Fall is officially here… Pumpkin spice flavoring has taken over our brew houses and grocery stores, people are in never-ending debates about football, and our morning commutes just got longer thanks to the frequent stops demanded by the school busses once again sharing our routes. Not only can these giant yellow hogs-on-wheels can be an inconvenience sometimes, they can also pose a threat to safety on the road. Or we should say that impatient drivers pose a threat to safety on the road even more than usual when the school busses are out.
A study of 29 states done by the National Association of State Directors for Pupil Transportation Services recorded about 76,000 cars illegally passing school busses in just one day. While you may brush these illegal passes off as impatient commuters, the US Department of Transportation estimates that America sees an average of 135 fatalities, 19 of which are school-age children, from school-transportation-related crashes. These statistics may make our school bus system seem like a hazard, but did you know that half of America’s schoolchildren ride some 480,000 school busses every day to get an education? The American School Bus Council estimates that every school bus keeps 36 cars off the road, which means about 17.3 million less cars clogging up traffic, and 17.3 million fewer cars polluting our environment. That’s pretty impressive!
So, what is “the zone”? And how can it promote safety on the road?
Bus drivers, along with police officers, firefighters, medical responders, and construction workers, conduct business in a constantly moving “zone” that changes throughout the day as they patrol their districts, respond to emergency calls, or work on repairing our crumbling roadways.
Let’s take police officers for example. A police officer’s zone could be the shoulder of a busy urban freeway at nighttime where you’ve stopped someone for speeding. Or it could be on the side of a dark, cornfield-lined highway where you’ve pulled someone over for blowing a stop sign. It could be down a dark alley where you’ve chased a suspect in an armed robbery. Or it could simply be a vacant parking lot where you’ve stopped off to catch up on some paperwork. The list goes on forever, as does the list of scenarios that could arise within your zone at any given moment.
These unpredictable and ever-changing zones make up some of the most dangerous working environments of modern times. To put it in perspective, every year the United States loses an average* of 51 police officers, 14 firefighters, 9 emergency responders** and 122 construction workers to traffic-related incidents.*** That’s on top of the 135 school-bus-related fatalities we already mentioned, and doesn’t include civilian deaths resulting from these incidents. If you add all those people up, that’s 331 fatalities per year that our team at SoundOff has an opportunity to reduce through innovative problem solving and smart product design. These 331 children, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers and dear friends are our reason for coming into work every day, and the driving force behind the products and solutions we develop. The lives of 331 fellow citizens per year are the reason we want to help our customers “Own the Zone.”
Visualizing the Zone
As a public safety official, much of your job training focuses on the tactics and tools you can employ to help you promote safety on the road–tools like lights and sirens. As a manufacturer of these tools, the best way for us to make sure they are effective in helping you own your zone is to put ourselves in your shoes, and try to imagine every possible zone you may find yourself in on the job and every situation that could arise within that zone. Every day, we try to put our minds into your shoes to visualize the dangers you face on the job.
Let’s try one of these visualization exercises. Imagine yourself on that busy urban freeway. You just pulled over a black sedan that was going 89 in a 70 on a Saturday night. Traffic is flying by at an average of 75 miles an hour, switching lanes to get ahead of each other and impatiently honking at slow drivers in the passing lane. There’s an exit up ahead on the right, and random vehicles from all lanes of traffic veer toward it without slowing down. You have no idea who is in the vehicle you just pulled over. You run the plates and, not seeing any red flags on record, get out of your patrol car and start approaching on the driver’s side.
Any number of things could happen at this point. The driver could pull a handgun on you. There could be someone hiding in the back seat with an AR15 trained at your face. A car coming up the hill behind you could be distracted by a text message, miss your flashing lights and become one of the 13 drivers per year that accidentally strikes a police officer on the side of the road. Another possibility could be that your speeding culprit has a deep-rooted hate for law enforcement and texts his friends after you pull him over to set you up for an ambush. With anti-government militias on the rise and tensions increasing for law enforcement in certain communities, police ambushes, such as the assassinations that took place in Las Vegas, New York, Missouri and Dallas over the last two years, are a very real and terrifying threat in America today. Understanding these many risks helps us visualize ways we can help keep you safe.
Own Your Zone
Simply put, “Own the Zone” means taking control of your surroundings. It means that the more authority you have in your work zone, the less likely it will be for you, or the people you are responsible for protecting, to become a statistic. So how do SoundOff products help you own your zone?
This product platform is the ultimate multitool for helping you own the zone. bluePRINT allows law enforcement departments to preprogram vehicle lights and sirens in anticipation of a variety of different zones and situations you may encounter on the job using intuitive triggers. For example, when you are in pursuit and entering a dangerous intersection, you can simply honk your horn to set off a series of attention-grabbing light and siren patterns to help people notice you and give you a clear path.
With a simple flip of a switch, bluePRINT allows you to light up the night with 360 degrees of intense white lighting, disorienting potential attackers, or creating better visibility for yourself. bluePRINT removes distractions by saving you the additional brainpower normally needed to operate your lights and sirens, so you can focus on the more important aspects of your job.
Promoting Safety on the Road
Whatever situations arise throughout your work day, SoundOff’s reliable products and accommodating support team are here to make sure you have the right tools to keep yourself safe so that you can keep your roads and communities safe. Learn more in our recent videos, Own the Zone for law enforcement and Own the Zone for school busses, available on our Youtube channel.
*Average calculated using the referenced statistics from at least 4 of the last 20 years.
**Data is hard to find for emergency responders
***Some of these on-the-job fatalities were due to natural causes.