Buttigieg: 'Zero Is the Only Acceptable Number of Deaths & Serious Injuries on Our Roadways'

Susan Jones | January 28, 2022 | 9:44am EST
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Traffic flows in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
Traffic flows in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - "Our priority at the Department of Transportation is to make our transportation system safe for all people," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says in the introduction to the newly released "National Roadway Safety Strategy."

Buttigieg describes a "crisis" on the nation's roadways. He says the status quo is both unacceptable -- "and it is preventable."

"Zero is the only acceptable number of deaths and serious injuries on our roadways," Buttigieg writes in the introduction to his department’s roadway safety plan.

According to DOT:

Almost 95 percent of our Nation’s transportation deaths occur on America’s streets, roads, and highways, and they are on the rise. An estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. In the first half of 2021, an estimated 20,160 people died, up18.4 percent compared to the first six months of 2020. And every year, millions more are seriously and often permanently injured.

The National Roadway Safety Strategy runs 42 pages.

It presents the actions DOT we will take over the next few years in five specific areas, described as:

-- Safer people: "Encourage safe, responsible behavior" by road-users;

-- Safer roads: Design road systems that "mitigate human mistakes";

-- Safer Vehicles: More automobile features "to prevent crashes and minimize the impact of  crashes."

-- Safer Speeds: Promote safer speeds through roadway design, targeted education/outreach campaigns, and enforcement. (This section mentions roadways that “self-enforce” speed limits. It recommends "re-engineering roads to slow down vehicles rather than relying primarily on (police) enforcement to manage speeding. Promote speed safety cameras as a proven safety countermeasure – “if deployed equitably and applied appropriately to roads with the greatest risk of harm due to speeding.”)

-- Post-Crash Care: "Enhance the survivability of crashes through expedient access to emergency medical care."

'Historic inequities'

Of course, this Biden administration initiative, like so many others, includes both climate and racial elements.

As the strategy says:

To achieve zero roadway fatalities and a transportation system that is safe for all users, all actors in our transportation system must acknowledge and address historic and ongoing inequities.

Law enforcement and the work of our Nation’s law enforcement officers are critical to the prevention and reduction of traffic-related fatalities and injuries. Traffic enforcement must have equity – the consistent, fair, just, and impartial treatment of all people – at its foundation.

Under the Safe System Approach, efforts to make our roads safer should affirmatively improve equity outcomes. The Department will advance equity as an instrumental component of transportation safety and convene key stakeholders – government at all levels, law enforcement, advocacy, community organizations, and the general public – to develop both a better understanding of the intersection of equity and roadway safety, and a comprehensive approach to incorporating equity into all of the Department’s efforts to achieve zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries.

The climate change element aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the use of "transit, walking, rolling and riding."

"People who select climate-friendly transportation options decrease transportation-related emissions that contribute to climate change," the strategy says. "To unlock the climate benefits of those modes, we need road and street systems that feel safe and are safe for all road users.”

The strategy concludes with another mention of DOT's "ultimate goal: zero roadway fatalities."

"In publishing this strategy, we are communicating our intent to take significant action over the next few years...We are committed to making every trip safe, whether that trip involves driving, taking transit, walking, biking, or rolling."

Fewer cars?

One way to achieve zero roadway deaths is to get cars off the roads.

In fact, President Biden has previously stated his intention to "take, literally, millions of automobiles off the road."

During a visit to Scranton, Pennsylvania in October, Biden reminisced about his own frequent train travel as he plugged his two massive infrastructure plans:

"Both these bills are going to help us meet the moment on the climate crisis in a way that creates good jobs, makes us more economically competitive -- $66 billion in passenger rail and freight rail," Biden said:

Why (do) I always talk about passenger rail and particularly high-speed rail? You realize the Chinese are now building another high-speed rail line that will go up to 300 miles per hour? You say, what difference does that make, Biden?

Well, guess what? If you can get on a train and go from here to Washington much faster than you can go in an automobile, you take a train, you take the train.

We will take, literally, millions of automobiles off the road -- off the road, saving tens of millions of barrels of oil, dealing with cleaning up the air. This is not hyperbole; this is a fact. These are facts.

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