The ‘National Roadway Safety Strategy,’ released last month by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is a new multibillion-dollar plan that will focus on industry priorities such as safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, post-crash care, and overall safer people. This comes as the department is pushing for boosted efforts during “a national crisis in roadway fatalities and serious injuries.”
“We cannot tolerate the continuing crisis of roadway deaths in America,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These deaths are preventable, and that’s why we’re launching the National Roadway Safety Strategy.”
The Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide funding for this program, Buttigieg noted, explaining that the entire transportation industry, along with the government, will be working together to bring this program to fruition “because every driver, passenger, and pedestrian should be certain that they’re going to arrive at their destination safely, every time.”
Along with the 38-page program strategy, Buttigieg included a letter estimating that around 38,680 Americans died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, and 20,160 more died in the first half of 2021–an 18.4% increase as compared to the same period in 2020. Additionally, the rural roadway death rate is twice as high than that of urban roads, the program’s strategy outline added.
The major aspects of the program will include methods of leveraging technological advancements as a manner of improving American roadway motor vehicle safety, which will involve automatic emergency braking and pedestrian automatic emergency braking regulations, along with New Car Assessment Program updates; ways to collaborate with both local and state road owners to best maintain and rebuild safer roads through speed limit setting, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices updates, and manners of providing technical assistance to all communities through a Complete Streets Initiative; and infrastructure bill-funded road safety investments such as the $4 billion Highway Safety Improvement Program funding and the $6 billion Safe Streets and Roads for All program, as well as further funding for behavioral interventions and research.
What safety concern would Levinson and Stefani’s Jay Stefani prefer to see funding for? Side under-ride guards on commercial motor vehicles.
“‘Safety First’ should continue to be the focus of any changes,” he said. “Side under-ride guards would make a difference not only in highway crashes, but also in more urban settings with pedestrian and cyclist crashes. Nearly 90% of truck crashes are due to driver error–and nearly one out of five involve a rear-end collision–so forward-facing collision avoidance systems should be among the first steps.”
The plan will work to bring about strong collaboration from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to DOT. $4 billion for the plan’s strategy will be allocated toward improvements in vehicle, behavior, and truck safety programs as well as boosts in crash data.
“People have physical limits for tolerating crash forces before death or serious injury occurs,” said the document outlining the strategy. “Therefore, it is critical to design and operate a transportation system that is human-centric and accommodates physical human vulnerabilities.”
DOT acknowledged that both human vulnerability and mistakes come into play in regards to overall roadway safety, and notes that the plan will work to create a “redundant system” to keep drivers and passengers as safe as possible.
“Reducing risks requires that all parts of the transportation system be strengthened, so that if one part fails, the other parts still protect people,” said the department.
The strategy’s ‘safe system approach’ will aim to bring roadway design that will help to circumvent common human mistakes, and will expand features working to prevent crashes and their impacts.
“We are pleased to see DOT moving forward with a comprehensive national strategy to address highway safety that focuses on all roadway users, given that a high majority of fatal crashes involving trucks are caused by passenger vehicles,” said Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for American Trucking Associations. “We look forward to the implementation of many safety provisions included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that pertain to trucking, including working with FMCSA and other stakeholders to further study the causes of truck-involved crashes and determine the best approach to reducing them.”