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Fall 2011 | Vol. 13 | No. 3
GHSA Meeting Explores Culture Change
GHSA’s Annual Meeting, “Driving Culture Change in Highway Safety,” was held September 25-28 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Throughout the conference, general sessions and workshops focused on how to create a culture that values highway safety and refuses to accept that traffic crashes are an inevitable consequence of our mobility.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland at the Opening General Session.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland kicked off the
Annual Meeting and spoke of a “culture clash” occurring in society over a host of issues, including highway safety. An example is the inherent conflict between wanting to be able to use your phones behind the wheel, yet getting upset when others do the same thing. He said that before a highway safety culture can be cultivated, this clash must be addressed.
The Administrator also noted that working together is key to bringing about change and that GHSA and NHTSA are currently in a “golden age” in their federal/state partnership. On the issue of distracted driving, Strickland reported that even though the topic receives a tremendous amount of media coverage, not a lot of Department of Transportation resources are being spent on this area.
The second keynote session speaker was Janet Froetscher, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Safety Council (NSC). She touched on several topics, including the role business plays in creating a safety culture. Froetscher noted that because companies have been proactive and created effective driving policies, the workplace is a much safer place for employees than being home or driving on non-working time. She stressed that companies must have strong safety leadership, be able to identify risks, have some method of measurement, and have a clear safety management system in place.
Regarding distracted driving, Froetscher advocated a total ban on cell phone use while driving. She said that while the highway safety community may not be convinced that such a ban is the way to go, there is more than enough information to be reasonably sure. She posited that if one is 70 percent sure of something, it is better to address the problem rather than wait for more conclusive data.
Left to right: GHSA Secretary John Saunders (Virginia), Closing Luncheon speaker Peter Hart, and The Allstate Foundation’s Susan Duchak.
Tuesday’s general session featured: Jayne O’Donnell, author and reporter with USA TODAY; Chris Mullen, Director – State Farm Strategic Resources, Technology Division; and Andrew Pearce, Chief Executive with the Global Road Safety Partnership. O’Donnell talked about how to reach young drivers, while Mullen discussed State Farm’s support of a safety culture and Pearce added a global perspective.
Finally, the last general session on Wednesday featured noted pollster Peter Hart. Hart discussed the changing cultural trends we are experiencing and shared his thoughts on the 2012 election. Throughout the conference, attendees shared best practices, initiatives and networked both in formal and informal settings.
Conference presentations as well as additional photographs are online at www.ghsa.org/html/meetings/annual/2011.