10-4 Magazine
KEN'S KORNER - DECEMBER 2006

HOLIDAYS & ACCIDENTS
BY AUTHOR, EDUCATOR & DRIVER KEN SKAGGS

There will be wreaths on grills, Christmas lights on dashboards, mistletoe hanging on rearview mirrors and holiday cheer on the CB. There will be sounds of sleigh bells at the stores and Christmas carols on the radio. There will be smells of turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie and evergreen. Ah, the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays. For most of us it will be a beautiful sight, a happy sound and a wonderful smell. But for some, it will be the sight of oncoming headlights, the sound of busting glass and twisting metal, and the smell of burning rubber!

Iím sure most of you know that there are always a lot of accidents around the holidays. If I were to ask you why, youíd probably guess it was because there is a lot of drinking and driving going on during the holidays. And youíd be right, for the most part. Around 39% of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related. But there is another contributing factor that no one hardly ever mentioned until I read this report from the NHTSA, from July of 2005, called Crash Stats. This ten-year study (from 1994 to 2003) analyzed fatal crashes, including fatal holiday crash statistics, and determined how often speeding factors into fatal accidents.

Yes, speeding. Speeding is a factor in about 30% of all traffic fatalities. Thatís almost as high as alcohol-related fatal crashes. Itís the number-two cause of all traffic fatalities, according to this study. There are about 12,000 speeding-related fatal crashes a year. Compare that to almost 17,000 fatal crashes for drunk drivers (according to another report by the NHTSA - 2005 Traffic Safety Facts). As you can see, speeding is almost as dangerous as drunk driving. This study set out to prove that, and did. I never would have guessed that would be the case, but the numbers donít lie. Speed kills, as we all know. But when I read this report, I thought it was important because I know that most people equate Holiday Season accidents with drunk driving, not speeding.

Also, according to the Crash Stats Study, the deadliest day of the year for speeding-related fatal crashes is New Yearís Day, followed by Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Once again, I was surprised by the results. I never would have guessed that New Yearís Day would be the deadliest holiday because of all the hype about not drinking and driving on that day. Busses and taxi cabs even offer free rides in many cities. Plus, have you ever had to drive on New Yearís Day? There is absolutely no traffic. Itís like everybody died and left you the world. With traffic low and free rides, itís hard to fathom that New Yearís Day is still the biggest day of the year to get killed on the road.

But, when you factor in the speeding, you can see that it makes sense because lots of people are in a hurry to get home for that holiday. Add to that the fact that most people are only concerned about drunk drivers and you can see that the roads can be a pretty dangerous place around any holiday.

Is it as dangerous for trucks on holidays? Of the 43,636 fatalities on the road in 2005, 5,226 of them involved a truck. Thatís about one out of eight fatal accidents that involved a truck. That doesnít mean that 5,226 truckers lost their lives, but 5,226 people involved in an accident with one did. The statistics donít mention how many were truck drivers, but 761 of them were occupants in a truck, so Iím sure the number of drivers is less. I also found that one out of ten fatalities are pedestrians, one out of four fatalities are passengers, and one out of ten fatalities are motorcyclists. Plus, 55% of them were not wearing a seatbelt. I think itís fair to say that truck drivers arenít in as much danger as their smaller counterparts, especially if they wear a seatbelt and donít speed.

Of all the drivers who were cited for drinking and driving in a fatal accident, 14% had previous accidents, 14% had their license suspended or revoked, 20% had speeding convictions and 4% had previous DUIís. Less than 1% of those cited for DUI were truck drivers, however, of the truck drivers involved in a fatal crash, a whopping 23% of them had previous speeding convictions and 16% of them also had previous accidents. Are you beginning to notice a pattern here? Speeding is a very underestimated danger out there. Itís no wonder that motor vehicle crashes were the single leading cause of death in the United States in 2003.

I know that most truck drivers will be home on the holidays, but some will not be. They will be out there trucking along, watching out for that drunk driver (or speeder, if they read this report) and trying to stay alive. Two of those six deadly days previously mentioned are coming up, so please, be careful out there. Get home safely and have a great holiday.

And please, if you are one of those folks who wish everybody a happy happy and a merry merry, just stop it. Itís Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. What the heck is that happy happy and merry merry anyway - a politically correct truck driver saying? As truckers, we are known for saying the truth and putting it out there plainly. Donít give me some wishy-washy, meaningless, jargon greeting. From the bottom of my heart, from my family to yours, Iíd like to wish everybody out there a safe journey, a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

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