Jennifer Homendy, the new chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, recently called on road designers, public health officials, governors, vehicle makers, transportation providers, and communities to share a new vision for achieving highway safety that focuses on the whole system versus individual driver behavior, reports ABC News.
In her keynote speech at the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Homendy said that the conference meeting theme — Moving Mountains: Forging a New Traffic Safety Landscape — speaks to “doing big things.” She was referring to achieving the goal of zero highway fatalities.
Her “safe system approach” aims to overhaul the entire system rather than just punish the driver. For example, speeding-related crashes continue to rise, but it’s not just drivers who can make a difference.
Homendy questioned whether road designs encourage high speeds, or whether “ill-conceived” federal guidance has led to increasing speed limits in states. She also talked about states that take away the ability of local authorities to set lower speed limits and “manufacturers who design vehicles that can exceed 100 miles per hour or that have no speed limiters,” notes the ABC report.
In her speech, Homendy noted how other modes of transportation are seeing decreases in fatalities — yet roadway deaths continue to climb.
For example, in 2020 there were 756 fatalities on our nation’s railroads, including 198 at grade crossings, which represents a 33% decrease from 2019 levels. There were no crashes or deaths on major airlines, there were nearly 700 in marine, 15 in pipelines, and yet there were a staggering 38,680 lives lost on U.S. roads — the highest number of fatalities since 2007.
What’s more, some 8,700 motor vehicle deaths were reported in the first three months of 2021, up 10.5% from a year earlier. Yet simultaneously, vehicle miles traveled declined.
Homendy is calling for a new approach to road safety that involves all stakeholders. The NTSB investigates road crashes and other transportation incidents, but it has no regulatory authority, notes ABC News.