County DPW Commissioner Urges Roadway Safety
Monday, August 22, 2016
Last year, over 38,000 people were killed on our nation’s roads; an additional 4.4 million people were seriously injured. The National Safety Council (NSC) indicated 2015 “likely was the deadliest driving year since 2008." While vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, rose in 2015 at a clip of 3.5%, the National Traffic Safety Administration reports the fatality rate outpaced the VMT increase to the tune of 4.4% in one year. "These numbers are serving notice: Americans take their safety on the roadways for granted," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, NSC president and CEO. "Driving a car is one of the riskiest activities any of us undertake in spite of decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements.
In 2015, New York realized a numbing 12.8% increase in traffic fatalities across the state; Chemung County itself experienced 11 fatalities on state, county, and local road systems. This equates to a staggering increase of 267% compared to the previous year’s 3 traffic fatalities, likely not acceptable in any of our minds. Put in perspective, last year’s nation-wide 38,000 traffic fatalities are equivalent to the loss of the entire population of the City of Elmira and the Villages of Horseheads and Elmira Heights. This is an alarming statistic, particularly when you realize that many, if not most, of the crashes and deaths are attributable to driver error. To improve safety on our roads, the National Safety Council recommends drivers:
The AAA offers these tips for pedestrians and drivers to keep themselves safe:
According to a 2014 Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report4, most cyclist fatalities in the past three years have occurred in only a small number of states, including New York. Just six states, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas, accounted for 54% of all cycling traffic fatalities from 2010 through 2012, further highlighting that most cyclist deaths occur in urban areas. The report also pointed out the growing number of cyclists who are killed are adult men, accounting for three out of every four cyclist deaths. The GHSA noted 65% of bicyclists killed were not wearing helmets. While twenty-one states and the District of Columbia require children to wear the most basic protective cycling gear – helmets, no states currently require adults to wear a helmet. According to the GHSA, “The lack of universal helmet use laws for bicyclists is a serious impediment to reducing deaths and injuries, resulting from both collisions with motor vehicles and in falls from bicycles not involving motor vehicles.”
The NHSTA offers these safety tips for cyclists:
Before heading out today, ask yourself how many deaths on our roads are acceptable? 30,000? 5,000? 100? How about 1? Now consider, is one death acceptable to you if the deceased was your mother, brother, or best friend? In the face of this reasoning, most readers will likely say zero deaths are acceptable. It is our responsibility as parents, family members, employees, and citizens to work toward zero deaths. What is Toward Zero Deaths (TZD)? Toward Zero Deaths is the United States’ highway safety vision. It is the only acceptable target for our nation, our families and us as individuals. One person dies every 16 minutes in a traffic crash in the United States; over the course of a lifetime, nearly every U.S. resident is touched by consequences of traffic crashes. The Federal Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration all provide technical support to the TZD efforts. For more information on TZD, please visit www.towardzerodeaths.org, and download the national strategy.
We often hear of the “Three E’s” when it comes to traffic safety – Education, Enforcement, and Engineering. It is our responsibility to become better educated about safety, and follow applicable laws, relieving our officers of the burden of running radar and writing tickets for traffic offenses. When we fail to heed safety warnings and act responsibly, we often are introduced to “the “Third E” - Engineering. The Institute of Traffic Engineers notes that engineered traffic calming is the combination of mainly physical measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior and improve conditions for non-motorized street users.5 traffic calming measures, such as roundabouts, chicanes, and speed humps, are often employed by communities to force a reduction in speed and promote responsible driving, walking, and cycling. When the “Three E’s become ineffective, we are apt to hit the “Fourth E” head on – Emergency Response.
- Andrew P. Avery, P.E.
Andy is the Public Works Commissioner for Chemung County, the City of Elmira, and the Town of Big Flats. He is a long-time safety advocate, serving on the executive board of the New York State County Highway Superintendents’ Association, and as the New York representative on the board of directors for the National Association of County Engineers (NACE). In this role, he also serves as New York’s NACE “Safety Champion.”
1. Beck LF, Dellinger AM, O’Neil ME. Motor vehicle crash injury rates by mode of travel, United States: Using exposure-based methods to quantify differences. Am J Epidemiol 2007;166:212–218.