Pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries from traffic crashes are a serious problem in our country, and they have spiked since the pandemic started in early 2020. Yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a comprehensive federal plan for addressing the crisis, called the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS).
Part of the strategy is the “Safe System” approach, which acknowledges that people make mistakes and builds redundancies into the system to prevent crashes from happening, and minimize the harm when they do. Safety will be addressed using a five-pronged model: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and post-crash care.
Buttigieg’s announcement of the NRSS signals a massive shift in both policy and mindset regarding crashes. Rather than placing the blame for traffic deaths and injuries on individual behavior, the Safe Systems approach also examines street engineering and vehicle design that contribute to the high number of tragic outcomes from crashes.
It is better for everyone when streets are truly safe for pedestrians, which often include our most vulnerable residents. To successfully reduce fatalities and serious injuries from traffic crashes requires commitment from multiple departments and across disciplines at all levels of government. Furthermore, because pedestrian crashes disproportionate impact children, disabled people, low-income communities, and people of color – especially African-American and Indigenous communities – the NRSS is part of a larger goal to advance equity in the United States.
The Department of Transportation’s plan is bold and ambitious, but it is certainly a step in the right direction for active transportation and pedestrian safety across the United States, including Wisconsin.