SPEED (and Complacency) KILLS
We could have a debate about who coined the phrase “speed kills.” Usually, when these two words are used it is in reference to excessive speed. As underwriters, we’re wary of commercial drivers with multiple speeding tickets. If we agree to quote someone with a heavy foot, it won’t be cheap. (Likewise, the driver with a lighter touch on the accelerator can expect a more competitive price.) The point I want to make is that speed itself, even at or below the posted limit, can kill. According to the FMCSA’s research, speeding of any kind was responsible for 12.4% of all single vehicle fatal crashes and 6.1% of all multi-vehicle fatal crashes involving drivers of large trucks in 2020.* When speed is linked to other determining factors such as fatigue, distractions, weather and so on, it becomes clear that the faster you go, depending on a wide variety of conditions, has a lot to do with having an accident and how severe that accident will be.
If you’ve read this far, thanks, but you may be thinking that all this is pretty obvious. That may be part of the problem. Complacency. Using myself as an example, I’ve been driving a private passenger car for 50 years. That makes me an old “four-wheeler.” Fortunately, for me and countless truck drivers who have to share the road with me and other four-wheelers, I’ve been a truck underwriter for 38 of those years and I know how to drive around class 8 tractor-trailers. I understand stopping distances and blind spots. When I pass on the left I make sure I see you in your mirror and I don’t waste time. I always signal and whenever I get the chance, I yield to trucks when merging. I’m the four-wheeler you wish everyone was. That’s because I’ve read hundreds of accident reports and claim notes. I’ve seen photos I can’t unsee. When it’s an 80,000 pound truck versus a 5,000 pound car, the truck is going to win every time. To be fair, a lot of private passenger drivers do use good judgement when sharing the road with big rigs. But many more don’t know how to behave, or have grown complacent about speed. Professional drivers can also easily fall victim to the need for speed. That’s when tragedy rides with us in the right seat. The accident is waiting to happen. I nearly rear-ended a SUV at a red light a few weeks ago when I took a moment to fiddle with my car’s heater control. Had my wife not gasped, causing me to look up at the last second, all my years of driving and underwriting wouldn’t have prevented an accident.
So, let’s watch out for the other guy and try not to let our minds wander. Let’s get enough rest and most of all let’s not think it couldn’t happen to us.
*(People Table 30. Drivers of Large Trucks in Fatal Crashes by Number of Vehicles Involved, Driver-Related Factors, and Violations Recorded, 2020. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/data-and-statistics/large-truck-and-bus-crash-facts-2020)