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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Increase revenues dedicated to transportation system safety education and enforcement activities.
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.
Ensure plans are in place to support the emergency evacuation needs of Washington’s most vulnerable residents.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.