Posts Tagged ‘traffic fatalities’

News You Might Have Missed To End Your Week

Friday, February 4th, 2022

Interesting weather today, here in the heart of the Berkshire mountains. A little rain, a little sleet, a little freezing rain, a little snow and a lot of ice. The very definition of my newly coined word, quinaryfecta (I toyed with pentafecta).

Governor Baker has asked everyone to stay off the roads, so, here I sit putting together a few stories that might have slipped under your radar.

The cost of health care continues it ever-upward trajectory

In November, the Kaiser Family Foundation published the results of its annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, and 2021 continued what appears to be an unstoppable trend.

More than 155 million Americans get their health care from Employer Sponsored Insurance (ESI). That’s 55% of the working population. There are two facts about this year’s survey I would like to highlight:

First, the annual cost of health insurance for a family is rising faster than both wages and inflation.

To their credit, employers have been absorbing most of the rise in premium costs, but this prevents them from using those funds now going to health care insurance for other worthwhile endeavors, like growing their companies, enhancing their risk management programs, or raising wages.

Second, annual premium costs in 2021 rose 4% over 2020 to a record high $22,221. That’s $1,852 per month. Workers are paying an average of 28% of the cost, or about $500 per month. But that’s before a 2021 average deductible of $1,669, which is 92% higher than ten years ago. In 2021, 85% of workers in ESI plans were subject to a deductible.

As these costs continue their stratospheric rise it’s like employers and employees are side by side trying to outswim a Navy Destroyer ―  with every stroke they fall farther behind.

Speaking of upward trends, let’s consider traffic deaths in 2021

The Department of Transportation just released a statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first 9 months of 2021 showing an estimated 31,720 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes nationwide. This represents an increase of about 12% as compared to 28,325 fatalities that were projected in the first nine months of 2020. This is the highest percentage increase over a nine-month period since the Department began recording fatal crash data in 1975. The numbers in 2021 are 32.5% higher than they were a decade ago.

Something weird is happening on our roads. Over the last 45 years, traffic safety engineers and automakers have made remarkable progress in improving the safety of our roads and cars. But they haven’t been able to change the human element, about which we wrote a week ago.

Don’t go by raw numbers, however. The important statistic is the rate of traffic fatalities per million miles driven. From 2011 through 2019, the rate didn’t waffle much, going from 1.09 to 1.10, with a blip up to 1.17 in 2016.

All that changed in 2020, when the rate jumped to 1.35. In 2021, it inched up to 1.36 to prove 2020 wasn’t a momentary aberration.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced the Department will dedicate significant resources to attack these daily tragedies. We will be paying close attention to this.

Another example of our fragmented health care

The Biden Administration has made it easier for people to get free at home rapid tests. Here at our home, we applied on Day One of the program, and four days later our tests arrived. And the Administration has distributed millions of tests to pharmacies and states. People can go to CVS or Walmart or any other participating entity, buy tests, and get reimbursed by their insurance company. That’s not how other countries are doing it, and they’ve been doing it longer. They’ve cut out the insurer middleman, and have just gone directly to their people with the tests. In the the UK, for example, testing has become a way of life.

The insurer reimbursement issue has become a Medicaid problem for the states. The rules of Medicaid do not allow for it, and, because each state administers the program in its own way, they’re all approaching the problem differently.

Some states have made it easier for the safety net program to reimburse pharmacies for providing the tests at no cost. Others are experiencing what CMS described in an 11 January call with the states as “operational considerations and challenges.” Here’s one such challenge: Some states require a prescription for Medicaid enrollees to get anything from a pharmacy. To deal with this, states are making what they are calling “standing orders” to allow enrollees to get free tests at pharmacies without a prescription.

Another challenge for the states: How to get tests to homebound enrollees. Some states are attacking this by setting up temporary mail order programs.

My point here is that each state has to create its own solution. That is counterproductive. All the states are facing the same COVID problems, but each is attacking those problems differently. Throughout, one thing has become clear to the various Medicaid State Directors: the more they communicate with each other, the better off they are.

