“The current approach, which favors automobiles and punishes only drivers for crashes, is clearly not working,” said Jennifer Homendy, the new chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, in regards to the current methods of analyzing roadway safety. “If we are going to get to zero [crash deaths], we will have to do something different.”
Homendy, who was nominated for her position by President Biden, has prioritized efforts to update the ways governments and organizations take highway safety into account, believing that individual driver actions and behaviors are not what need the most attention. With 38,680 roadway deaths in 2020 and 8,700 commercial motor vehicle-involved fatalities in the first quarter of this year (an increase of 10.5% although vehicle miles traveled dropped during the pandemic), major updates are clearly necessary, Homendy explains.
For example, the current “Safe System Approach” to road safety focuses on drivers’ speeding, but Homendy points out that this system as a whole may be what needs the most focus. In fact, during the Governors Highway Safety Association conference in Denver this month, she raised the question of whether or not “ill-conceived” federal regulations and guidance have caused state speed limits to rise, as well as whether or not particular road designs allow for or provoke speeding. In addition, she questioned if states should be able to revoke local authorities’ power to lower speed limits, as well as the power of “manufacturers who design vehicles that can exceed 100 miles per hour or that have no speed limiters.”
In addition to speed limitations, Homendy stated that impaired driving laws need stricter enforcement, although this enforcement won’t be the sole reason highways may become more safe.
“The carnage on our roads has to stop,” she added. “You know it, and I know it.” In her presentation at the conference, she urged governors, vehicle manufacturers, public health officials, road designers, and transportation providers to work toward new, innovative methods of bringing higher levels of safety to the nation’s roads.
In regards to commercial vehicle safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted more than $76 million to states and educational organizations for CMV safety improvement efforts–all 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will all receive federal funding.
“Together, these grants represent the administration’s commitment to supporting strong state and local partnerships to reach our national goal of reducing commercial vehicle-involved crashes and saving lives,” said Meera Joshi, Deputy Administrator for FMCSA.
These grants come in the form of High Priority grants ($45.2 million), Commercial Driver’s License Program Implementation grants ($29 million), and Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training grants ($2 million). High Priority grants will be utilized to boost commercial motor vehicle safety improvement programs and state technological advancement projects. Commercial Driver’s License Program Implementation grants will work to support state efforts to bring improvements to the current national commercial driver license program–a program that offers financial aid to states complying with driver’s license standards set forth by FMCSA regulations.
In spring of this year, FMCSA granted more than $305 million (as part of Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program grants) in support of local and state law enforcement agencies working to deploy around 12,000 enforcement personnel. These workers collaborated in efforts to lower the severity and number of roadway crashes, as well as to lower the number of commercial motor vehicle-involved hazardous materials incidents.
Additionally, the largest grants this year awarded to state programs–so far–include $2 million allocated to the New York State DOT, the Michigan State DOT, the South Dakota DOT, and the Washington State DOT; $1.7 million to the Connecticut DMV and to the Oklahoma DOT; $1.5 million to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, $1.5 million to the Nevada Highway Patrol Division, and $1.5 million to the California Highway Patrol; $1.3 million to Indiana State Police; $1.2 million to the Indiana DOT and to the Arizona Department of Public Safety; $1.1 million to the Maryland Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance; and $1 million to the Delaware DOT.