Preventable or not: Doe, a deer!

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Law enforcement in Southeastern states launched a 100-day campaign June 18 focused on traffic safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Southeast Region has ask each highway patrol, commercial vehicle enforcement agency and local law enforcement agency to focus efforts on reducing annual accidents and fatalities resulting from speeding, impaired driving or failure to wear safety belts.

A Chicago businessman and three of his former employees are facing federal charges for allegedly helping at least 600 ineligible individuals from Illinois and other states fraudulently obtain regular and commercial driver’s licenses in Wisconsin. The charges represent an expansion of Operation Safe Road, a six-year-old Chicago-based investigation that previously has exposed fraud in state licensing systems in Illinois and Florida.

California Senate has passed a bill that would penalize motorists for unsafe driving resulting from distracting activities, including smoking, eating, drinking, grooming, stereo adjustments and use of a cell phone – even a hands-free model. First-time offenders could be fined $35.

Deborah Hersman has been sworn in as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. Hersman previously was a senior professional staff member of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and was involved in the passage of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 and other key legislation in transportation.

Research and Special Programs Administration has delayed until Jan. 1, 2005, the effective date of an October 2003 rule clarifying the applicability of the hazardous materials regulations to loading, unloading and storage operations. The original effective was Oct. 1, 2004. For more information, visit this site and search Docket No. 4952.

Iteris Inc. announced that it has developed retrofit kits for installation of its lane departure warning system on various models of Volvo, Peterbilt and Kenworth Class 8 trucks. The system already is available as an aftermarket installation on various International truck models and as a factory-installed option on Freightliner Class 8 trucks.

FleetRisk Advisors, a provider of risk-management services for the transportation industry, has obtained the license to use Circadian’s Circadian Alertness Simulator software to predict patterns of driver fatigue and alertness. Circadian is a consulting firm specializing in extended-hours operations.

It was 10 p.m., and the weather was fair on a moonless night. John Doe had been cruising his rig along a two-lane country road, encountering almost no traffic, and now was ascending a steep grade. Doe was nearing the end of his allowed driving time for the day and eagerly looked forward to a quick snack, a few minutes surfing the ‘Net and a night’s sleep at the Grub-N-Rest Truck Stop, which lay at the bottom of this big Appalachian foothill. The only thing standing between Doe and a savory meatloaf casserole was the other side of Walton Mountain.

Doe finally reached the top of the mountain and, after a couple of minutes of normal cruise speed, he downshifted and began his descent. The forest was especially thick at this section of Walton Mountain. Without any illumination from the moon, visibility was strictly limited to range of Doe’s headlamps. An abrupt and frightening drop on the right side of the road – buffered only by a steel guardrail – further restricted Doe’s margin of error.

As if accepting some dare from his forest buddies, a six-point buck decided to dart out of the woods and race across Doe’s path of travel.

Doe hit his brakes hard and then – in a desperate maneuver to avoid hitting the deer – steered his tractor hard right, partially off the roadway. Fortunately, he missed the deer. Unfortunately, he sideswiped the guardrail, destroying his right front fender.

A few weeks later, Doe was surprised to receive a letter from his safety director notifying him that he was being hit with a preventable accident. Given the alternative, Doe felt that he had taken the most appropriate action. So Doe and his company asked the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee to resolve the disagreement.

The accident review committee upheld the safety director’s determination of the accident as preventable. By reacting as he did, Doe easily could have driven his rig through the guardrail and off the side of the mountain, the committee ruled. It would have been much safer, committee members said, if Doe had kept his 18-wheeler fully on the road and, if necessary, flattened the deer. Had Doe hit the animal, the accident probably would have been ruled non-preventable.

New research indicates frequent, small amounts of caffeine promote wakefulness better than a big dose in the morning. The research by Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine was published May 10 in Journal Sleep.

Charles Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard, said people might fight drowsiness better by drinking about a quarter cup of coffee frequently.

“Most people take a huge jolt of coffee in the morning to jumpstart their day; they get the super grande latte from Starbucks,” Czeisler said. “Their caffeine levels soar only to fall as the day progresses in the face of rising sleepiness.”

The research indicated persons on the low-dose caffeine did better on cognitive tests and exhibited fewer accidental sleep onsets, or microsleeps. Tests showed that subjects given a placebo experienced microsleeps nearly 2 percent of the time during the scheduled wake episodes, compared with 0.3 percent of those drinking caffeine.

Still, the people who had caffeine reported feeling sleepier more than their placebo-taking counterparts. The study’s authors said that could indicate caffeine helps keep you awake but does not replace the restorative effects sleep provides.

Sixteen male test subjects were in sequestered private suites, free of time cues, for 29 days. The researchers scheduled the groups to live on a 42.85-hour day with 28.57-hour wake episodes meant to copy schedules common to doctors and military or emergency services personnel. The extended day was designed to disrupt their circadian system while maximizing the effects of sleep deprivation.

“Low Dose, Repeated Caffeine Administration for Circadian-phase Dependent Performance Degradation During Extended Wakefulness” can be viewed at this site.

NPTC sets safety meeting
The National Private Truck Council’s second annual National Safety Conference will feature a mix of presentations, discussions with key government representatives, expert panels and problem solving workshops. The meeting will be held Sept. 16-17 at the Hyatt Hotel at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. Topics for the meeting include:
Applying proven management techniques to safety and security
Benchmarking safety programs against NPTC’s On-Line Best Practices Program
Developing a strategic safety communication plan
Regulatory updates
Technology reviews that will deliver both safety and productivity results
Implementing effective safety incentives

For more information on the conference, visit this site or call Bob Inderbitzen at (203) 267-4607.