MIAMI – According to a survey released Wednesday by the Newsal Safety Council and the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, 71 percent of U.S. drivers take photos or videos when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road responding to a fire or a crash, or simply making a routine traffic stop.
Sixty percent post to social media, and 66 percent send an email about the situation — all while behind the wheel.
Those distracting behaviors are markedly less frequent, but still alarming, during normal driving conditions — 24 percent of drivers surveyed said they take photos or video while driving, 29 percent admitted to using social media and 24 percent said they send email.
Worse still, 16 percent — more than 1 in 10 — said they either have struck or nearly struck a first responder or emergency vehicle stopped on or near the road. In spite of all this, 89 percent of drivers say they believe distracted motorists are a major source of risk to first responders.
NSC is releasing the survey during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, observed every April to raise awareness and educate about the importance of being attentive behind the wheel. Funding for the survey was provided to the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association through the FEMA Fire Prevention and Firefighter Safety Grant Program.
“The cruel irony is, we are putting the people who are trying to improve safety in very unsafe situations,” said Nick Smith, interim president and CEO of the Newsal Safety Council. “Our emergency responders deserve the highest levels of protection as they grapple with situations that are not only tactically difficult but also emotionally taxing. Save your communications for off the road; disconnect and just drive.”
Thousands die each year in distracted driving crashes, though Newsal Safety Council investigations show these crashes are significantly underreported and undercounted. Emergency responders are particularly vulnerable, because they exit their vehicles and tend to situations on active roadways. In 2013, 37 people died in crashes involving ambulances, fire trucks or police cars, and an additional 17,028 were injured. Since January, 16 emergency responders have been struck and killed by vehicles. Sadly, 49 percent of survey respondents said possibly being struck by a vehicle is “just part of the risk” of being a first responder.
“The Emergency Responder Safety Institute was born 21 years ago following the tragedy of two highway incidents that took the lives of first responders who were struck while helping others,” said Greg Yost, President of the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association, parent organization of the Emergency Responder Safety Institute. “Because of distracted driving, we’ve been focusing our efforts on educating drivers who are often not paying careful enough attention when passing emergency scenes. In 2019, already 16 responders have lost their lives and many others have been injured in these types of crashes,” he said.
Other important findings from the poll include:
- 19 percent of drivers admit their own inattentive driving has probably put first responders at unnecessary risk
- Despite being willing to engage in risky behaviors while driving around emergency vehicles, 62 percent say they are “above average” drivers when passing an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing on the side of the road
- 24 percent do not realize that there are legal requirements for what drivers must do when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road
- Even though 97 percent say they will see an emergency vehicle if it has its flashing lights on, 74 percent would still like responders to wear reflective clothing
- 80 percent of drivers say they slow down to get a better look when they see an emergency response vehicle tending to a fire, crash or traffic stop. Doing so backs up traffic and creates other safety hazards.
- Encouragingly, 67 percent have heard of “Move Over” laws and 73 percent say they move over when they see an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road with its lights on – the proper response on nearly all roadways
“Those that serve the public are exposed to a number of risks, including risks from those that they serve,” said I. David Daniels, chair of the NSC Government and Public Sector Division, which initiated the NSC-ERSI partnership. “These two organizations’ joint efforts will most certainly help increase safety for public sector workers and reduce communities’ costs incurred from vehicle crashes involving public employees.”
Truck Driver: A job for some, a game for others
When people ask me about my job, one of the most common questions is where we get stuff to write about.
I wish I could say we keep our company Lear Jet on permanent standby to whisk us from Little Rock to wherever the action is. The truth is nowhere near as cool. We get most of it right here at our desks. Some of it comes to us in the form of press releases. We find other stuff on the news wire services, like Associated Press. A lot of the rest of it, we get from Googling. If we see something big or breaking, or cool and weird, we look into it.
My day usually starts with a keyword search of the world. A few days ago, it appeared that one item was by far the most important thing happening on planet Earth, at least under the headings “truck,” “trucking” and “tractor-trailer.” There were about a half-dozen websites posting on it. Immediately, I refreshed my coffee, then my fingers sprang into action to investigate.
