The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg has announced the federal government’s new comprehensive National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), a roadmap for addressing the national crisis in roadway fatalities and serious injuries.
Almost 95 percent of the United States’ 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 alarmingly fatalities have risen during the pandemic. The NRSS provides concrete steps that the Department will take to address this crisis systemically and prevent these tragic and avoidable deaths and serious injuries. Bolstered by the funding included in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the NRSS is the first step in working 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 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 NRSS recognizes that roadway safety is inextricably linked with the Biden-Harris Administration’s equity and climate goals. Fatalities due to traffic crashes disproportionately affect communities of color, people living in rural areas, people with disabilities, and older adults. Traffic deaths among people who walk or bike are increasing more sharply than for people who drive.
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.
“The Roadway Safety Action Plan is designed to focus all of USDOT’s resources, authorities and incredible expertise, working with our stakeholders, to combat the tragic number of fatalities and serious injuries we see on U.S. roadways – from our largest cities and towns, to rural and tribal communities all across the country,” said Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg.
“Unfortunately, many roads are not designed to ensure safe travel at safe speeds for everyone, especially the most vulnerable road users,” said FHWA Deputy Administrator Stephanie Pollack. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a tremendous opportunity for FHWA to work closely with State, local and Tribal partners to put increased transportation funding to work incorporating safety for all users into every federally-funded road project.”
“FMCSA is committed to reducing Commercial Motor Vehicle fatalities and overall fatalities. We will work across the Department to coordinate proactive compliance and outreach programs and work collaboratively with all stakeholders,” said FMCSA Executive Director and Chief Safety Officer Jack Van Steenburg. “Our goal is to prevent crashes and preserve the quality of life for all roadway users across America. Zero is our goal.”
“No longer can we as a society accept traffic deaths as routine. Every life lost is a tragedy, and we all can, should, and must do more to change the culture. The National Roadway Safety Strategy and the Safe System Approach offer all communities a roadmap to save lives and reduce injuries,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Dr. Steve Cliff.
“This National Roadway Strategy represents a collective effort across the Department, and under the leadership of Secretary Buttigieg, to embrace the Safe System approach, and to recognize that no loss of life on our nation’s roadways is acceptable. As we move towards swift implementation, we look forward to partnering with every level of government, industry, advocacy, and all who will come together to address this crisis,” said Robin Hutcheson, former U.S. DOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Safety Policy, and Acting Administrator for FMCSA.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides new tools and resources that allow coordinated action both across the Department and government. It also provides $6 billion for the Safe Streets and Roads for All program, $4 billion in additional funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and an additional infusion of $4 billion for improved crash data and vehicle, behavior, and truck safety programs. In the coming days the Federal Highway Administration will share updated guidance on the HSIP program.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act, is the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan for building a better America with a $1.2 trillion investment in the nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. This Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will work to rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, upgrade and expand public transit, modernize the nation’s ports and airports, improve safety, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind. It will also aim to drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably.