Dramatic Shortcomings in Highway Safety and the Need for More Investment in All Strategies
Statement by Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director,
Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The new Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America aligns with prior reporting from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing a dramatic increase in excessive speeding and a historical surge in pedestrian fatalities. All signs also point towards 2020 seeing a disturbing rise in overall traffic fatalities. GHSA agrees with the need to invest more in highway safety and fund infrastructure that better accommodates all road users. States are establishing performance goals for highway safety based on the resources they have available, and the rising death count illustrates the need for policymakers to fully fund safety programs and adopt more life-saving policies.
All highway safety approaches – infrastructure improvements, traffic enforcement, community engagement and others – are needed to address the many highway safety threats that all road users face every day. No single approach will be completely effective. Even as we work towards better roadway planning and speed control, we will still need other safety countermeasures to fill the gap as we bring the built environment nationwide up to what it should be.
Some highway safety advocates have been overly dismissive of the role and utility of traffic enforcement, but if we are serious about eliminating traffic fatalities, we must have more thoughtful, data-driven consideration of how all highway safety countermeasures must work together.
Some persistent behavioral challenges such as impaired, reckless and distracted driving will always demand immediate intervention regardless of how the road is designed, and especially in areas that lack the benefit of extensive safety infrastructure. According to NHTSA, the crime of impaired driving is the leading behavioral contributing factor in fatal crashes, responsible for almost 10,000 Americans killed every year. We cannot deprioritize all criminal justice approaches, much less those dedicated to stopping impaired drivers and preventing recidivism.
At the same time, GHSA has made recommendations to achieve greater equity in traffic enforcement and is working to implement them. We are also urging policymakers to provide more flexibility to allow state and community highway safety programs to be more responsive to local concerns about traffic enforcement.
The entire safety community must work together to take every action possible to prevent and reduce fatalities and injuries through a comprehensive approach that leverages all the safety tools at our disposal.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.