Safety

Provide for and improve the safety and security of transportation customers and the transportation system.

Why is Safety Important?

No fatality is acceptable. We design, build, operate, and manage our transportation system with safety in mind—safety for all users of that system as well as for those who operate and work on the system. Making travel safer means thinking comprehensively about how different elements of the transportation system intersect, such as road-rail conflicts that can occur at at-grade intersections, or the ways that pedestrians get to and from transit stops. It also means thinking about diverse factors such as community design, Complete Streets, and freight corridor standards as important inputs to a safer transportation system for all travelers. Target Zero provides a good foundation but it’s up to each of us to make the goal of zero fatalities or serious injuries a reality.

Four Policies that Support the Statewide Safety Goal:

1

Continue the ongoing practice of integrating safety into infrastructure design and system operations for all modes of travel and work to
ensure the safety of those who operate and maintain the transportation system.

2

Support Target Zero goals by encouraging an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to system safety that includes engineering, enforcement, education, evaluation, and emergency response, and which harnesses emerging technologies as they are proven to reduce crash hazards.

3

Encourage inter-agency collaboration at all levels of government as well as cooperation between public and private sectors to increase emergency preparedness and response capabilities and reduce system vulnerabilities and disruptions.

4

Promote the role of the built environment and community design in reducing risk exposure and the severity of traffic-related crashes, especially for non-motorized travelers.

Recommendations to Support System Safety Statewide:

1

Increase revenues dedicated to transportation system safety education and enforcement activities.

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Communities across Washington have committed to eliminating fatal and serious injury crashes by 2030, as recommended by Target Zero, Washington’s strategic highway safety plan. The Traffic Safety Commission identifies human behavior factors like distracted driving, speeding, and impairment as the overwhelming contributors to serious crashes, and identifies education and enforcement as effective counter-measures. Yet transportation safety funding is directly primarily at engineering and construction measures, not education or enforcement. Resources also must be directed at the leading contributors of fatality and serious injury crashes, which is human behavior.

2

Expand crash data reporting and analysis at the state and local level to provide an understanding of racial disparities in traffic safety in order to better target effective countermeasures.

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Crash data is used to understand how and where people are hurt or killed while traveling on Washington’s streets, roads, and highways. Crash analysis accounts for the age and condition of vehicle operators and passengers, non-motorized victims, contributing factors, location, weather and lighting, and other factors like wildlife or work zone conditions but it typically does not report on race or ethnicity of those injured or killed. Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that, when compared to all causes of death, traffic crashes account for disproportionately large percentages of deaths among Native American and Hispanic populations. A June 2018 analysis by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission found that American Indian/Alaska Native residents are four times more likely to die in a car crash than the population in general.

3

Ensure plans are in place to support the emergency evacuation needs of Washington’s most vulnerable residents.

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Emergency disaster planning, such as for tsunamis or wildfires, offers useful information for people needing to flee a dangerous situation, but what about those who can’t flee? This may be due to physical or mental limitations, limited economic means, age, or other factors. Being able to provide rapid response emergency evacuation for vulnerable populations takes some preparation among a wide range of partners including transit and paratransit agencies, law enforcement and first responders, community service organizations, and emergency management offices. Preparation ahead of time ensures that all of the pieces are in place when it’s needed and that everyone is working from the same playbook. This includes requisite Memorandums of Understanding between applicable agencies and organizations to formalize roles, responsibilities, and communication channels.

4

Ensure the network of designated “lifeline facilities” necessary for rapid response and sustained recovery after a major seismic event
considers the full range of modal resources available in Central and Eastern Washington.

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Preparing for a natural disaster with such profound impacts as a magnitude 9.0 earthquake requires a holistic, systems-wide view. The Resilient Washington Plan established the need to identify “seismic lifeline routes” which include the I-5 corridor from McChord air field at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Lakewood to Paine Field in Everett, and between the I-5 corridor and the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake. What additional roles will essential facilities such as rural general aviation airports, strategic waterways, international border crossings, and heavy haul freight corridors play in the response and recovery effort? Long-term recovery needs suggest that additional routes and facilities may be needed to augment the initial north-south and east-west route to support resource deployment, evacuation, access of heavy machinery, etc.

Cross-Cutting Ideas

Cross-cutting topics can advance our understanding, preparedness, and ownership over new horizons. Here we present potential next steps and some options available to deepen understanding.

lightbulb with gears

Technology & Innovation

New technologies in the transportation sector bring both benefits and challenges in relation to safety. Automated vehicles have potential to improve occupant safety by removing the element of human error which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates to be the cause of 94 percent of crashes. At the same time, these technologies raise questions about potential safety concerns for pedestrians and cyclists as well as questions regarding  cybersecurity and privacy. Other innovative tech applications are using “smart signs” to warn motorists of cyclists or pedestrians ahead, roadway sensors to predict the presence of black ice, and cameras to reduce blind spots for transit and truck drivers.

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System Resilience

Many of the same partnerships and strategies that increase system resilience support ongoing day-to-day efforts to improve system safety and security, and coordinated incident response. This is a mobility dividend returned on the investment of resources spent preparing for major disasters. At the same time, incorporating seismic retrofit and planning for sea level rise when doing system repairs and retrofits are cheaper than adding them later, and stretch limited funds available to harden existing infrastructure. Coordination and careful planning amongst diverse partners can help Washington be better prepared for the unthinkable.

stack of coins

Paying for Transportation

The Target Zero Strategic Highway Safety Plan offers a detailed blueprint to guide safety investments and efforts to improve traffic safety. It outlines data-driven emphasis areas and identifies effective strategies for reducing the factors that contribute to the majority of traffic fatalities and serious injuries. During the 2012-2014 time period, impairment was the top contributing factor in traffic fatalities, followed by lane departure and speeding. Target Zero notes that over 80 percent of all traffic fatalities involved at least one of these factors, and 20 percent involved all three. While the majority of factors contributing to traffic fatalities are related to human behavior, the majority of safety funding is for capital projects, not enforcement or education.

Six Statewide Transportation Goals