Trucks At Work Blog Header
by Sean Killcarr, in Trucks at Work

babyNow, before you get any ideas, the title above refers to two SEPARATE studies regarding the driving life in this country – by no means are pregnant women driving around the U.S. causing road rage incidents.

Yet both of these studies – the first determining that pregnancy is associated with a substantial increase in the risk of a serious motor vehicle crash, especially during the second trimester, with the second highlighting which U.S. cities are the worst for rude driving behavior – identify just two of the untold numbers of unpredictable facets of life on the highway that pose danger to truck drivers.

Let’s start with pregnant women drivers. This study – published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal this week – tracked a total of 507,262 women who gave birth in Canada’s Ontario province between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2011.

Donald Redelmeier, the lead researcher for this study, said his team found that those pregnant women accounted for 6,922 motor vehicle crashes as drivers during the three-year study period, or roughly 177 per month, with 757 motor vehicle crashes occurring while driving during the second trimester, pushing the crash average up to 252 per month – equivalent to a 42% relative increase in crash risk, though that second trimester “surge” is balanced out by a big drop in third trimester crashes (presumably because pregnant women don’t drive as much in the final stage of pregnancy).

Though, as this story shows, the crash risk of pregnant women drivers remains lower than that of men in general, but it’s still something to think about – especially for female truck drivers who, if pregnant, might decide to keep working through at least their second trimester.

houstonNow let’s switch gears (pun intended) and talk about the annual study conducted by roadside assistance service AutoVantage, in this the 2014 In the Driver's Seat Road Rage Survey. The firm polled 2,500 consumers aged 21 and above who personally drive during rush hour (Monday through Friday) no fewer than 3 days per week.

Based on the responses to its survey, AutoVantage found that Houston “won” the top spot on its list of cities with the least courteous drivers in the U.S., followed by: Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Boston.

In comparison to the firm’s 2009 iteration of this survey, Houston "moved up" in the “road rage” ratings from eighth place, with Baltimore showing the worst decline in driver behavior – jumping some 20 spots on the “bad” list – with Washington D.C. a close second, stepping up some 16 spots.

By contrast, for the second time in five years, Portland, OR, has been identified as the city with the most courteous drivers, according to AutoVantage, with Pittsburgh retaining a spot in the top five, moving from fifth place to second, while St. Louis placed third overall for courteous drivers in 2014.
Minneapolis showed the biggest improved by increasing 15 spots, with Dallas not far behind at 11 spots and Detroit surprisingly rising in the “good behavior” rankings by nine spots.

All that being said, safer driving habits seem to be taking hold – at least according to AutoVantage’s poll. When compared to 2009, survey respondents observed safer driving habits from their fellow commuters:

• Observations of speeding have declined 12% since 2009
• Observations of running red lights have declined 5% since 2009
• Observations of tailgating have declined 6% since 2009
• Observations of cutting over without notice have declined 6% from 2009
• Observations of slamming on the brakes have declined 2% since 2009

Furthermore, fellow drivers seem to have given up many distractions. Respondents reported a decrease in a wide range of behaviors that take one's eyes off the road, with one notable exception:

• Observations of other drivers talking on their cell phone have declined 15% since 2009
• Observations of eating and drinking have declined 12% since 2009
• Observations of other types of multitasking have declined 4% since 2009
• Observations of texting while driving have increased 9% since 2009

Yet despite those around them giving up distractions and driving less aggressively, respondents were more likely to lose their cool in reaction to other drivers, AutoVantage found:

• Driver admissions of honking their horn increased 12% over 2009
• Driver admissions of cursing at another driver increased 8% over 2009
• Driver admissions of making an obscene gesture at another driver increased 3% over 2009
• Driver admissions of waving their arm or fist at another driver increased 4% over 2009

So what import does any of this have for trucking? At the very least, it’ll give big rig operators a “heads up” if you will that in and around certain U.S. cities they may experience more problematic drivers compared to others. And when operating on today’s crowded yet often very fast-paced highways, even a little insight can help truckers make better adjustments to the driving environments they find themselves in.

To read more blog posts from Sean Kilcarr's award-winning blog, "Trucks at Work", click here.