Over the past 26 years I've worked with safety professionals and fleet operators, assisting them with improving driver behavior and reducing risk behind the wheel.
During much of that time driver training has been a primary tool to address the issue of safe driving. Despite an immense commitment to safety training, many fleet operators report their frustrations over results that have improved only slightly or have flat-lined. Training only goes so far. It teaches skills and sets expectations for what should occur behind the wheel. Training, by itself, rarely modifies behavior because it lacks a mechanism to observe and verify positive changes have taken place.
A few years ago it became obvious that new technological developments would enable in-cab video to play a critical role in monitoring and dramatically improving driver behavior.
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) recently remarked that "road traffic crashes are not 'accidents'" and urged society to challenge the notion that "they are unavoidable." Chan's comments coincided with the publication of a WHO report that revealed traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in people ages ten to twenty-four around the world-surpassing HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, self-inflicted injuries, violence, tuberculosis, fires and war. The annual cost of road injuries and fatalities is $518 billion. And that's only in the United States and the European Region.1
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic crashes kill 1.2 million people a year – or 3,242 people each and every day. In addition, road traffic crashes injure or disable between 20 million and 50 million people a year. And, road traffic crashes rank as the eleventh leading cause of death and account for 2.1 percent of all deaths globally.2 The numbers are staggering and the physical, financial and emotional toll on victims and their families are incalculable.
The numbers are only slightly better at the local level. United States Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters recently announced a nationwide drop in the number of road deaths. The two percent decline, the largest in fifteen years, has resulted in the lowest highway fatality rate on record of 1.42 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (42,642), compared to 1.45 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (43,510) the year before. During the same period, passenger car injuries dropped 6 percent from 2.7 million in 2005 to 2.54 million in 2006, and large truck injuries fell 15 percent.
Most significantly, fatalities of occupants of passenger vehicles-cars, SUVs, vans and pickups-continued a steady decline to 30,521, the lowest annual total since 1993. So we're getting better, right? Wrong.
As Secretary Peters said, "Even one death is too many."3
The statistics are encouraging, but the fact remains that 42,642 Americans died in traffic crashes in 2006 alone. Now consider that 58,148 troops were killed during the course of the entire Vietnam War.