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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-06-006    Date:  September/October 2006
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-006
Issue No: Vol. 70 No. 2
Date: September/October 2006


Guest Editorial

Taking Safety One Step at a Time

A Photo of Michael Trentacoste, Director of Office and Safety R&D

Look both ways before you cross. Buckle up. Slow for work zones. Guardrails. Traffic lights. Rumble strips. Roadside shoulders. Signs. Pedestrian crossings. Bicycle paths. Comprehensive safety plans.

All of these innovations and thousands of other successful solutions help keep users of the Nation's transportation system safe while they travel for business and recreation. Yet, despite these safety measures, more than 42,000 road users lose their lives each year. What a challenge for the Nation to move the safety numbers in a positive direction!

The Federal Highway Administration is working on several projects with State departments of transportation, through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, and with other organizations and programs to address this challenge through improved data and analysis tools, better estimates of the effectiveness of certain programs and projects, and identification of innovative treatments. For States, counties, metropolitan areas, and cities, the task of increasing safety, while also decreasing congestion, requires vigilance in applying new (and sometimes not-so-new) safety solutions. It takes patience, perseverance, keen investigative skills, and the ability to examine solutions and try new countermeasures and methods that the practitioner has never used before-one at a time until a successful one is found.

This issue of Public Roads features four very different articles that provide ideas on how to tackle all sorts of safety problems. One article reports on a new outreach campaign to help young drivers learn to identify and navigate work zones safely. A second article covers intersection improvements that help address the limitations of older drivers and the mobility issues they face. A third pertains to pedestrians and the challenge of finding where and why roadway crashes involving them occur, and then implementing appropriate solutions at a time when local governments, cities, States, and the Federal Government are encouraging people to walk to improve their health and reduce the number of cars on the road. The fourth safety-focused article reports on low-cost solutions to improve safety on rural roads in Kentucky under its Safety Circuit Rider program.

Many transportation agencies are faced with multiple problem areas and need to search through various countermeasures to find the most appropriate approaches. These articles call to mind two popular sayings that sum up the tenacity needed to implement solutions that improve highway safety. The first is from the soccer player Mia Hamm about success: "Factors like opportunity, luck, and timing are important. But the backbone of success is usually found in old-fashioned, basic concepts like hard work, determination, good planning, and perseverance." What does this have in common with highway safety? Achieving the national safety goal of reducing fatalities to 1 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled will require hard work, a mix of many different measures, and perhaps-a little luck.

The second quote comes from an old E.F. Hutton commercial about providing financial service the "old-fashioned way-one customer at a time." This is similar to the challenge of highway safety. By itself, no one solution can achieve a major improvement in the safety numbers. Several nationwide initiatives, such as increasing the use of safety belts, are critical to making progress. However, to achieve double-digit improvements in safety-to improve driver behavior, vehicles, and roadway infrastructure-the transportation community will need to implement safety "the new-fashioned way-one action at a time."

In the transportation community, everyone needs to keep working on the problems and solutions one at a time, finding what works one at a time, evaluating improvements one at a time, and keep ensuring that a range of solutions is covered in the coordinated manner that is needed to increase safety on America's roads.

Michael Trentacoste

Director, Office of Safety R&D

Federal Highway Administration



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