fatal car accidents

The National Safety Council is teaming up with several U.S. Department of Transportation agencies in the “Road to Zero” coalition to end road deaths within 30 years.

Joining the National Safety Council are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The DOT has made $1 million available for grants to organizations developing lifesaving programs during the next three years.

Proven Safety Strategies

The Road to Zero Coalition will begin by employing proven strategies for saving lives in auto accidents, such as getting more people to use seat belts, installing rumble strips, encouraging truck safety, launching campaigns to change behavior, and using data-driven enforcement.

After that, the coalition will guide the creation of a new “scenario-based” vision of ways to eliminate traffic deaths via evidence-based strategies and a systematic approach to eliminating risks. The coalition will encourage programs that focus on overall system design, infrastructure design, vehicle technology, enforcement, and behavior safety. It will green-light methods that ensure that inevitable human mistakes don’t result in fatalities.

Rising Traffic Deaths

According to Greg Gardner of Detroit Free Press, NHTSA announced Tuesday that traffic fatalities increased by an estimated 10.4 percent during the first six months of this year. Sadly, 2016’s second quarter was the seventh quarter in a row to see traffic deaths rise over previous years. The first annual increase in road deaths since 2012 was in 2015.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said:

Every single death on our roadways is a tragedy. We can prevent them. Our drive toward zero deaths is more than just a worthy goal.  It is the only acceptable goal.

Although Americans are driving more (because of relatively low gas prices and an improved economy), the Federal Highway Administration says the 3.3 percent increase (50.5 billion) in miles driven is less than the percentage of increase in deaths from crashes. The National Safety Council’s CEO, Deborah Hersman, said the council does not yet know the cause of the increase in road deaths; however distracted driving is a factor, despite the fact that 46 states have laws that ban texting while driving.

Cars, Phones a Dangerous Combination

Wireless service providers and automakers encourage people to use their phones in vehicles. The service providers admit that people can become addicted to phone use, but the providers are not looking forward to technology that would prevent a driver from using the phone. Safety regulators have been looking into the matter, but NHTSA has not made any rules that restrict phone use in vehicles.

Hersman noted that although people think using phones while driving is okay as long as their hands are on the wheel, data shows that that is not the case. Some phone features that help parents to know how well their teens are driving are useful, Hersman said. But, she added, automakers should turn off certain infotainment features.

Apple applied for a patent in 2014 for techology that would lock a phone when its sensors detect that the phone is in a moving vehicle and is being used by a driver. It would prevent texting, among other things (Apple wrote in the patent application that it doubted that law enforcement would have any appreciable effect in preventing texting while driving). 

Road to Safety

The coalition is hopeful, and cautiously confident, that advanced technologies and the road towards autonomous vehicles will help it to achieve its goal of zero deaths and no serious injuries on roadways, sidewalks or bicycle paths within 30 years.

Image by Dmitry Kalinovsky/123RF.