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Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit:
2002 Conditions and Performance Report

Executive Summary

Ch 20: Federal Safety Initiatives

Over the past four decades, the U.S. Department of Transportation has used several tools to reduce highway fatalities and injuries. These include regulations, grants, public education campaigns, engineering and technological research. Rather than adopting a single policy to improve safety, the Department uses many initiatives and interacts with both the public and private sectors.

The public's acceptance of safety restraint systems, for example, represents one of the great public policy success stories of the past two decades. This resulted from a two-pronged effort involving education and enforcement. The exhibit below describes the estimated number of lives saved from seat belts, air bags, and child restraint systems in 1994 and 2000.

Lives Saved by Restraint Systems

RESTRAINT TYPE 1994 2000
Seat Belts
9,206
11,889
Air Bags
276
1,584
Child Restraints
308
316

Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The Department distributes grants to States to reduce crashes through better responsible driving. The Department also partners with industries and public interest groups; in the 1980s and 1990s, for example, a public-private partnership helped reduce the number of alcohol-related driving fatalities.

The Department also works to improve safety through engineering and technological research. Intelligent Transportation Systems, for example, have smoothed traffic flow by warning drivers of hazardous conditions and providing technology for better incident response and enforcement.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has six programs designed to improve the safety and security of the Nation's transit systems. They address modal safety, information sharing and technical assistance, training education, substance abuse, security, and data collection and analysis.

The Modal Safety program requires States with fixed guideway systems to designate an independent oversight agency to oversee the safety of rail systems not regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Currently, 22 States and 36 systems are included in the program. FTA audits the affected States for compliance with the rule and provides technical assistance. FTA participates with FRA in developing shared track and shared corridor safety standards and the granting of waivers for shared track operations.

The bus component of the modal safety program is a Bus Testing Program to ensure that deficiencies in new bus models are corrected before being put into revenue service. Since its implementation, this program has successfully identified more than 4,000 malfunctions ranging from minor problems to serious design deficiencies. A Modal Transit Safety Bus Program, initiated by FTA in 1998, provides guidance in driver selection and training, vehicle maintenance, drug and alcohol abuse programs, and safety data acquisition and analysis.

 

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