Stop the presses, everyone, the story was about a new video game called Truck Driver due to be released in September. The game is produced by a Dutch company called SOEDESCO. Personally, I haven’t played a video game since the last time I ran out of quarters at the 7-Eleven. That was 1986, as I recall, so I couldn’t tell you if SOEDESCO is a major player in the game design world, but the press release and preview video for the game had apparently set the gaming world agog.
Apparently, this new game is going to put all previous truck driving video games to shame. “Really?” I thought. “There’ve been others?” I checked. Yes, there have — several, in fact. But this one promises to be the most realistic trucking experience available.
According to the official literature, some of the most exciting aspects of Truck Driver is you get to (and this is word for word): “Enjoy a trucking experience focused on your career as a truck driver, build stronger relationships with the local community with each job, customize your truck with tons of parts and tune it to your liking, explore a vast open world and watch it progress with you, navigate through beautiful landscapes and fully explorable cities.”
All without leaving mom’s basement.
I watched the preview video and read the literature. The premise of the game is that you’ve inherited a truck from your uncle, and the game is to become a successful independent owner-operator. You have to “interact” with fictional “customers,” building “relationships” by successfully hauling loads. The game features fun-filled challenges like backing up, hitching a trailer and pulling up to a fuel pump, and then traversing artificial highways and byways without crashing into stuff.
The first thing you do is pick your avatar. You can be male or female, white or black. All the choices are young, good-looking and incredibly fit, you know, just like real truck drivers.
I started to wonder if the game’s realism might be overstated. I had some questions the promotional video didn’t address. Does the game include being stuck at a shipper for hours on end? Do the challenges include finding parking for the night? How many braindead four-wheelers do you have to share the simulated road with?
Given the addictive tendencies of some of these gamers, is there a penalty for HOS violations?
On one of the websites that was sharing this major announcement, someone commented they looked forward to playing this game, right after they get done with “Hanging Sheetrock” and “Ditch Digging.” My reaction had been similar. Granted, as I said, when I left video games behind, they consisted of shooting space bugs, apes who threw things at you and round things trying to eat other round things. I know video games have gotten much more sophisticated and diverse and immersive.
Still, when I think of interactive fantasy play, hauling logs is never the fantasy.
I wasn’t sure how real truck drivers would react to this game. Would they find it ridiculous, maybe even insulting that their profession has been packaged into an oversimplified, sanitized game? Or that some of these passive dolts will think they now know all about trucking because they reached Level 4, or whatever?
If they really want to know what being a truck driver is like, hey, there are plenty of jobs available. They can pry their butts out of the La-Z-Boy and come find out.
Then again, it’s kind of flattering. Truckers often complain how disrespected they are, how people look down on them. The mere existence of a game like this shows that on some level, the opposite is true. Now, as always, the truck driver holds a certain mystique to outsiders. People are fascinated and intimidated at how you handle those enormous vehicles. You represent the romance of the open road. You’re mysterious in a cool way, kind of like a cowboy.
OK, maybe the game doesn’t show what it’s really like to be a truck driver. Maybe that isn’t the point. It’s about fantasy.
I looked to see if I could find any “pretend you’re a journalist” video games out there. Not a one.
If there is, I doubt I’d recommend it
Split Michigan House OKs plan to shift fuel taxes to roads
LANSING, Mich.— Sales taxes collected at the gas pump would be shifted to road repairs under a budget plan approved Thursday by the Michigan House, where majority Republicans called it a first step in response to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s call for higher fuel taxes to fix deteriorating transportation infrastructure.
GOP lawmakers said they structured their blueprint so schools and municipalities, which now get most of the sales tax on fuel, would be held harmless. But Democrats were skeptical, saying the spending bills would not do enough to improve the roads and ultimately would create new fiscal problems for education and local governments.
Michigan spends less per capita on transportation than many states but has fuel taxes that rank among the country’s highest. That is because it assesses a sales tax on gasoline — which is rare — while the revenue primarily helps fund education and local governments.