It is becoming more and more evident that the absence of one cohesive system to guide everyone wastes time and money, and jeopardizes the health of Medicaid enrollees all over the nation.

Have a nice weekend.


No bargains to be had in shortchanging trucking safety

Monday, March 21st, 2005

Most of us like bargains. We almost all feel good when we can save a few pennies here and a few dollars there at the grocery store or the mall. But when is a bargain not a bargain? Maybe when we trade the potential for saving a few cents with safety on our highways.
Recently, a new regulation proposed extending the number of hours that truckers can work each day from 14 to 16. Representative John Boozman (R-AK) sponsored the bill, which some have dubbed “the Wal-mart Amendment” because the world’s largest retailer has been in the forefront of pressing for the changes. It might more aptly be called the “What were they thinking” bill. This is one of those issues that concerns the safety of both the worker and the general public. About 5,000 people, more or less, are killed in big-rig fatalities each year. Let’s look at a few work driving fatality statistics from NIOSH:

  • From 1992 through 2001, roadway crashes were the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S., accounting for 13,337 civilian worker deaths (22% of all injury-related deaths).
  • Truck drivers, who are included among Transportation/Material Mover occupations, had a rate of 17.6 deaths per 100,000 FTE, a rate considerably higher than that for this occupation group as a whole.
  • Vehicles occupied by fatally injured workers were most often semi-trucks (3,780, 28%), cars (3,140, 24%), other and unspecified trucks (2,359, 18%), and pickup trucks (1,607, 12%).
  • Between 1992 and 2001, truck occupant deaths increased, as car occupant deaths decreased.
  • Crashes involving large trucks (more than 10,000 lb. gross vehicle weight rating) were 7 times as likely to be fatal to other motorists as to truck occupants. An average of 4,425 motorists involved in collisions with large trucks died each year from 1992 through 2001, compared to 681 large-truck occupants.

Long driving hours: a recipe for fatigue
The current Hours of Service were revised in 2004, extending the allowable hours for driving from 10 to 11, but limiting the maximum duty period down from 15 to 14 hours. The three non-driving hours are for breaks, meals, loading and unloading, etc. Proposed legislation would increase the hours of duty to 16 and the hours of driving to 14. Rep. Boozman seems to think this will increase driver safety.
The Asheville Daily Record frames the issue when they pose the questions “While locked onto the flank of an 18-wheeler in the narrow Pigeon River Gorge on a rainy day, have you ever wondered just how tired the driver of that spray-throwing behemoth next to you is?”
The Daily Record has been an advocate of truck and highway safety over the years. They have an excellent editorial on the topic entitled Trucker fatigue still an issue; give drivers a big say in any workday changes that will be available for a few more days before being archived. It�s worth a read. They point out that a 16-hour workday is the equivalent of two full workdays for most people, and suggest that the matter of hours be best left to federal regulators and the truckers themselves:
Settling on the best formula for truck drivers’ hours is best left to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), not to retailers and the trucking industry, which have much more interest in profits than what is best for the guys behind the wheel.
The FMCSA is in the midst of revising these rules, and should be gathering testimony from the truckers themselves. Congress should stay out of this process.

Boozman withdrew the bill last week in the wake of protest, but it is likely it will resurface again since some of the largest retailers are lobbying hard for extended trucking hours.
We’ve previously blogged about how extended hours and fatigue on the part of workers with a public trust can become a can become a public hazard. (See When injured workers meet tired doctors). From our perspective, tired workers are a hazard to themselves and to others. Extending trucker hours will result in more accidents and more deaths. Sometime later, public outrage and lawsuits will cause the pendulum to swing the other way again. In workers’ comp, it doesn’t take long to learn that cutting corners usually doesn’t pay – a short-term gain can be quickly outweighed by a long-term loss. There are no bargains when it comes to short-changing safety.
More resources
Work Related Roadway Crashes: Who’s at Risk
Truck Drivers Should Grab the Wheel When it Comes to Sleep Management
How to share the road with truckers
Driver Fatigue Quiz