Washington officials turn "share the road" mentality into top safety numbers

Washington State enforcement officers with a truck wrapped with the TACT safety message.

“All That’s Trucking” blog by Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief

“Although semi trucks can be intimidating, most truck crashes turn out to be the fault of the passenger car driver.” That’s the message from Captain Darrin Grondel of Washington State Patrol’s Commercial Vehicle Division.

Washington State deserves kudos for its efforts to improve commercial vehicle safety by realizing it’s more than the truck drivers at fault. A number of studies have shown that car-truck crashes are caused by the car driver about three-fourths of the time, but too often it seems that enforcement efforts center on the big bad trucks.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance reports the state of Washington is one of the top three states to have the best record for commercial motor vehicle safety in the United States. Only Indiana and New Mexico have lower rates of collisions involving CMVs.

CVSA based its ranking on a study by the American Trucking Research Institute. CVSA praised the Washington State Patrol’s strong enforcement of commercial vehicle laws.

But they were quick to add that WSP also looked at the behavior of passenger vehicle drivers in the vicinity of semi trucks.

The CVSA report called out WSP’s use of tactics proven to reduce truck crashes.

• Focusing on aggressive driving behavior;

• Targeting both commercial vehicle and automobile drivers;

• Using marked and unmarked patrol cars; and

• Having an internal, performance-based system to direct enforcement by monitoring crash types, contributing behaviors and locations.

WSP Commercial Vehicle Division deployed the “Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT)” team to areas with high collision rate to make it clear that everyone needs to share the road safely and be attentive to their driving. “We’ll use this information to target our enforcement and resources at the right violations and the right locations,” Grondel says. “Hopefully we can turn these crash predictors into early interventions to break the cycle and continue to reductions in CMV related collisions.”

After Washington state’s pilot TACT program was successful, the FMCSA put together a program to get other states to adopt this high-visibility traffic enforcement program to reduce unsafe driving behaviors among drivers of passenger and commercial motor vehicles. Unfortunately, the FMCSA website needs some updating; it appears to not have been updated since 2009, and some of the links to state and media materials are no longer active.

Here’s hoping other state enforcement agencies will see Washington’s success rate and adopt similar attitudes toward commercial vehicle safety. It’s all about sharing the road.

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