US DOT Forming Alliance To Reduce Traffic Deaths

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In a recent press release, the US Department of Transportation announced more than 30 new commitments from organizations that are supporting the National Roadway Safety Strategy and taking action to reduce the annual death toll on American roads, which currently stands at more than 40,000 people. This brings the total number of Department of Transportation (DOT) Allies in Action to over 80, and it’s a number the department is trying to expand.

The recent leveling out of roadway fatalities — which stands at an estimated 42,795 for 2022 — is a slight decrease from the previous year, yet still far higher than what is considered acceptable. This news follows an earlier announcement that the dramatic surge in deaths during the pandemic has started to become more manageable.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Allies in Action are taking a collective stand to improve safety on American roads and reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries. Their commitments span multiple sectors, from health and safety advocates to private companies, municipal organizations, law enforcement groups and more. All parties are working together towards a shared goal of achieving zero roadway fatalities through adoption of a Safe System Approach and a Zero Fatalities vision.

You can find the full list of early joiners here, but DOT included a few good examples of participation that we’ll share.

DoorDash committed to helping its Dashers stay safe and focused on the road. To ensure this, it has launched a range of safety initiatives — such as reducing in-app notifications while driving and piloting advanced telematics to help drivers identify their own driving behaviors — as well as providing SafeDash and occupational accident insurance. Additionally, DoorDash encourages customers not to reach out to Dashers via the app when the Dasher is driving, for further protection.

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) is working to promote the deployment of V2X technology and create a metrics-driven implementation plan that will be released in April 2023. This plan will provide objectives for public and private sector deployers to achieve by 2023 or 2026, including appropriate deployment metrics. To help raise awareness about its benefits, ITSA is creating messaging to make the technology easier to understand, as well as hosting quarterly forums on automation. Additionally, ITSA members and partners are creating a freight automation roadmap paper set to be released in Summer 2023, while their Digital Infrastructure Working Group will publish a strategy and roadmap in Summer 2023 on how investments into digital infrastructure supports safety and other goals such as vision zero objectives.

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The City of Houston has ambitious plans to make the city more safe and accessible in 2023. Houston is updating its citywide High Injury Network dashboard with 2019-2022 data and creating a public-facing dashboard with Vision Zero metrics that will be updated on a quarterly basis. Furthermore, the city is shifting its traffic impact analysis standards towards Multimodal Service Standards, initiating two safety projects funded by President’s Bidens’s infrastructure law, like the Telephone Road: Main Street Revitalization Project and the Bissonnet Corridor Safe Streets Project, preparing a citywide freight network, collaborating with AAA to host a Distracted Drivers Awareness event, and participating in Houston Public Library’s Summer Camp program to introduce 100 grade 3-12 students to Vision Zero concepts.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is committed to the safety of motorcyclists on the roads. It will work with state and local partners to create innovative approaches to protect motorcyclists, and advocate for local road authorities to use publications produced by the Federal Highway Administration based on the Motorcyclist Advisory Council’s recommendations. These publications discuss safer barrier designs, roadway construction and maintenance practices, as well as how to include motorcyclists in smart transportation systems. AMA will also partner with research organizations to advance crash avoidance technologies that reliably detect and safely interact with motorcyclists on the roads.

Families for Safer Streets (FSS) is also working to make roads safer in 2023. FSS is creating a detailed manual to be used by FSS Chapters and individuals to educate decision makers at a local level. Additionally, it is creating an online post-crash resource guide to help crash victims navigate the complex logistics after an accident. Finally, FSS is producing short training videos for members to use when advocating on behalf of those personally impacted by road crashes.

Finally, nine transit agencies are taking steps to increase pedestrian safety and visibility around transit stops. These strategies include traffic calming, bus passenger boarding islands, raised crosswalks, shifting transit stops to after intersections, investing in equitable Transit Oriented Development (eTOD) projects, and installing GPS on non-revenue vehicles to collect data on risky driving behaviors.

The nine agencies are: Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit); Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB); Chicago Transit Authority (CTA); City of Phoenix Public Transit Department; Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD); Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro); Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Houston METRO); San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

The Programs This Is Supposed To Advance

In January 2022, the Department of Transportation launched the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) in response to the rising trend of traffic deaths. The NRSS outlines a series of actions to work towards its goal of achieving zero fatalities on our roads. It adopts a five-pronged approach that includes Safer People, Safer Vehicles, Safer Speeds, Safer Roads, and Better Post-Crash Care. To reach this goal, the Department is relying on stakeholders across the country from all levels of government, philanthropy, advocacy and the private sector.

To further promote safety on the nation’s roadways, the Department of Transportation has launched a new Safe Streets and Roads for All competitive grant program. This grant program is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and will support cities, counties, Tribes and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in creating safety plans, demonstrating effective strategies, and carrying out infrastructure projects such as high visibility crosswalks and intersection redesigns.

Why These Partnerships Might Be More Successful Than Strictly Governmental Efforts In The Past

Unlike people in many other countries, many Americans are very skeptical of government. While it’s easy to point at Europe and say that we’re being paranoid, you do have to keep in mind that the US government has been caught doing terrible things on more than a few occasions.

I don’t want to carry this article into the weeds, but a good example of this would be several military experiments where pathogens were released to see how many people would be killed in a biological attack, and as you’d imagine, this did kill some Americans, and a chemical release likely caused cancer in an unknown number of victims. Add to this things like the Waco siege (where the government burned a number of children to death and then likely destroyed evidence), the MOVE bombing (where police bombed buildings and killed innocent people), and resistance to the Civil Rights Movement, and it’s not hard to imagine why we’d be distrustful of authority.

Fortunately, many of these initiatives don’t rely on government mandate to get the job done and don’t force drivers to do anything they don’t want to do. So, even if skepticism and distrust kills Vision Zero engineering concepts, the private partnerships can still do some good.

Featured image: A screenshot from a DOT video explaining the program (embedded in article).


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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1983 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba