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Directions in Highway Safety, Spring 2007 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Spring 2007 | Vol. 10 | No. 1

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National Commission Examines Highway Safety; Provides Preview of Reauthorization

The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission has been holding hearings around the country examining a variety of transportation topics likely to be addressed in the next reauthorization. A full report of recommendations is expected to be issued to Congress later this year. The Commission is working to examine not only the condition and future needs of the nation’s surface transportation system, but also short and long-term alternatives to replace or supplement the fuel tax as the principal revenue source to support the Highway Trust Fund over the next 30 years.

Barbara Harsha, Executive Director of GHSA, presented the Association’s priorities during a session held April 19th in Chicago. The session was titled “Safety Solutions for the Surface Transportation Network.”

Next Highway Reauthorization Graphic

Among the recommendations Harsha presented:

Encourage Policy Changes. Harsha said GHSA supports additional financial incentives to encourage states to enact primary safety belt laws. She indicated that the incentives need to be more sizable in order to have impact in larger states such as Florida and Ohio.

Focus on Speeding. Harsha reported that the nation has completely failed on the public policy of speeding. To remedy this, she said all three levels of government must take action. Localities should address speed in school zones and neighborhoods. States need to improve the way they set speeds, increase sanctions for speeding, enhance enforcement of speed limits and aggressively address speeding in work zones. She also said the federal government should make the issue a national highway safety priority and the leaders of the U.S. Department of Transportation should use their bully pulpit to address the issue.

Utilize Technology. Harsha said that aggressive use of technology holds much promise in highway safety and specifically can help increase safety belt use, eliminate drunk driving and reduce red light running and speeding.

Increase funding for behavioral highway safety programs. Harsha reported that 80-85 percent of motor vehicle crashes are due to driver and road users' behavior, yet less than 2 percent of federal-aid highway funding is dedicated to behavioral highway safety programs. Also presenting their priorities were American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Vice President Pete Rahn; Mike Stout, Director of the Illinois Department of Transportation's Division of Traffic Safety; MADD National President Glynn Birch and Jackie Gillan, Vice President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

AASHTO Vice President Pete Rahn testified "We are at a standstill in our efforts to reduce deaths on our highway and we must commit ourselves to a goal of reducing those fatalities by 10,000 per decade." Rahn, who also chairs AASHTO's Standing Committee on Highway Traffic Safety, said law enforcement and judiciary officials must join the interdisciplinary team looking for serious ways to curb traffic deaths. "We urge you to call for the creation of a Presidential Commission to focus national attention on this issue and to help develop a national strategic highway safety plan to drive down this tragic death toll," Rahn testified.

Jackie Gillan of Advocates called for dramatic increases in investment in the nation's safety infrastructure as well as a push for improved laws that are uniform across the country. She indicated that financial incentives have not proven enticing enough for many states to improve their safety belt and motorcycle helmet laws and that a sanctions-approach should be implemented.

Gillan also called for more regulation of the trucking industry. She told the commission that despite promises from the U.S. Department of Transportation, little has been done to reduce truck crash deaths and injuries.

Harsha's complete testimony is online at http://www.ghsa.org/html/issues/pdf/2007.04.19.testimony.pdf. More information about the Commission is available at www.transportationfortomorrow.org.