Highway Safety—Everyone's Responsibility
In the United States, we truly appreciate the convenience of our world-class highway system and the mobility it provides. Although we are comfortable with our ability to move around and how it helps advance personal and economic goals, it appears that we also have grown accustomed to more than 41,000 highway-related fatalities and greater than 3 million highway-related injuries each year—more than 90 percent of all annual, transportation-related fatalities and injuries. This is a terrible toll and should not be viewed as the "price we have to pay" for mobility. These statistics point to a national safety crisis, indicating a need for us to do more to improve highway safety, both personally and professionally.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) addresses safety through a multifaceted and multidisciplinary research and technology innovation program, incorporating infrastructure, human factors, operations, and intelligent transportation systems. FHWA cannot hope to find the solutions alone; therefore, we partner with organizations to improve safety, including other U.S. Department of Transportation modal administrations, State highway agencies, local and tribal governments, governmental agencies, the public, and others. Working together, we can all be a part of the effort to improve highway safety. Agency-wide, FHWA views improving safety as one of its most vital goals and has decided consciously to concentrate on saving lives.
Fatality crash data show several specific areas needing our immediate attention: intersection safety, pedestrian safety, and roadway departure reductions. We also believe there is a need to improve data collection, storage, and dissemination, which will facilitate better problem identification, and new and more cost-effective countermeasures that improve safety in different situations and locations. Above all, the focus of our resources will be in areas where they will make the greatest difference in terms of saving lives.
This special issue of Public Roads focuses on the many aspects of highway safety and covers a wide range of topics: crash data, vital safety goals, the role of research, initiatives for keeping vehicles on the road, the importance of visibility, new research products, speed management, pedestrian safety, and the successful use of rumble strips. The articles in this issue will provide an idea of the broad spectrum of research, education, showcase demonstrations, communication, outreach, and implementation efforts now underway across the country.
Our safety role at FHWA involves day-to-day immersion in crash data, design alternatives, analysis of project effectiveness, examination of new techniques and innovations, partnerships with State and local stakeholders, and overall program analysis. However, as transportation professionals, we especially need to be conscious of our images and behaviors while on the roads, practicing what we preach, driving safely at all times, obeying traffic rules and regulations. And in our personal lives, remember that the children of today will be the drivers of tomorrow. Safe modeling today should affect safe driving habits tomorrow.
Improving highway safety will involve changing attitudes, such as reducing excessive speed in work zones and on our roadways in general, and understanding and obeying traffic control devices. We all have a part in bringing safety to the attention of the driving public. At FHWA and our partner organizations, we can keep safety information and statistics handy—in meetings, displays, and articles—as a means for communicating the urgency of driving safely. Since people are our most vital commodity, let's do our best to keep them safe on our highways and roadways.
I hope that you find this special safety issue of Public Roads useful and informative, both professionally and personally. Feel free to share it with your colleagues, family, and friends. Everyone should have a personal interest in highway safety, and safety is everyone's responsibility.
And, most importantly, "buckle up" and "don't drink and drive."
Mary E. Peters