ARLINGTON, VA – The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety posted an analysis, on its website, of the traffic and vehicle safety measures that significantly impact the number of collision-related fatalities and injuries.
Although not all of these safety measures directly affect fleet drivers (company safety policies are often more strict), they affect those on the road with fleet vehicles. The summary here provides a look at how these measures affect safety statistics, and can thereby reduce the liability and costs associated with accidents. The safety measures are as follows:
Primary safety belt laws: The IIHS found safety belt usage is up from a decade ago, which it credits to the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign, passage of primary belt laws, and enhanced in-vehicle belt reminders. The national belt use rate climbed to 85 percent in 2010, according to data from NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey.
In terms of primary belt laws, 32 states and the District of Columbia have them. The IIHS said Rhode Island is the latest state to upgrade to primary enforcement. In addition, IIHS research shows that switching from a secondary to a primary law reduces passenger vehicle driver deaths by 7 percent. Additional fines for a lack of belt use also made an impact. A NHTSA-sponsored study found gains of 3-4 points in seatbelt use from increasing fines from the national median of $25 to $60.
Lower speed limits: In 2009, the IIHS said speeding was a factor in 31 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths. The group cited a 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health that attributed a 3-percent increase in driving-related fatalities to higher speed limits on roads of all types. The highest increase was a 9-percent increase on rural interstates. The IIHS said states are still raising the speed limits on interstates and highways to as high as 85 mph.
Conduct sobriety checkpoints: The CDC estimates sobriety checkpoints reduce the number of crash incidents in an area by 20 percent. Currently, 38 states conduct them, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Making checkpoints work requires publicity and frequency, to dissuade drivers from drinking.
Automated enforcement (red light cameras): Although some regions question the utility of red light cameras, the IIHS found that comparing cities with cameras to those without, they found the devices reduced the number of fatal crashes caused by running a red light by 24 percent. In addition, they found the rate of fatal crashes at intersections with signals reduced by 17 percent. IIHS studies in two states found the percentage of drivers going faster than speed limits by more than 10 mph dropped by 70 percent in Maryland and 95 percent in Arizona.
Build roundabouts: In areas with roundabouts (a.k.a. traffic circles), the number of crashes in an area where they have been built dropped by 40 percent, and crashes that resulted in injuries dropped by 80 percent. The IIHS said the most common types of crashes at intersections are right-angle, left-turn, and head-on collisions. Roundabouts help because vehicles travel in the same direction at slower speeds while driving through them.
Stricter teen driver laws: The IIHS found that increasing the age at which a teenager can obtain a driver’s license lowers the fatal crash rate among 15-17 year-olds by 13 percent. Only the state of New Jersey currently makes teenagers wait until age 17. Also, night driving, and restrictions on the number of passengers teenagers are allowed to transport, affects fatal crash rates and insurance collision claims.
Mandate helmets for all riders: The IIHS said it estimates helmets to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle drivers and 41 percent effective for motorcycle passengers. Use of helmets compliant with federal safety regulations was at 76 percent in states with universal laws and only 40 percent in states without those laws, according to the IIHS.
Source: IIHS August 2011 Status Report