With fatalities on the rise during the pandemic, the new national safety strategy aims to reduce roadway accidents and deaths.  -  Photo by  Aleksejs Bergmanis  from Pexels.

With fatalities on the rise during the pandemic, the new national safety strategy aims to reduce roadway accidents and deaths.

Photo by Aleksejs Bergmanis from Pexels.

The federal government has released a new comprehensive National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), a roadmap for addressing the national crisis in roadway fatalities and serious injuries.

Almost 95% of U.S. transportation deaths occur on its streets, roads, and highways. While the number of annual roadway fatalities declined for many years, progress plateaued over the last decade and now fatalities have risen during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The NRSS provides steps that the department will take to address this crisis systemically and prevent these deaths and serious injuries. Bolstered by funding included in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the NRSS will help work toward a long-term goal of reaching zero roadway fatalities.

“We cannot tolerate the continuing crisis of roadway deaths in America,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These deaths are preventable, and that's why we're launching the National Roadway Safety Strategy today – a bold, comprehensive plan, with significant new funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. We will work with every level of government and industry to deliver results, because every driver, passenger, and pedestrian should be certain that they're going to arrive at their destination safely, every time.” 

As part of the NRSS, the department is adopting the “Safe System Approach,” which acknowledges both human mistakes and human vulnerability. It designs a redundant system to protect everyone by preventing crashes, and ensuring that if they do occur, they do not result in serious injury or death. It will use a five-pronged model to address safety: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care. Additionally, the NRSS recognizes that reducing traffic fatalities will take sustained and concerted action from everyone across all sectors and all levels of government, according to the department. 

A few of the key actions include: 

  • Working with states and local road owners to build and maintain safer roadways through efforts, including updates to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and developing a Complete Streets Initiative to provide technical assistance to communities of all sizes. 
  • Leveraging technology to improve the safety of motor vehicles on our roadways, including rulemaking on automatic emergency braking and pedestrian automatic emergency braking as well as updates to the New Car Assessment Program.
  • Investing in road safety through funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including a new $6 billion Safe Streets and Roads for All program and $4 billion in additional funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

This strategy was developed in coordination with the Department’s Executive Safety Council led by Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. The NRSS builds on and harmonizes efforts from across the department’s three roadway safety agencies: the Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  

“The Roadway Safety Action Plan is designed to focus all of USDOT’s resources, authorities, and incredible expertise, working with our stakeholders, to combat the tragic number of fatalities and serious injuries we see on U.S. roadways – from our largest cities and towns to rural and tribal communities all across the country,” said Trottenberg. 

“FMCSA is committed to reducing Commercial Motor Vehicle fatalities and overall fatalities,” said Jack Van Steenburg, FMCSA’s executive director and chief safety officer. “We will work across the department to coordinate proactive compliance and outreach programs and work collaboratively with all stakeholders. Our goal is to prevent crashes and preserve the quality of life for all roadway users across America. Zero is our goal.” 

“No longer can we as a society accept traffic deaths as routine,” said Dr. Steve Cliff, NHTSA’s deputy administrator. “Every life lost is a tragedy, and we all can, should, and must do more to change the culture. The National Roadway Safety Strategy and the Safe System Approach offer all communities a roadmap to save lives and reduce injuries.”

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