to exercise additional caution,” Mabe noted. “Certain accident events, such as rollovers, ejections, and vehicle fires, greatly reduce the survivability in an accident. Motorcycle accidents showed remarkably increased mortality rates compared to other vehicles.”


Not all factors proved predictive, he stressed. While driver height and weight appeared to have little influence on the outcome of the accident, age plays an important part. “Older drivers, as well as young new drivers, have an increased risk. But in the end, a driver‘s three-second choice to ‘buckle up‘ will more than double his or her chances to survive a severe accident.”


Those odds are the kind you can live with.

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Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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