It was not much of a surprise to the people who work to make the nation’s transportation system safer when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released preliminary numbers showing traffic deaths had increased nearly 8 percent in 2015 to 35,200.
According to the official NHTSA news release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “We are analyzing the data to determine what factors contributed to the increase in fatalities and at the same time, we are aggressively testing new safety technologies, new ways to improve driver behavior, and new ways to analyze the data we have, as we work with the entire road safety community to take this challenge head-on.”
Indeed, it is going to take the “entire” community to reverse the trend. In the safety world, it is described as the four “E’s” – engineering, enforcement, education and emergency response. Taken together, the four “E’s” is a fairly holistic approach until you consider one very important group is missing.
Sure, drivers are the target of the educational campaigns. And drivers are the ones for whom the engineers designing cars and roads are trying to mitigate. The enforcement and emergency response efforts try to cope with drivers’ decisions. But in this entire comprehensive strategy, the drivers themselves are a group to be managed, not a partner to the solution.
In my humble opinion, drivers are the problem. They are the ones texting, playing Pokemon Go, eating, driving too fast, tailgating and making lane changes without signalling. Drivers engage in all manner of bad behaviors that are not tolerated in other areas of society.
So what can we do to reduce and eliminate the carnage? Most states and a large number of cities and towns throughout the country have embraced some form of a “Toward Zero Deaths” goal to eliminate traffic fatalities altogether. But short of eliminating drivers, is that even a realistic hope?
Safety is most likely the one idea that is uniformly included in state DOTs mission and vision statements throughout the country. TransComm’s membership will be tackling the question of how that idea is transferred from paper to reality throughout an organization. And, how can communications experts most significantly influence such a culture of safety.
I know I have done dumb things as a driver. As the father of a new, young driver I see the act of driving in an entirely different way. For me and my family – and the families of those 35,200 people killed on U.S. roads – the urgency to reverse the trend has never been greater.