As the US faces a rise in traffic fatalities, the USDOT has a new strategy to address this urgent crisis: National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS).
Almost 95 percent of US transportation deaths occur on its streets, roads, and highways. While the number of annual roadway fatalities declined for many years, progress plateaued over the last decade and now fatalities have risen during the pandemic. The NRSS provides concrete steps that the USDOT will take to address this crisis systemically and prevent these tragic and avoidable deaths and serious injuries. Bolstered by funding included in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the NRSS is a new step toward an ambitious long-term goal of reaching zero roadway fatalities.
“We cannot tolerate the continuing crisis of roadway deaths in America. These deaths are preventable, and that's why we're launching the National Roadway Safety Strategy today — a bold, comprehensive plan, with significant new funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We will work with every level of government and industry to deliver results, because every driver, passenger, and pedestrian should be certain that they're going to arrive at their destination safely, every time.”
The Department, as part of the NRSS, is adopting the “Safe System Approach,” which acknowledges both human mistakes and human vulnerability, and designs a redundant system to protect everyone by preventing crashes and ensuring that if they do occur they do not result in serious injury or death. The Department will use a five-pronged model to address safety: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and post-crash care. And importantly, the NRSS recognizes that reducing traffic fatalities will take sustained and concerted action from everyone across all sectors and all levels of government.
A few of the key actions include:
■ Work with states and local road owners to build and maintain safer roadway through efforts including: updates to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices; a Complete Streets Initiative to provide technical assistance to communities of all sizes; and speed limit setting.
■ Leveraging technology to improve the safety of motor vehicles on our roadways, including rulemaking on automatic emergency braking and pedestrian automatic emergency braking, and updates to the New Car Assessment Program.
■ Investing in road safety through funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including a new $6 billion Safe Streets and Roads for All program, hundreds of millions for behavioral research and interventions, and $4 billion in additional funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program.
The strategy was developed in coordination with the Department’s Executive Safety Council led by Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. The NRSS builds on and harmonizes efforts from across the department’s three roadway safety agencies: the Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Incorporating Technology into the Plan
The strategy document mentions Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) in the form of safety technology: "While air bags and seat belts work together to protect the people inside a motor vehicle when a crash occurs, the next generation of motor vehicles will increasingly have the technology necessary to prevent certain crashes from occurring in the first place, and to mitigate harm to those outside of the vehicle when a crash happens. Several Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies are known to help prevent or mitigate the impact of crashes. Examples include: Automatic Emergency Braking, which can apply a vehicle’s brakes automatically in time to avoid or mitigate an impending forward crash with another vehicle; and Lane Departure Warning, which monitors lane markings and alerts the driver when it detects that the vehicle is drifting out of its lane. Expanding the availability of such vehicle technologies and improving existing technologies may be especially important given that new vehicle purchases continue to trend towards larger vehicles — particularly sport utility vehicles and crossovers — which recent studies have found to cause more serious injuries than passenger cars when involved in collisions with pedestrians."
The document adds: "Incentivizing the inclusion of technologies in new motor vehicles can help to reduce the frequency of crashes, and to reduce the severity of the outcomes when they do occur."
As part of the strategy, the USDOT's "Key Departmental Actions to Enable Safer Vehicles" include:
■ Identify areas of most promising vehicle technology that may lead to subsequent analysis and possible FMVSS rulemakings, such as alcohol detection systems, and systems to detect distracted driving.
■ Provide an NCAP road map that will show how a set of vehicle improvements may be advanced over the next ten years, covering the stages of data evaluation, research, and analysis of the criteria for inclusion in NCAP.
■ Require Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking technologies on new passenger vehicles.
■ Require Automatic Emergency Braking technologies on heavy trucks.
■ Consider a rulemaking effort to establish motor vehicle safety standards to require passenger motor vehicles manufactured to be equipped with advanced impaired driving prevention technology.
■ Require manufacturers to provide notification when there is a crash involving Automated Driving Systems, and create a public database of information that can inform safer passenger vehicles.
■ Ensure timely investigation into emerging vehicle safety issues arising from the deployment of new technologies.
The strategy document also states: "USDOT is also cognizant of the need to plan for the safety landscape in the future. This includes a responsibility to use holistic approaches to assess the safety of emerging technologies such as Automated Driving Systems (ADS). A small number of vehicles equipped with ADS are in development and undergoing testing today. The Department is tracking their performance daily, and is actively researching test methods, procedures, and criteria to assess long-term safety benefits, as well as broader impacts on workers, drivers, and all people who use the roadways."