During Distracted Driving Awareness Month, RTD reminds the public that such behavior puts everyone at risk

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the importance of remaining focused while behind the wheel – and a period when RTD reminds the public that distracted driving puts everyone at risk.

Safe driving is paramount to the agency’s overall core mission and a point of pride for RTD’s hundreds of bus operators, who commit to focused driving, staying alert and avoiding distractions; are constantly watching out for distracted motorists; and must respond by managing distracted motorists once they spot them. The National Safety Council notes that more than 700 injury crashes each day in the United States involve distracted driving. Examples of such behavior include talking or texting on a phone, eating or drinking, applying makeup, reading, watching a video or programming a navigational system.

“As RTD reflects this month on the prevalence of distracted driving and the need and importance to drive safely, our operators have committed to driving distraction-free,” said General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson. “Our customers can be assured that, when they board any of the agency’s buses, their operator has been trained to approach their work with safe operation of that vehicle top of mind.”

Initial training for bus operators complies with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) rule, requiring a new driver to successfully complete a prescribed program of theory and behind-the-wheel instruction before taking the skills test for a commercial driver’s license. RTD is an ELDT training provider and registered with the FMCSA. RTD works to ensure that all new bus operators are equipped with the knowledge to safely operate commercial motor vehicles – training that only 2.9% of licensed drivers have, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Classroom instruction covers dozens of topics that include distracted driving, speed management, space management, night operation and extreme driving conditions. An operator trainee must achieve an overall minimum score of 80% on this assessment. The individual must also demonstrate proficiency in all areas of behind-the-wheel instruction, including vehicle inspection, backing, parking, turns, lane changes, visual search, speed and space management, safe driver behavior, railroad-highway grade crossing and passenger safety awareness.

New operators are also trained in the Smith System 5 Keys of driving safely, a system that helps reduce accidents by optimizing driving behavior and increasing awareness of what is happening on the road.

Defensive driving topics are covered in annual refresher training for bus operators. In 2020, all operators attended an eight-hour defensive driving class that included the Smith System 5 Keys, an obstacle course for clearance training and a drive evaluation. In 2021, operators participated in a mirror-setting exercise and a Smith System evaluation drive.

RTD presents its operators with safe-driving awards for having completed at least one full year of driving without a preventable accident. The most recent awards given in December, reflecting job performance in 2020, honored 539 bus operators for their safe driving – spanning one to 22 years. Operators will be recognized soon for their safe driving last year.