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SWANA responds to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics

SWANA says the administration’s data is consistent with its own fatality data.

May 20, 2022

The Solid Waste Association of North America, or SWANA, has issued a news release stating that it is “very concerned” by safety data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that shows a 15 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2021. SWANA says the data is consistent with its data showing a continuing high level of third-party fatalities from incidents involving waste collection vehicles, despite an apparent decline in collection worker fatalities in the solid waste industry in 2021.

“This federal data confirms what SWANA and our members are seeing: Other drivers on the road are driving too fast, do not always comply with traffic laws, are sometimes distracted and causing many collisions with waste collection trucks and other vehicles,” SWANA CEO and Executive Director David Biderman says. “SWANA urges the driving public to drive more carefully, particularly near large vehicles like waste collection trucks.”

Thirty-five members of the public have died in roadway accidents involving the solid waste industry this year compared with 37 at this same time in 2021. Many of these incidents involve drivers crossing the center line and hitting collection vehicles or crashing into them when they are stopped, suggesting that distraction may be playing a role in many of these tragic collisions, Silver Spring, Maryland-based SWANA says.

The organization says it is committed to reducing worker injuries and fatalities through awareness, training and education. SWANA’s safety offerings include distribution of the weekly Safety Matters tip sheet to members, coordination of Chapter Safety Ambassadors and an annual Safety Summit at WASTECON. SWANA and its New Jersey and New York Chapters also recently signed a two-year agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Region 2 office to help protect workers from health and safety hazards present in all aspects of the solid waste industry.  

Slow Down to Get Around, a national safety campaign that reminds motorists to drive more carefully near waste and recycling collection vehicles, is a priority for SWANA and the National Waste & Recycling Association, Arlington, Virginia. SWANA says being struck by a motorist is a leading cause of death for waste and recycling collection employees and, with proper awareness, is completely preventable.

A number of Slow Down to Get Around laws requiring motorists to slow down or move over when passing waste and recycling vehicles that are collecting waste and recyclables have been enacted at the state level:

  • Alabama;
  • Arizona;
  • California;
  • Florida;
  • Georgia;
  • Illinois;
  • Indiana;
  • Iowa;
  • Kansas;
  • Kentucky;
  • Maryland;
  • Michigan;
  • Minnesota;
  • Mississippi;
  • Missouri;
  • Nebraska;
  • New Jersey;
  • New York;
  • North Carolina;
  • Ohio;
  • Oklahoma;
  • Oregon;
  • Pennsylvania;
  • South Dakota;
  • Texas;
  • Vermont;
  • Virginia;
  • Washington; and
  • West Virginia.