WASHINGTON — The National Governors Association’s recently released “road map” report on state strategies to reduce highway injuries reveals that 39 states reported an increase in traffic fatalities in 2016.
The report, which urges state leaders to share data, improve traffic safety enforcement and invest in automated technology, is meant to help states — and drivers — embrace safer highway standards.
National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman told attendees of the governors association’s Traffic Safety Policy meeting Feb. 6 that the report contains recommendations that could benefit truck drivers in addition to people driving passenger vehicles.
“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in workplaces. A lot of that is driven by the transportation industry and risks there,” Hersman said. “One thing is to recognize that many of the interventions that are recommended in the report address all drivers. It’s not specific to truck drivers, but we know that truck drivers out on the road are affected by speeding drivers, impaired drivers, distracted drivers and many crashes [that] occur are not necessarily the driver of the truck’s fault, but consequences can be very different depending on the size.”
Encouraging technological innovation is one of the core tenets of NGA’s plan to ensure safety, according to Sue Gander, director of NGA’s Environment, Energy and Transportation Division.
Hersman, who previously served as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said automatic emergency braking and collision warning systems could be especially useful in trucks, as rear-end collisions involving heavy commercial vehicles are three times more fatal than such incidents involving passenger cars.
Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said: “Automation has a tremendous potential to reduce the tremendous toll of lost lives on our roads, [but] even the most aggressive research says that were looking at a very long transition period with automated vehicles.”
NGA has met with multiple states, including North Carolina, Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota, Minnesota, Washington and Utah, to discuss and develop safe road user frameworks.
According to Gander, success in establishing seatbelt regulations and motorcycle helmet rules hinged on the engagement of governors, safety groups and law enforcement agencies. She said that every group has a different strength that they bring to the topic of roadway safety.
NGA is hosting its winter meeting Feb. 23-26 in Washington.
Erin Sauber-Schatz, leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Transportation Safety Team, said that 102 people died every day in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. Some of her office’s proposed interventions to reduce these numbers include increased seat belt fines, in-person license renewals, red light cameras and alcohol interlocks — which are basically in-vehicle breathalyzers that test a person’s ability to drive.
“If we had 100 people lost to natural disasters or terrorist attacks every day, we would mobilize immediately. We have to address the cultural Novocaine that has allowed us to be complacent about these deaths that occur every day,” Hersman said. “There’s a real opportunity here for governors to be game-changers.”