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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 65 · No. 3 > "Put the Brakes on Fatalities" Day|
"Put the Brakes on Fatalities" Day
To help reduce fatalities and injuries on the nation's highways, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) joined a host of other organizations to promote the first annual Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. The goal of this highway safety campaign is to focus public awareness on driver behavior, vehicle safety, and roadway improvements. Each year, about 41,000 people in the United States lose their lives in traffic crashes.
"For the first time in more than five years, our traffic death tolls have increased, even though major strides have been made in [curtailing] risky driving behaviors and in [promoting] vehicle and road safety," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., at a press conference held on the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 10. "With a large segment of the population aging and a big increase in the number of young, less-experienced drivers on the road, it's time to tackle the problem head on before things get worse."
DOT and several other organizations signed a memorandum designating Oct. 10 of every year as Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day. Runge and Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters signed the memorandum on behalf of DOT. Others who signed included Dean E. Carlson, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; Barbara Harsha, executive director of the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives; Larry Emig of the National Society of Professional Engineers; William Wilkins of The Road Information Program (TRIP); Susan Pikrallidas of the American Automobile Association (AAA); and William Fay of the Roadway Safety Foundation. (The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is also a supporter of the observance; however, Administrator Joseph Clapp was unable to attendthe ceremony because he was appearing before a Senate committee.)
"We don't believe in traffic accidents," said Administrator Peters at the signing. "We call the dangerous moments that take more than 100 lives every day 'crashes.' Crashes have causes, and when you know the cause, you can have more success working on solutions. One solution - keep the driver on the road through engineering, education, and enforcement."
Several states also participated in the first Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day.
In Wisconsin, state Transportation Secretary Terry Mulcahy announced a Fatality-Free Day campaign, and the campaign message is: "Drive as if your life depends on it." In addition, Wisconsin developed a poster, which depicts a 2001 calendar with big zeros on all the dates with no fatalities; so far, Wisconsin has had 57 fatality-free days. Secretary Mulcahy asked everyone in Wisconsin to wake up in the morning and to pledge, "I'm not going to be involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash today." Also, on hand at the ceremony were John Evans, director of the Bureau of Transportation Safety in the Wisconsin Department of Transportation; State Patrol (DSP) Superintendant Doug Van Buren; and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Division Administrator Bill Fung.
New Mexico sponsored several activities. The governor's representative for highway safety, Terry Schiavone, who is also the Program Division director for the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department (NMSHTD), participated in a press conference in Santa Fe along with other state highway officials and state police officers. Reuben Thomas, the administrator of the New Mexico Division of FHWA, also participated and was interviewed by the press. As an example of a project to improve safety, Thomas highlighted the installation of rumble strips on all Interstate highways in the state. A public service announcement that was prepared by NMSHTD about Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day was aired on local television stations.
In Oklahoma, Gov. Frank Keating said, "Motor vehicle fatalities are the leading cause of death for all Americans from 6 to 33 years old. … We can make a difference to stop the carnage on our nation's roads." State Secretary of Transportation Herschal Crow expressed his hope that Oklahoma drivers willdrive defensively and will focus on their driving habits and on making a conscious effort to be more alert so that every day can be a zero-fatality day. Lubin Quiñones, FHWA's assistant administrator for the Oklahoma Division, offered some practical tips to reduce the chances of being in a crash - drive as if your life depends on it, obey the postedspeedlimits, slow down in bad weather and in special construction and school zones, and drive sober.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, along with a host of national transportation, safety, and engineering organizations, contributed to Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day in Texas. "It's a sad fact that Texas leads the nation in traffic fatalities," said state Sen. Steve Ogden. "The good news is we can all do something about this statistic." Carlos Lopez, TxDOT's traffic operations director, emphasized that "individual action can make a real difference in saving lives."
In New Jersey, Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein, FHWA Division Administrator Dennis Merida, and Pam Fischer of American Automobile Association of New Jersey held a press conference to urge motorists to "Put The Brakes On Fatalities."
Similar programs were conducted in Louisiana, Nebraska, and North Dakota.
Highway agencies and organizations spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on safety-related projects, but the importance of activities such as Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day was succinctly expressed by John L. Craig, director of the Nebraska Department of Roads. "Even with these accomplishments, in the end, each roadway user is the key to safety."
Ann Walls is a marketing specialist in FHWA's Safety Core Business Unit. She is a member of the American Marketing Association. She received a bachelor's degree in business management (with an emphasis in marketing) from the University of Maryland.
The sponsoring groups have launched a Web site( http://www.brakesonfatalities.org) to provide materials and information on the campaign.
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