The United States has joined other nations around the world in combating the carnage on its highways by adopting a far-reaching, coordinated, national plan. On Thursday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced details from the very first National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS)a roadmap to deal with the worrying increase in the death toll.
“We cannot tolerate America’s continuing road death crisis,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “These deaths are preventable, and that’s why today we are launching the National Road Safety Strategy – a bold and comprehensive plan, with significant new funding from President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act.”
The number of road deaths has increased in the first half of 2021, the largest six-month increase in the number of deaths from road accidents ever recorded in the history of the country’s reporting system, according to estimates published in October by the Department of Transport’s National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). More than 20,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roads, an increase of nearly 20% from the same time in 2020.
While the number of annual road deaths has been declining for many years, according to federal data, progress has plateaued over the past decade and fatalities have risen dramatically during the pandemic.
The initiative’s goal is to coordinate and work with all levels and sectors of government, the private sector and communities across the country, Mr. Buttigieg said, “to get results because every driver, passenger and pedestrian must be certain that they’ll arrive at their destination safely, every time.
The new national strategy will encompass Vision Zero or Safe System approach to road safety and design that accounts for human error, first implemented in Sweden in the 1990s. The goal is to eliminate all fatalities and serious injuries on the road by creating multiple layers of protection, so if one fails, the others will create a safety net to lessen the impact of an accident.
The effort should identify and prioritize actions that will solve the traffic crisis systemically and help prevent preventable deaths and serious injuries in five broad categories, resulting in: safer people, safer roads , safer vehicles, safer speeds and better after-crash care. .
Some key actions include: providing technical assistance to communities of all sizes; setting speed limits; leveraging technology to improve motor vehicle safety, such as developing rules on automatic emergency braking and automatic pedestrian emergency braking; and updates to the New Vehicle Assessment Program.
“As a society, we can no longer accept traffic fatalities as routine,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steve Cliff said in a statement. “Every life lost is a tragedy, and we can, should and must all do more to change the culture. The National Road Safety Strategy and Safe System Approach provide all communities with a roadmap to save lives and reduce injuries.
The initiative is widely supported by road safety advocates.
“Significant progress in reversing the uncontrollable trajectory of fatal accidents can be achieved with urgently needed safety improvements, including the many goals set out today by the DOT, and optimal state laws,” Cathy Chase, president of Road and Automotive Safety Advocatessaid in a statement.
Advocates recently released their 2022 Roadmap of state road safety laws which outlines a comprehensive agenda for state governors and legislators to close dangerous gaps in their traffic safety laws.
Ms Chase identified several areas where comprehensive minimum performance standards were “urgently needed”, including advanced driver assistance systems in new cars and trucks, impaired driving prevention technology (widely deployed) and detection and alert systems to prevent the pediatric tragedies of heatstroke.
“The DOT’s commitment to zero deaths means zero room for hesitation and inaction,” Ms. Chase added.
Jonathan Adkins, Managing Director of Governors Highway Safety Associationsaid in a statement: “National leadership on road safety is essential to combat dangerous streets, dangerous driving behaviors – such as speeding, driving while impaired or distracted, and not wearing seat belts – and other hazards that needlessly cost lives on our roads every day.
The ambitious new strategy, he said, recognizes that communities and states will use different approaches, but a a strong range of measures must work together be effective in achieving “our common goal of zero road fatalities”.