By Art Liggio, CEO and President, Driving Dynamics
The very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individual rights of free speech along with other important civil liberties. Over the decades, Americans have cherished and embraced this right and, in many cases, this freedom has contributed to producing a better society. Free speech has often been exercised as citizens gather to protest unfair practices and decisions made by government mandates on both the federal and state levels, and to address other societal wrongs.
During 2020 we have experienced both the good and the bad, as demonstrations have surged to new levels and continue today. The civil unrest watchdog, ACLED [Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project], recorded more than 10,600 demonstration events across the country since May. And in July alone, the last full month they reported on at the time this article was written, ACLED identified nearly 2,000 demonstrations in addition to counter-protests. About 95 percent have remained peaceful but five percent of these events have resulted in civil unrest, violence, and police enforcement. It’s not my intent or the purpose of this article to comment on the rights and wrongs of these actions but to instead draw attention to the driver safety issues which revolve around these scenarios, as well as the increased level of anxiety most drivers are likely now experiencing when pulled over for routine police stops.
Are your fleet drivers aware of these new-found hazards and prepared to make smart journey management choices during these troubling times? Even peaceful protests, many of which seem to suddenly pop up out of nowhere and overtake popular roadways, are challenging the safety of drivers. This new reality is not limited to fleet drivers alone. It includes the individuals who commute to work as well.
To offer drivers solutions for these tricky situations, we sought advice from our professional instructional staff, many of whom have extensive years of experience as law enforcement officers, in particular, traffic safety control. A good portion of the advice was provided by one of our senior leaders who is also a retired colonel from the Colorado State Patrol. The central message he shared is that prevention is the ultimate key. A safe driver is always a thoughtful driver.
Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for activities that are out of the ordinary. Since we live in a ‘connected world,’ be mindful of current events and broadcasted protests in the area you are traveling and how they can play a role in your journey. If you are already on the road and come across an event, stay calm, follow the traffic patterns, keep scanning what lies ahead and remain vigilant while driving through crowds.
Research routes. If driving in an area you have not previously travelled, do some research. It only takes a few minutes and is well worth the time investment. Use Google Maps or other similar services to help plan a route and get acquainted with the area. Most of these systems allow drivers to explore various journey options, allot for potential roadblocks or delays and make better decisions which can help prevent potential police traffic stops.
In addition to driver-specific tips, our instructional staff has worked closely with fleet management clients, discussing the current challenges and creating effective solutions. As an employer, you must offer relevant training opportunities and send continuous safety communications to employees regarding best practices to handle these circumstances. Take advantage of training resources like our new e-lesson which specifically focuses on preparing drivers to safely travel during times of civil unrest. Already assigned to thousands of drivers across the country, the online training teaches drivers how they can navigate through these high-risk events and manage police stops with confidence. Not only will it help prepare your employees to overcome these obstacles, but it also shows that the organization prioritizes the safety of its staff.
We’re all going through these challenging times together. Continue to encourage drivers to remain aware of current events, road closures and demonstrations that may have an impact on their journey and emphasize the importance of planning ahead. Remember, the best way to maintain safety behind the wheel is through training, vigilance, and preparedness.