Reducing Fatalities Requires a Holistic Approach

Last week, ITS America had an amazing annual meeting in Charlotte – our first gathering in more than two years, and it was so energizing to gather safely (vaccinations and masks required) with colleagues from across the country!

One of the week’s highlights was hearing from NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, who talked about the sobering increase in roadway fatalities in the last two years and why the NTSB’s ‘Most Wanted’ list is transitioning to a safe systems approach to eliminate these tragedies. She said that NTSB has long recommended using technologies to save lives in all modes and added that road safety is a shared responsibility, and we must view it as “multimodal, multisector, and multidisciplinary” – we could not agree more.  

ITS America’s vision is a better future transformed by intelligent mobility – one that is safer, greener, and smarter. In creating that vision, we spent a lot of time debating ideas and carefully selecting just the right words. We did not, however, debate that safety should come first. We have been working toward reducing fatalities for years, decades even, as have so many others in the transportation and safety communities, and many of our members have deployed – and continue to develop – new safety technologies. Tragically, however, the trend is going the wrong way – the first six months of this year set a record for how many people died in roadway crashes. Understandably, the industry is grappling with this trend, and different stakeholders are examining and discussing the continuing increase in fatalities, why and how the crashes are happening, and potential solutions.

There is no magic bullet to reduce crashes and fatalities, but we have a responsibility to use all the tools at our disposal to save as many lives as we can – including ITS safety technologies, reassessing road design, adjusting speed limits, addressing driver behaviors, and education, and evaluating where we can improve. Safety is a shared responsibility – from those who design, operate, and maintain the system to those of us who use it, whether we are cycling, walking, driving, scooting, riding transit, or on any other new mobility mode we haven’t even yet imagined.

Our members are working on technologies that can and do save lives, but we all realize no one solution will eliminate fatalities. Automated and connected vehicle technologies, for example, continue to advance and reduce the potential for crashes, and they are being deployed on a small scale in communities across the country. While we were in Charlotte last week, I heard from my twin sons’ high school principal that four students were in a serious crash – and while thankfully they are all recovering, I wonder if it could have been avoided with safety technology available today. These technologies are not a panacea, but we believe their deployment continues to be an integral part of a holistic solution to reducing the more than 40,000 lives lost on our roads every year – whether it is hundreds or thousands, it will mean at least that many families will be spared.  

ITS America has always convened a diverse range of voices and views to come together and find solutions. I can’t think of a more pressing issue than mitigating and preventing crashes and saving lives, so consider this our first resolution for 2022 – I hope our colleagues will join us.

As the last of the season’s holidays approach, and with them more and more people taking to the roads, my wish is that everyone travels safely and enjoys time with friends and family as we close out 2021.

Laura D. Chace

Laura Chace is ITS America’s President and CEO.
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