A four-day panel meeting will be held virtually this week, for federal transportation regulators to review and discuss roadway safety improvements and problems that need to be addressed.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is hosting a “Road Safety and Challenges Ahead” virtual panel from September 14, through September 17, to discuss road safety advances made over last five decades, and pinpoint which critical areas still need improvement to save lives.
Topics of discussion include the evolution of safety improvement, the challenges ahead for occupant protection and impaired driving programs. Initiatives including seatbelt and child passenger restraint safety promotions will also be presented, as well as methods of decreasing the occurrence of drug and alcohol impaired driving.
Other topics presented throughout the week will include a review of the evolution of the agency’s defect investigation and recall processes, the role of law enforcement and first responders, vehicle inspections, safety ratings, and the roles for technology.
The virtual panel is being held just months after preliminary data from 2019 indicated roadway fatalities have declined for the third year in a row. While the exact reason behind the decline is unknown, officials indicated contributions by the automobile industry and federal, state and local officials to improve highway and vehicle safety are likely the driving forces.
In February, the NHTSA released $562 million in grants specifically to help state and local law enforcement agencies enhance their traffic safety efforts to reduce risky driving behaviors. The funds were granted to the Offices of Highway Safety in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Over the last several years, the NHTSA and other agencies have worked with vehicle manufacturers to improve vehicle safety technology, specifically with the intent of preventing distracted driving collisions, which account for nearly 95% of all roadway accidents, according to the agency.
Many experts have attributed the decline in fatalities to the development of automobile safety technology. Crash avoidance technologies including automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot warning (BSW) and forward collision warning (FCW) systems have been found to prevent bodily injury claims by more than 15%, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
In March 2016, NHTSA officials were able to get 20 automobile manufacturers, which account for more than 90% of the nation’s vehicle fleet, to publicly commit to implementing automatic emergency braking (AEB) technology in all standard lightweight vehicles, rather than charging a premium to consumers to add the technology as a luxury feature.