WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday unveiled a broad national strategy for addressing roadway safety that includes a set of actions designed to make vehicles safer.
The comprehensive action plan is aimed at significantly reducing serious and fatal injuries on U.S. roads and highways and is supported in part by funding and provisions in the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package President Joe Biden signed into law in November.
U.S. traffic deaths were up 18 percent in the first half of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020 — marking the largest number of projected fatalities in that period since 2006, according to NHTSA estimates.
The department said its national roadway safety strategy is "the first step in working toward an ambitious long-term goal of reaching zero roadway fatalities."
As part of the strategy, the department will adopt the Safe System Approach, a concept that acknowledges both human error and human vulnerability and encompasses a broader effort to prevent crashes from resulting in serious injury or death.
The strategy involves a five-pronged model to address safety as it relates to people, roads, vehicles, speeds and post-crash care, and it encompasses action across the department's three roadway safety agencies, including NHTSA.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which has called for a transition to the Safe System methodology, referred to the department’s strategy as “the bold paradigm shift we need.”
“We're going to continue pushing to make sure that safety is at the forefront of anything that's happening, including in the vehicle technology space,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told Automotive News. “The key part of Safe Systems is taking action. … It’s not just education and enforcement.”