“People expect when they pay at the pump that every penny paid in taxes at the pump is a penny that is going to go toward roads. That is what we just accomplished with this budget while funding our roads at a record level without raising taxes one cent,” said Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield.
The House action was the latest move in what appears likely to be a protracted budget process that that will extend into the summer months. Whitmer in March proposed her plan, including a 45-cents-a-gallon gasoline and diesel tax increase, while the GOP-led Senate passed its proposal in May. Her blueprint would eventually boost transportation spending by roughly $2 billion annually, while the Senate proposal would spend an additional $132 million earlier than planned.
Under the House budget, the state would gradually direct $850 million more to roads a year — though Chatfield characterized it as a “first step” and said there will be further talks with Senate leadership and the Whitmer administration.
Democrats opposed the transportation budget, K-12 budget and other spending bills that were passed Thursday. The measures would increase funding for schools and universities but less so than Whitmer wants. They also would cut public transit — shifting the money to roads — reduce information technology spending across state government and not include water infrastructure improvements proposed by the governor.
“We can do better. We have an obligation to do better,” said House Minority Leader Christine Greig. “House Democrats are ready to work with our colleagues on a budget that fixes our problems and not on one that creates new ones.”
Also Thursday, the House GOP backed after critics said the way the transportation budget was changed in a committee Wednesday could have halted or slowed the construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Canada. Canada is paying for the project entirely, but Republicans had concerns about transparency regarding reimbursements to the state for its expenses.
They reinserted a provision to let the state do work that is reimbursed, while adding new requirements so spending reports are submitted to legislators.
Great Dane’s Laura Roan Hays chosen chairwoman for Women In Trucking
PLOVER, Wis. — Laura Roan Hays, branch manager for the Tampa and Miami branch locations for Great Dane, is the new chairwoman of the board of Women In Trucking (WIT).
Hays was chosen at the organization’s annual meeting where the association votes on term renewals and officers.
The board provides guidance for the non-profit association that works to elevate the issue of gender diversity in the transportation and logistics industry.
Roan Hays succeeds Mary Aufdemberg, director, acquisitions and operations, Daimler Trucks North America and Daimler Trucks Remarketing, who reached the end of her term.
“It has been a pleasure to serve as chairwoman of the WIT board of directors the past four years,” Aufdemberg said. “During that time, we have accomplished tremendous membership growth and expanded our reach and influence across ten countries. We also created the Accelerate! Conference focused on gender diversity and watched it more than double in attendance over the last four years. I look forward to seeing WIT continue to grow in its mission.”
Rachel Christensen, director of intermodal, operations, J.B. Hunt Transport, will continue on the board as vice chair. Leah Shaver, COO of Newsal Transportation Institute, will continue as secretary. Bryan Most, vice president, Walmart Transportation, will continue serving as treasurer.
New directors voted to the board in the recent board meeting also include Delores Lail, senior vice president, sales, East region, Ryder Systems, Inc.; Michele Rodgers, director of program management, Peterbilt Motors Co.; Tracci Schultz, senior vice president, strategic planning, engineering, operations solutions, FedEx; Kary Shaefer, general manager of product marketing and strategy, Daimler Trucks North America; Lori Taylor, carrier services manager, C. H. Robinson; and Heather Wilson, chief commercial officer, BMO Transportation Finance.
Roan Hays has been in the transportation industry for more than 30 years.
She began her career in 1989 as an administrative assistant and worked her way up to branch manager, leading the Great Dane Tampa and Miami branches. She has been a member of WIT since early 2012.
“From the beginning of my career, I have strived to bridge the gender gap in our industry. Let’s face it, 30 years ago there weren’t many females in sales/operation management roles for commercial truck trailers manufacturers. It takes a lot of determination and courage to commit to a non-traditional career,” Hays said. “I am honored to be a part of an organization like Women In Trucking whose mission is to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize the obstacles they face.”
Women In Trucking Association is a nonprofit association established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. Membership is not limited to women, as 17 percent of its members are men who support the mission.
For more information, visit or call 888-464-9482.