A New Year of Challenges and Opportunities
Welcome to 2007! A new year always brings new challenges, along with a renewed sense of optimism and commitment for making positive changes that overcome those challenges.
The recently released 2005 national safety numbers are a sobering reminder of the serious nature of highway safety challenges. More than 43,000 Americans were killed on the Nation's highways in 2005, and for the first time in a generation, the fatality rate (fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel) did not decline. Pedestrian fatalities significantly increased, and motorcycle fatalities continued to rise at an alarming rate.
However, there are existing solutions and new tools and resources that can be brought to bear on the highway safety problem. The August 2005 passage of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) doubled the funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). As part of this program, States are required to develop a data-driven, comprehensive Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). Approximately half of the plans have been completed to date, and all States are expected to have the SHSP development processes approved by October 1, 2007. Other significant SAFETEA-LU provisions included creation and funding of the Federal Safe Routes to School program, creation of a Motorcyclist Advisory Council, additions and enhancements to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) funding programs, and a strong emphasis on work zone safety.
One of the less visible, but no less important, provisions of SAFETEA-LU is contained in section 1405, Roadway Safety Improvements for Older Drivers and Pedestrians, which calls for improved traffic signs and pavement markings to accommodate the needs of older drivers, a group that continues to grow as the U.S. population ages. This issue of Public Roads includes the next article in an ongoing series addressing how the transportation community can better meet the needs and capabilities of older road users—and any improvements made to improve the system for the older population will help everyone. For more information on these and other safety-related SAFETEA-LU provisions, visit the FHWA Office of Safety Web site at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov.
As the new FHWA Associate Administrator for Safety, I have been impressed with the energy and expertise applied to saving lives on the Nation's roads, and I look forward to working with FHWA staff and our internal and external partners to improve highway safety. Let us resolve to work together to make 2007 a year in which the safety numbers move significantly in the right direction.
Jeffrey A. Lindley
Associate Administrator for Safety
Federal Highway Administration