Information provided by Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration
On Feb. 24 Caltrans unveiled its new Director’s Policy on Road Safety, which commits the transportation agency to the Safe System approach. The release said the policy reaffirms the vision of reaching zero fatalities and serious injuries on state highways by 2050.
“Caltrans is fully committing to a fundamental shift in road safety and is laying the framework for significant reductions in roadway deaths and injuries,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “We play an important role in the building and maintaining of the state’s highways. With the numbers of serious injuries and deaths trending the wrong way, now is the time to focus even more on what we can do to save lives and work collaboratively with other stakeholders who play a role in roadway safety.”
The release added that California and the rest of the nation are seeing an increase in fatalities and serious injuries on the roadways. In California, more than 3,600 people die each year in traffic accidents and more than 13,000 people are severely injured.
More than 3,200 people died on the state’s roadways in the first nine months of 2021, this is a 17% increase from 2020. The Federal Highway Administration notes that Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic and that vehicle miles traveled decreased by about 430.2 billion miles, or about a 13.2% decrease.
“To address this trend, Caltrans is aligning departmental activities, as appropriate, with the Safe System approach, which identifies several interconnected elements to achieving a vision of zero fatalities and serious injuries – safe road users, safe roads, safe speeds, safe vehicles, and post-crash care,” Caltrans said.
According to the release, as part of this policy, Caltrans commits to:
- Prioritizing “safety first” in highway planning, operation, construction and maintenance.
- Focusing on eliminating the most serious crashes, rather than all crashes.
- Eliminating race-, age-, ability- and transportation mode-based disparities in road safety outcomes by addressing historic and current barriers to transportation access and safety.
The state’s 2020-24 Strategic Highway Safety Plan managed by Caltrans and involving more than 400 stakeholders was updated to include the Safe System approach.
This policy also aligns with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy released in January.
The Safe System approach is based on the following principles:
- Eliminate death and serious injury: While no crashes are desirable, the Safe System approach prioritizes addressing crashes that result in death and serious injuries.
- Humans make mistakes: People on the road will inevitably make mistakes that can lead to crashes. The transportation system is designed and operated to accommodate human mistakes and injury tolerances and avoid deaths and serious injuries.
- Humans are vulnerable: Crash forces contribute to deaths and serious injuries. Minimizing speeds and impact angles reduces the risk of death and serious injuries.
- Responsibility is shared: All stakeholders, including road users, vehicle manufacturers, policy makers, law enforcement, licensing and education entities, those in road design and maintenance, and others must commit to working together to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes to zero.