Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Put the brakes on fatalities

Brandye Hendrickson
By Acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye Hendrickson

        As autumn approaches, daylight gets shorter, children head back to school and we all settle into new routines. Winter is right behind it, and icy weather can make roads more dangerous. For these, and many other reasons, it is crucial for drivers to behave responsibly behind the wheel. It is imperative we all put our cellphones away, buckle up and be conscientious about other drivers.
        Fortunately, though the calendar still says it is fall, America’s roads are blooming with new safety innovations.  From rumble strips to new “mumble” strips, to connected-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies, a host of cutting-edge tools are being deployed to keep drivers safer throughout the nation. We are also exploring a number of new safety data collection and analysis tools to help us track trends to better determine where safety investments should be made.
        All of us at the FHWA are working with the Kansas DOT and other state and local counterparts to address the challenge of making America’s highways safer – and to reduce America’s roadway fatalities each year. As is widely known, there were 35,092 fatalities on America’s roads in 2015. That is absolutely unacceptable. While we have spent years improving construction, repair and overall design of roads and bridges, most roadway fatalities are not due to the road but, instead, to driver error. Too many drivers are texting, drinking or just behaving recklessly behind the wheel. Sometimes pedestrians or bicyclists are not paying attention either.
        So while futuristic-sounding “autonomous vehicles” may help make our roads safer, we must continue to work with our partners in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Departments of Transportation in each state to educate the public. We ask that you join us on the road to zero to end roadway fatalities. We all must do a better job of promoting a very simple concept – members of the public must recognize the responsibilities they carry when using our roads. With the FMCSA, NHTSA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the FHWA is an active member of the Road To Zero Coalition and hopes you will be too.
        Please help us put the brakes on fatalities, because any roadway fatality is too many.


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  2. I remember learning to drive taking Driver's Ed in high school. It's been a few years and I remember 2 things stressed in class over and over; driving is a privilege not a right; and the importance to drive defensively, avoiding an accident whenever possible, taking responsibility.

    This morning on my way to work, taking I-70 WB, I encountered a careless, distracted driver, tail-gating while putting on mascara. Traffic was slowing in both lanes, coming to a stop several times during 8:00AM traffic because of a crash where a driver had rear-ended another. Both vehicles had extensive damage. Was the crash because of distracted driving? texting? using cell phones? following too close? After seeing this crash, the unsafe driver continued tail-gating while putting on mascara. While I was thankful I wasn't involved in another rear end collision, it angered me to see someone driving irresponsibly, taking for granted that nothing bad would happen with their poor choices. Was it worth it? Poor choices risk unwanted consequences, consequences that could be devastating for life.

  3. Thank you Acting Administrator Hendrickson for providing our first blog leading up to October 10th - Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. In the United States, we are blessed to have leaders like yourself who are proactive promoting safer roads and safer driving. The new safety innovations you noted like "mumble" strips, to connected-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies and many others yet to come will be roadway improvements that will be saving lives. However, as you stated it is still the driver who must get the message to avoid driving distracted, buckling seat belts for everyone in the vehicle, slowing down, driving sober and as weather conditions allow.

    Thanks again for your message sharing new roadway technologies and safety tips for all drivers.

    Larry Emig

  4. Thanks for your thoughts Brandye. I agree that we should hold off on winter and enjoy the fall but when winter does come FHWA’s Weather Savvy Roads Initiative is providing tools to help manage road systems and inform travelers ahead of, and during, adverse road weather conditions. However, none of the safety tools can be fully effective without the full attention of driver behind the wheel and distracted driving, particularly texting, are thwarting the best efforts to make our roads safer, even with the plethora of new safety tools. The future is looking safer with automated and autonomous vehicles but hopefully we can enjoy the fall and get though winter with folks paying more attention to the road.