DETROIT — The new chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board wants governments and businesses to change the way they look at highway safety, considering the whole system rather than individual driver behavior.
Jennifer Homendy, nominated by President Joe Biden earlier this year, said such an approach works in aviation, where there were no U.S. fatalities last year. On the roads, there were 38,680 deaths nationwide, the greatest number since 2007. More than 8,700 motor vehicle deaths were reported in the first three months of 2021, up 10.5% from a year earlier. At the same time, vehicle miles traveled declined.
“The current approach, which favors automobiles and punishes only drivers for crashes, is clearly not working,” she said Monday in remarks prepared for a speech to the Governors Highway Safety Association conference in Denver. “If we are going to get to zero, we will have to do something different.”
Homendy used speeding as an example of the “Safe System Approach” to road safety. Rather than focusing solely on drivers, she questioned whether the whole system failed. She asked whether road designs encourage high speeds, or whether “ill-conceived” federal guidance has led to increasing speed limits in states. She also asked about states that take away the ability of local authorities to set lower speed limits and “manufacturers who design vehicles that can exceed 100 miles per hour or that have no speed limiters.”
Speeding-related crashes rose 11% last year, she said, with troopers in her home state of Virginia posting images on social media of tickets to speeding drivers, one for going 115 mph in an area with a 55 mph speed limit.
She told the group of state and territorial highway safety officials that speed limits and laws against impaired driving still have to be enforced. But she said enforcement alone can’t make the roads safer.
Homendy called on road designers, public health officials, governors, vehicle makers, transportation providers and communities to share a new vision. “The carnage on our roads has to stop. You know it, and I know it,” she said.
The NTSB investigates road crashes and other transportation incidents, but it has no regulatory authority. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates vehicles, while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates trucking companies. The Federal Highway Administration is responsible for roadways.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting. Founded in 1846, AP today remains the most trusted source of fast, accurate, unbiased news in all formats and the essential provider of the technology and services vital to the news business. The Trucker Media Group is subscriber of The Associated Press has been granted the license to use this content on TheTrucker.com and The Trucker newspaper in accordance with its Content License Agreement with The Associated Press.
NTSB chief: focus on road safety must shift to entire systemComment
Maybe if you take a step back you would see. It’s not the truckers or the transportation industry that’s at fault. It’s really stupid Drivers with small cars that are the problem. The other day I had my cruise set at 70 in the center lane of a 3 lane freeway and I was getting close to a car in front of me getting read to pass then out of nowhere another tiny car going probably 110mph squeezed between me and the car in front of me. We are talking millimeters from both my bumper and the bumper of the car in front of me. And there was no one behind me and no one in front of the car I was getting read to pass. This is what causes accidents and this is why your system is failing.