The State Highway Safety Alliance and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have joined forces to call for an aggressive plan to prevent hundreds of thousands of highway fatalities over the next twenty years through the upcoming surface transportation authorization bill.
"It's only through the combined efforts of all highway safety partners that we will be able to make significant strides in reducing the deaths we see every year," said Larry L. "Butch" Brown, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation and president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. "Establishing a national strategy for cutting highway deaths in half over the next two decades and increasing funding for state highway safety programs is our common goal," Brown said.
In a letter sent on Thursday to key House and Senate committees, the coalition – which is made up of organizations from the areas of highway construction and safety, public health, and law enforcement – called for greater funding of state highway safety programs, long-term strategic planning, and research.
Governors Highway Safety Association Chairman and Director of the Maryland Highway Safety Office, Vernon F. Betkey, said, "We know that highway deaths are preventable, and with increased attention and funding, thousands of families who lose loved ones each year in crashes can be spared this emotional and financial hardship."
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, an estimated 33,963 people were killed on U.S. highways in 2009; the lowest number of deaths since 1954. The coalition has set a goal of pushing the number of annual traffic deaths to below 20,000 by the year 2030.
Steve Blessing, president of the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials said, "We urge Congress to reauthorize federal highway safety programs that motivate states to significantly reduce highway deaths and injuries through innovative and effective highway safety strategies."
The coalition has adopted the following authorization principles:
- A national highway safety goal of halving fatalities by 2030 with state targets that support the national goal;
- Increased safety funding to enable states to reach that goal;
- Streamlined program administration and enhanced flexibility to focus federal resources where they are most needed;
- A strengthened strategic highway safety planning process to ensure that states reach their targets;
- Enhanced data collection and analysis so that problems can be identified and progress tracked;
- Increased investment in safety research and development so that states can implement evidence-based programs;
- Better preparation of the highway safety workforce in order to develop a cadre of safety professionals; and
- Incentives which will encourage states to improve, as opposed to more sanctions.
"State motor vehicle agencies are determined to reduce the number of highway deaths by the year 2030," said Neil Schuster, president and CEO of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. "And with Congress and highway safety partners working together, we can make this happen."
State Highway Safety Alliance members are the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the Governors Highway Safety Association, and the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials.
"We are making great progress in improving safety and reducing deaths on our highways. To continue this trend will take increased investments and sharing of best practices. The State Highway Safety Alliance is a great example of how collaboration helps us make progress in moving towards zero deaths," said Stephen A. Keppler, CVSA's interim executive director.
The Alliance is comprised of the three major recipients of the United States Department of Transportation grants as well as other state-based safety stakeholders.
The Alliance represents state agencies with roles in improving highway safety through infrastructure, driver behavior, licensing, incident response, and enforcement approaches.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police, while not a member of the alliance, shares its goals, concerns, and priorities with respect to these recommendations for the Surface Transportation Authorization.
See the group's letter to Congress and its authorization principles at http://tinyurl.com/safety-release0310.