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Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Excerpts from remarks as prepared for delivery
International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Annual Business Meeting
Sunday, October 19, 2003, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Annette (Sandberg, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) leads an agency with "safety" in the name. While safety isn't part of Federal Highway's name, it is very important to us.

FHWA is an agency that is dedicated to SAVING LIVES.

Safety is the top transportation priority of President Bush and Transportation Secretary Mineta. Think of all the critical functions the U.S. Department of Transportation performs -- supporting states in the construction and preservation of highways and bridges, ensuring safe and efficient air travel, and oversight of everything from railroads to subways to trucks to the maritime industry. Despite this massive portfolio, the Secretary of Transportation has said, "Our top priority is to use every tool available to reduce death and injury on our highways."

Why is this so important to the Bush Administration? Because if we refuse to act now, more and more people - our loved ones - one of us - will die or be seriously injured on our roadways.

This is unacceptable.


FHWA takes its safety role very seriously.

That's why SAFETEA, our proposed bill to reauthorize TEA-21, creates a new "core" safety program and more than doubles the funds available for infrastructure safety.

The new Highway Safety Improvement Program is a stand-alone program, replacing and expanding on the existing Surface Transportation Program safety set-aside. This reflects our elevated emphasis on safety, recognizing that, as a nation, we must not accept that nearly 43,000 people are killed and three million are injured annually.

It will:

  • Provide states with funds to reduce fatalities and injuries on all public streets and roads, including local roads, at a 90 percent federal share. Some safety improvements are eligible for 100 percent federal aid funding.
  • Reinforce FHWA safety partnerships.
  • Complement NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) safety programs.
  • Allow states with strategic highway safety plans the flexibility to transfer funds between the Highway Safety Improvement Program and Section 402 Safety Grants programs.
  • Create strong incentives to encourage states to enact primary safety belt laws and achieve substantially higher safety belt usage rates.

       -- The national rate is now 79 percent and for each one percent increase in use (nationally), an estimated 2.5 million more people will buckle up and 250 lives will be saved annually.

       -- American is getting the message about buckling up.

       -- For example, safety belt usage in the State of Washington has improved to 95 percent, the highest in the country and among the best in the world.


Safety outcomes are related to the interaction between drivers, vehicles, and the roadway. This is no small issue given that in the U.S. there are:

  • 191 million licensed drivers (and estimates of 10 million unlicensed)
  • 2.8 trillion vehicle miles traveled annually
  • Four million miles of roadway - owned and operated by over 35,000 state, local or private entities. Please keep in mind that safety funding may be used on any of these four million miles.

We must work together - using a four Es approach (Enforcement-- Engineering--Education--Emergency Response) to make a difference.

FHWA is responsible for infrastructure safety issues - design and engineering of roads and bridges -- but we partner with NHTSA, FMCSA and others on issues related to enforcement and education. One important area of coordination is data collection. You are our eyes and ears in gathering safety reports. Crash information is crucial to saving lives.

FHWA, NHTSA and FMCSA have collaborated with the State of Iowa in developing TraCS (traffic and criminal software). It is a data collection and reporting tool for the public safety community. TraCS improves data quality and timeliness and eliminates the need for duplicate entry into local and state databases. Software is provided free of charge to states.

FHWA also participates on IACP's Police Vehicle Safety Subcommittee.

   -- Our role is to change highway designs and operations that contribute to safety problems for law enforcement and emergency vehicles.


FHWA is committed to using our resources where they can have the greatest impact.

As an agency, we are focusing our attention in three areas:

  • Safety
  • Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining
  • Congestion Mitigation

Within safety, we have three top priorities:

  • Roadway departures
  • Intersections
  • Pedestrians

Roadway departure includes run-off-the-road and head-on collision crashes - any crash where drivers leave their lane.

   -- Roadway departures are a critical area, because they account for 59 percent of all fatalities (25,241 fatalities) and 35 percent of injury crashes (740,000 injury crashes).

Run-off-the-road crashes account for 70 percent of all roadway departure fatalities. Some solutions include:

   -- Forgiving roadside -- Provides a "Clear Zone" so that if someone leaves the road, they have time and space to recover.

   -- Rumble strips -- Warning inattentive, fatigued, and other drivers who wander from their lane.

   -- Improved nighttime visibility -- Increasing nighttime visibility of signing and pavement markings. This is particularly important for older drivers.

Our Intelligent Vehicle Initiative - IVI - has several complementary approaches to prevent crashes.

   -- On-board sensors encourage good driving behavior.

   -- Infrared vision enhancement systems are already available on many cars and trucks.

Almost three million intersection related crashes every year.

   -- About half of all crashes and injuries occur at intersections.

   -- Intersection crashes account for 21 percent of total fatalities (9,167 fatalities).

National intersection agenda in partnership with AASHTO and IACP.

   -- Strategies include engineering improvements, training for local safety professionals, increasing public awareness, selective and automated enforcement.

   -- When "properly applied and designed," automated enforcement for red light running and effective roundabouts can save lives.

All of us are pedestrians at some point in our travels.

   -- 4,808 pedestrian fatalities and 78,000 pedestrian injuries per year.

   -- One "jet load" (184) of pedestrians killed every two weeks.

   -- Most (almost 80 percent) killed at non-intersection locations.

   -- People over age 65 are a disproportionate portion of victims.

   -- Pedestrian Safety Outreach Campaign, a toolkit of outreach materials for states and communities to customize and use locally.

   -- Safer Journey CD -- Award winning interactive CD takes the user through pedestrian safety scenarios encountered every day. (A great teaching tool for elementary and middle school students.)

   -- Engineering and ITS-based countermeasures -- Field operational tests to implement and evaluate advanced technology for pedestrian safety underway in California, Florida and Nevada.

   -- Safe Routes to School


To save lives, we need:

Partnership approach
Brings it all together -- engineering, enforcement, education, emergency medical services working closely at the local, state, and national levels. SAFETEA reinforces this approach. I challenge IACP to be part of this team.

Safety conscious planning
Considering safety from the very beginning, with states and MPO's making safety an explicit priority within the transportation planning process on a par with congestion relief and environmental protection.

State performance-based strategic safety plan
Developing and implementing a comprehensive data-driven, performance based safety plan that combines the resources and expertise of engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency services. The state plan should identify and address the unique safety needs of the state and include goals and performance measures to assure accountability.

SAFETEA advances all these goals.


Improving safety is our highest priority at U.S. DOT and this mission forms the cornerstone of our SAFETEA legislation.

SAFETEA would establish a National Blue Ribbon Commission on Highway Safety to develop a national safety goal. Enforcement will have a seat at the table and will be an integral part of this commission.

The commission would guide us toward a consensus within the highway safety community and the public in support of the goal, and recommend a plan with specific strategies for achieving the goal.

   -- I challenge you to partner with your engineering and state DOT counterparts to work toward our common goal - saving lives.

The American people deserve the safest, most secure, and most efficient transportation system in the world. The Bush Administration is doing all it can to reduce highway fatalities. This is a solvable problem. We're in this together.

Working as partners, we can and we must and we will save lives.

FHWA Briefing Room | Speeches and Testimony

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Page last modified on September 14, 2012.
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