Driving is one of the most dangerous things we do every day. Despite deadly risks, it’s easy to get complacent and quickly become distracted. Statistics highlight the danger. Texas’ traffic fatality rate climbed 30 percent in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels (2019), the largest two-year increase in decades, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The stakes are high, especially with kids now back in school and plenty of distractions to take your eyes off the road. Today, we wrap up our Summer Safety Series by sharing some of our important driver safety practices in recognition of National Traffic Awareness Month.
Mike Gomez, an Employee Development Analyst who trains CPS Energy workers on driver safety, makes sure our employees take a One Team approach to keeping themselves and others safe on the road.
“Driving is like a team sport,” said Mike. “On the road, we’re all on the same team. We want to avoid working against each other. We all have to work together to make sure everyone gets home safely.”
Plan ahead and use the Smith 5 Keys of Driving
Mike said driving safe starts before you get behind the wheel. It’s important to plan and map out your route before you start driving. Apps like Waze or Drivesafe.ly can alert you of accidents and traffic situations. It can reduce your time sitting in traffic while minimizing the risk of entering a potentially dangerous situation. Be sure to also pay attention to messages about road closures and other hazards on Transguide signs and to orange safety cones indicating our crews or others are working in the area. And, remember to move over or slow down, per State law.
Mike said another important safety practice before you drive is to walk around your vehicle to do a 360 inspection. This will help make sure you have a clear path to avoid hazards and drive away safely. Check your tires and make sure there are no objects or small children near your vehicle.
When you’re driving, use the Smith 5 Keys to avoid distractions and be a safe, proactive driver.
- Key 1: Aim high in Steering – Look ahead at least 15 seconds to see potential road hazards or changes to the road ahead, including lane changes or lane closures.
- Key 2: Get the Big Picture –Scan and check your mirrors every 5 – 8 seconds to help you identify potential hazards such as (distracted or confused drivers).
- Key 3: Keep Your Eyes Moving – This will help you gather information from relevant objects to help with changes or hazards when approaching busy areas like construction or school zones.
- Key 4: Leave Yourself an Out – Maintain a minimal following distance of 4 seconds. If you’re in a commercial vehicle, make it a minimal following distance of 6 seconds.
- Key 5: Make Sure They See You – Make sure other drivers (or people walking, running or biking) see you or know you’re there. Communicate with hand signals, by flashing your lights or alert them with a brief, friendly honk of the horn (just two short taps on the horn).
Avoid distractions on the road
Distracted driving is a growing problem on roadways. It’s a factor in nearly one-third of all vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, our roads are not getting any safer. According to the Wall Street Journal, motor vehicle deaths increased 12% in the first nine months of 2021 — the largest surge in on-road fatalities ever recorded. Even more concerning is the danger for teen drivers. This time of year wraps up the 100 deadliest days for the youngest drivers on the road, with Texas leading the nation in the total number of fatal crashes involving teens behind the wheel from Memorial to Labor Day. In their campaign to prevent youth deaths, the San Antonio Municipal Courts cites speeding, distraction and not buckling up as the three factors that commonly result in preventable deaths and serious injuries on our roadways.
Texting and driving is one of the major distractions. It’s easy to forget how fast we’re moving and how far our vehicles travel in a matter of seconds. As you’ll see in this video, a driver that takes their eyes off the road for just 5 seconds while traveling 55 mph will cover the length of a football field without looking. Situations on the road can change in the blink of an eye. Be sure you’re focused and ready to react and drive defensively. Don’t text and drive! It’s against the law and puts yourself and other drivers in danger.
Team models safety excellence behind the wheel
Mike and the Driving Safe Team’s efforts are keeping our employees and customers safe on the road. Last month, the team received a Traffic Safety Award from the National Safety Council at the Texas A&M Traffic Safety Conference at College Station. The 12 Texas employers selected for the award embrace driver and transportation safety and the ideal of keeping their employees and others safe on roads statewide.
“We appreciate the recognition from the National Safety Council and the Texas Department of Transportation – this award is a true reflection of the work put in by our Driving Safe Team and confirmation that we have one of the best driving training programs out there,” said Seamus Nelson, Director of Safety Operations. “Our training efforts combined with leaders across the company championing safe driving practice like the Smith 5 Keys and using a spotter make the difference in keeping our employees safe when they’re behind the wheel. In the end, that protects our employees and those we serve in our community.”