Call to #SlowDown at major US highway safety conference
At the 2017 US Lifesavers conference, the FIA Foundation has advocated for speed management as a critical element of reducing road fatalities, the theme of the United Nations Global Road Safety Week 8-14 May. Jack Danielson, Acting Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Jeff Michael, NHTSA Associate Administrator for Research and Program Development, joined the FIA Foundation’s Natalie Draisin to support and promote the UN Week (main image above).
Held 26-28 March in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Lifesavers National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities convened a unique combination of public health and safety professionals, researchers, law enforcement, advocates, and students committed to sharing best practices, research, and proven policy initiatives. Marilena Amoni, FIA Foundation Trustee and Vice Chair of the Lifesavers Conference Board of Directors, said, “This preeminent national conference on highway safety priorities connects the dots between all of the actors involved in keeping us safe on the roads, so that we can reverse the rising road traffic fatality trend in the US. We are working together to address this as a public health issue.”
Connecting public health to international and domestic road safety, Natalie Draisin, Manager of the North American Office, moderated a panel, “Motor Vehicle Crashes: Public Health Perspective on Injury Prevention.” The panel presented evidence-based solutions to decrease injuries and fatalities on roads, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called a ‘winnable battle.’ Nonetheless, last year the US experienced the sharpest two-year road traffic fatality increase in 53 years.
Natalie Draisin presented speed management as a key component to reducing fatalities and injuries on roads, the theme of UN Global Road Safety Week. She also suggested that a critical place to begin focusing on speed management efforts is with the most vulnerable population – children. “Simply reducing speeds where kids live, walk, or cycle to school can save their lives. This is a chance to affect their outcomes for the next 60-70 years. To have a positive impact on current and future generations, we have to start with kids. And to have a positive impact on millions of kids, we have to start with public health,” she said.
UN Global Road Safety Week offers plenty of ways to advocate for speed management. Businesses or organizations can focus on speed management and ask employees to take a pledge to slow down, encouraging safety culture that goes home with their employees. Community members, parents, and schools can host a Bike to School Day to celebrate safe routes to school, advocate for interventions, and ask Mayors to sign the Mayor’s Statement supporting Vision Zero by starting with children. Such efforts, promoted by Global initiative for Child Health and Mobility partner National Center for Safe Routes to School, are helpful in encouraging a safe system approach. The safe system approach is the foundation for Vision Zero and entails a forgiving road system that accounts for human error through interventions that make crashes survivable, such as speed management. Natalie Draisin also presented these opportunities at another panel, ‘Community Partnerships that Work,’ discussing the importance of engaging the entire community in road safety efforts.
Other public health perspective panelists included Gaya Myers, public health analyst at the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at CDC. She presented on the main factors attributed to injuries and fatalities on US roads, and evidence-based interventions. Dr. Indira Gurubhagavatula, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Sleep Division at the University of Pennsylvania, Director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, and current Chair of the Sleep and Transportation Safety Task Force of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, spoke about the importance of identifying and treating sleep apnea in commercial truck drivers and educating teens about the hazards of drowsy driving. Dr. Patricia Byers, Professor of Surgery at the University of Miami and a faculty member in the Division of Trauma Surgery and Surgical Critical Care presented with Alejandro Badilla, researcher and student pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Miami about their ‘Survive the Ride’ motorcycle education and injury prevention program. Together, they represented different facets of road safety, and public health solutions to the growing injury and fatality epidemic.
The FIA Foundation is proud to sponsor the Lifesavers Conference, and extends its gratitude to the many volunteers who ensure its continued success in bringing together leaders and promoting evidence-based road safety interventions.