FHA Announces New “Toward Zero Deaths” Initiative

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The Federal Highway Administration has launched a new initiative called ‘Toward Zero Deaths,’ a national strategy on highway safety, aimed at ELIMINATING, not reducing, all highway deaths.  The strategy is explained in a new article just posted by USA TODAY:    

The approach is called Toward Zero Deaths, based on a philosophy that even one road death is morally and ethically unacceptable. The goal: to alter behaviors that cause fatalities, such as speeding, drunken or distracted driving, and lack of seat belts. Speeding is a factor in more than 31% of road deaths, drunken driving in 32%, and distracted driving in about 16%. And 55% of those killed in passenger vehicles are not wearing seat belts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

More details regarding the purpose of the initiative are found within the announcement on the Federal Highway Administration’s website:

Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety will be a data-driven effort focusing on identifying and creating opportunities for changing American culture as it relates to highway safety. The effort will also focus on developing strong leadership and champions in the organizations that can directly impact highway safety through engineering, enforcement, education, emergency medical service (EMS), policy, public health, communications, and other efforts. The national strategy will be utilized as a guide and framework by safety stakeholder organizations to enhance current national, state and local safety planning and implementation efforts. The intent is to develop a mechanism for bringing together a wider range of highway safety stakeholders to work toward institutional and cultural changes.

One of the most significant needs is to change Americans’ attitudes toward highway safety. There are already programs and technologies that can result in substantial reductions in fatalities; however, those benefits will not be realized as long as the public and elected officials are not willing to pass laws or take the actions needed to implement them.

Sound like a grassroots effort?  In part, it is.  A lot also has to do with technology, and several states have already implemented state versions of the national campaign.  As an example, Utah has already implemented the initiative, and has seen clear, convincing results in just four years.  Robert Hull, the director of traffic and safety at the Utah Department of Transportation, explains:

Since launching a zero traffic deaths program in 2006, the state’s traffic deaths have fallen almost 15%, from 287 to 245 last year, Hull says. The state already had cut road deaths by 24% from 2000 to 2005, partly by implementing engineering changes such as rumble strips and median separations, he says. He acknowledges that the economic downturn likely accounted for some of the recent decline as people drove less.

The next steps, in regard to the national effort led by the Federal Department of Transportation, are “to identify and understand challenges and opportunities in reducing highway fatalities.”  In addition, “the impact must include projections of lives saved as well as the health care costs of highway injuries and deaths, best practices, effective means of creating a cultural change, and other issues,” as stated by the Department.

To date, there are members of over 30 organizations interested in participating in the Stakeholder Group.  With over 35,000 deaths ocurring on the Nation’s highways every year, assistance from more highway safety stakeholder organizations may certainly be put to good use within the initiative.

Is this possible?  Can it be done?   Think about how difficult that would be, all of the challenges involved.  Having said It is a noble but impossible cause .  We will continue to monitor this initiative and will report on its progress.

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