Traffic fatalities are beginning to slowly decline after a surge during the pandemic, but we have a long way to go to get to zero deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) early estimates of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2023 projects a 3.3% decrease in the total number of motor vehicle related deaths during the first six months of 2023, compared to the first half of 2022. However, this still means nearly 20,000 people (about the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden) were killed in preventable tragedies during the first half of this year alone.
GHSA continues to work diligently with states, NHTSA and both nonprofit and private-sector partners to identify and implement strategies to prevent crashes and save lives. This year, we circulated reports with recommendations on pedestrian safety, young driver safety, ignition interlocks and automated enforcement. We provided grants to states to support safe mobility and combat impaired driving. And we continued to provide support and guidance to states on programmatic and regulatory issues, among other efforts.
The GHSA team got together earlier this month to celebrate our successes from the past year and look forward to all we have planned in 2024. We will continue to draw attention to pedestrian safety through our annual fatality projection report, partner with Waymo to offer new autonomous vehicle technology training for first responders at the 2024 Lifesavers Conference and GHSA Annual Meeting, provide hands-on safe mobility training for teen drivers and their parents in cooperation with Ford Motor Company Fund, combat distracted driving and advance youth active transportation safety through grants provided by General Motors and the National Road Safety Foundation, respectively, and much more. Stay tuned for more details on these and other projects.
Heading into the new year, we’re excited to work with returning and new GHSA committee chairs:
- Annual Meeting Planning Committee: Carol Gould, Colorado; and Edica Esqueda, Washington
- Equity and Engagement Committee: Shelly Baldwin, Washington; and Licet Gaveau, New York
- Federal Relations Committee: Mike Hanson, Minnesota
- Finance, Operations and Audit Committee: Tom Glass, Pennsylvania
- Member Services and Development Committee: Amy Davey, Nevada; and Mike Schwendau, Wisconsin
- Research Committee: Mark Ezzell, North Carolina
- Governance Committee: Jonathan Nelson, Missouri
We’re hard at work putting together a great agenda full of actionable content and implementing your suggestions from our 2023 meeting so we bring you the best GHSA Annual Meeting possible.
Special thanks to the many organizations that have already signed up to sponsor the event as a Roadway Safety Champion! We simply could not put on this event without them. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.
- Just Out: Automated Enforcement Report: GHSA recently released a new report, Automated Enforcement in a New Era, with support from State Farm®. The report explains how states and their partners can identify and overcome barriers to implement this lifesaving technology. While cameras that can detect excessive speed, red-light running and school bus stop-arm violations are proven to change driver behavior and save lives, they remain controversial in many areas.
- Less Enforcement = More Traffic Deaths? A Stateline article explores whether the recent spike in nationwide traffic deaths, despite a drop in overall driving, can be explained by a lack of enforcement of traffic safety laws. Automated enforcement could help but faces political hurdles in many areas.
- New AV Training for First Responders: Late last month in Minneapolis, GHSA joined the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety and Waymo to pilot a training on autonomous vehicle (AV) technology for first responders. Minnesota police, firefighters and EMS received a preview of what to expect when AVs come to their communities – how to identify them and respond to crashes and traffic stops in which they are involved. Our team is further refining the training course and will be sharing it more widely with first responders through a pre-meeting on April 6 at the 2024 Lifesavers Conference on Roadway Safety in Denver and at the GHSA 2024 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis.
- How Hoboken Fends Off Fatalities: Hoboken, N.J., has achieved a remarkable safety milestone: zero traffic deaths in nearly seven years. By making human-centric – not car-centric – design choices and reducing the citywide speed limit to 20 mph, the city’s Vizion Zero efforts are truly paying off. Read more in Business Insider.
- Take Heed of High Hoods: Vehicles with taller, more vertical front ends pose greater risks to pedestrians, according to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study of nearly 18,000 pedestrian crashes. Researchers found that vehicles with a hood height greater than 40 inches were 45% more likely to cause fatalities in a pedestrian-motor vehicle crash. Drivers – of all vehicle types – struck and killed more than 7,500 people walking in 2022, the most in four decades, GHSA reported earlier this year.
- Traffic Garden Teaches Safety to Kentucky Kids: Elementary students in Dayton, Ky., have a new way to learn about traffic safety. A mini transportation environment, safe from the dangers of motor vehicles, helps them learn how to follow the patterns of traffic, which they can translate to the real world as they walk or bike to and from school. The project was supported by a GHSA grant funded by the National Road Safety Foundation. Read more.
