The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) has announced a new safety program called Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT) under which they will be attempting to reduce crashes and injuries involving commercial vehicles. The program includes outreach and targeted enforcement. 88% of the time, fatal crashes involving large commercial trucks are caused by driver error, as opposed to vehicle defects or environmental conditions. Generally, both the commercial and non-commercial vehicles involved in the accidents are partially at fault. The FHP hopes that this program will raise awareness and inspire drivers to drive more safely.
During the targeted enforcement activities, highway patrolmen will concentrate on “aggressive driving,” specifically those who are following other vehicles too closely, failing to yield right-of-way, passing improperly, failing to obey traffic signals, making unsafe lane changes, and violating speed limits. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as, “when individuals commit a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” Aggressive driving is never safe, but it is especially dangerous when one of the vehicles involved is an 80-foot long truck that weighs up to 20 tons.
Speaking about last year’s TACT campaign, Lt. Col. Troy Thompson, deputy director of the FHP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Bureau said, ““Confronting the aggressive habits of drivers, whether they are in a car or a large truck, is essential to making Florida’s highways safer to travel. If all motorists exercise patience and caution, avoid aggressive driving behaviors and remain alert, we can reduce the number of crashes that occur on our state’s roads.”
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, aggressive driving is one of eight emphases from Florida’s 2012 Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). Also, the “AAA Foundation’s fourth annual 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index found 55.1 percent of respondents felt aggressive drivers were a very serious threat to their personal safety, and 33 percent responded they were a somewhat serious threat. In on-line surveys of Floridians, aggressive driving is always identified in the public’s top three issues of traffic safety. Special efforts to curb such behavior are warranted.”
The good news is that traffic fatalities have been dropping across the nation since the 1970s. For example, in Florida, fatalities and serious injuries have dropped from 538 in 2008 to 374 in 2010. The most dangerous groups of Floridian drivers (i.e., those involved in the most fatalities) are males from 25 to 34 years old and males from 35 to 44 years old.
TACT safety program outreach will include billboards, radio messages, and educational events at community centers and schools around the state. Generally, drivers need to know more about how to interact with large trucks on the road. It is important to remember to stay cool and focused while driving. Often aggressive drivers don’t realize they are being aggressive, but they are reacting to life stresses.
- Do not cut off a truck. It takes much longer, about 40% longer, for a truck to stop, even if the driver slams on his brakes. Give the truck at least one car space for every 10 miles per hour you are traveling.
- Be aware of the truck’s very large blind spots and stay out of them. Make sure that you can see the truck’s rear view mirror and the truck driver can see you.
- Do not follow too closely. Following too closely is never a good idea, but it is especially dangerous when it comes to large commercial trucks. The truck will block so much of your field of vision that you could be racing into a downed car, a sinkhole, or any number of things without realizing it.
- When you are driving ahead of a truck, make sure that you see both of the truck’s headlights in your rearview mirror before you change lanes.
The Federal Highway Administration offers some advice and information to state governments regarding the use of targeted traffic enforcement programs. According to the FHA, programs like TACT have been shown to reduce traffic violations by between 23 and 83%. However, there is no direct evidence of whether reductions of traffic violations necessarily result in safer roads. Also, programs like TACT are effective for short durations, for days or weeks, rather than for months or years. It also helps when program spokespeople educate the local court systems and solicit their assistance in appropriately punishing the violators so as to avoid the court undermining the programs.
This current campaign which began on October 23, 2015 will end on November 5, 2015. The previous one ran from July 31st to August 13th and before that the program ran from June 5 to June 18, 2015. It is safe to say that it will run again before the year is out.