- Sober Rides for Holiday Festivities: GHSA once again has partnered with Lyft and Responsibility.org to entice would-be impaired drivers to opt for ride-hailing as a safe transportation alternative this holiday season. Georgia and Maryland each received $20,000 in funding for Lyft ride credits and educational campaigns in their respective states. A November 20 GHSA news release provides additional details.
- Ohio Enhances Drug-Impaired Driving Evidence: Through grant funding from GHSA and Responsibility.org, the Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) has purchased DAX Evidence Recorders to train police to screen and assess drug-impaired drivers. This tool will enable officers to testify and provide admissible evidence collected at roadside. OTSO will also develop a collection of training videos using the DAX recorders, adding pertinent information to their extensive impaired driving program statewide.
- Anti-Distracted Driving Showcases: Seven states – Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana and Nebraska – recently wrapped up GHSA and General Motors-funded projects designed to combat distracted driving. Each state took a unique approach to tackle the issue. Check out these brief case studies to learn more about project successes and innovative practices.
- Teen Driver Training Wrap-Up: The Ford Driving Skills for Life teen driver program concluded its 2023 tour with events in Louisville and Chicago in the summer and Lansing, Mich.; San Antonio; Phoenix; and Arcadia, Calif. this fall. The program is evolving to emphasize vulnerable road user safety, and we were pleased to have representatives from bicyclist safety groups and Vision Zero programs at many events. Planning for 2024 is well underway, so stay tuned for more information.
- State Safety Leaders Convene in Michigan: GHSA held its 2023 Executive Seminar for Program Management October 1-4 in Grand Rapids, Mich. This two-and-a-half-day seminar helps new Governor’s Representatives and Directors navigate the complexities of managing a State Highway Safety Office and ensuring regulatory compliance as well as addresses key leadership concepts. Additional information is available on GHSA’s members-only website (log-in required).
- Government Funding: The U.S. Congress continues to work towards reaching an agreement on a yearlong Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2024 budget. In the meantime, legislators have approved two stopgap provisions. In late September, President Biden signed a continuing resolution (CR) that funded the U.S. Department of Transportation at FFY 2023 levels until Nov. 17. Later that month, the President signed another CR that expires January 19, 2024. States have received a proportion of the year’s grants from NHTSA under this partial funding plan.
The Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program (BTSCRP) continues to publish in-depth reports and research on a range of topics that traffic safety professionals can put into practice. You can learn more about several recent BTSCRP publications by watching a webinar GHSA hosted last month or checking out the individual reports listed below:
- The Highway Safety Behavioral Strategies for Rural Areas report and companion guide can help stakeholders at all levels of the traffic safety planning process identify, implement and adapt programs and initiatives that support safer decisions by road users to reduce crashes and save lives on rural roads.
- Complementing the previously released E-Scooter Safety: Issues and Solutions literature review digest, two new publications, E-Scooter Safety: Issues and Solutions and E-Scooter Safety Toolbox, include more detailed information and examples of how cities are working to address this growing mode of transportation.
- To improve coordination on local and regional behavioral safety efforts to reduce the frequency and severity of traffic crashes, the new report and toolkit, Improving MPO and SHSO Coordination on Behavioral Traffic Safety, presents evidence-based information and tools to help improve collaboration between State Highway Safety Offices and Metropolitan Planning Organizations as they work to address behavioral traffic safety.
- A new toolkit, Communicating Safe Behavior Practices to Vulnerable Road Users, will help traffic safety practitioners effectively engage with vulnerable road users and share safe walking, cycling and riding practices.
- Finally, from the National Cooperative Research and Evaluation Program, the Review of Risk Communication Strategies and Existing Alcohol-Impaired and Distracted Driving Safety Messages technical report and Traffic Tech present research on identifying and assessing behavior change theories in distracted driving and alcohol-impaired driving traffic safety media campaigns.
Do you want to get involved in this critical traffic safety research program? BTSCRP is currently accepting problem statements on traffic safety topics that need more research. Learn how to submit a problem statement in this short video featuring GHSA Research Committee Chair Mark Ezzell. Problem statements are due January 5, 2024. More details are on the BTSCRP website.
We spoke with Blue Line CEO and Founder Mark Hutchinson at the GHSA Annual Meeting in New York City earlier this year. He shared a bit about Blue Line’s work to reduce traffic deaths and injuries using automated enforcement technology that includes a critical data component.
This edition of Directions in Highway Safety was brought to you by Aurora.
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