OTS Tracks Newsletter
2021 Summer Edition
GHSA Report: Racial Disparities in Deadly Crashes Throughout the U.S.
A new report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) further highlights disparities among racial and ethnic groups killed in traffic crashes, particularly Alaska Natives, American Indians and Black people.

Analyzing data from 2015 to 2019, the report found that Black people were killed at higher rates than white people, and Black pedestrians were killed at a rate twice as high, reflecting a larger proportion of deaths than their share of the population.

American Indian and Alaska Natives had the highest per-capita rate of total traffic deaths, speeding-related deaths, and bicycle and pedestrian deaths. Black people had the second highest rate of total traffic deaths, bicycle and pedestrian deaths, the report found.

“Our nation’s historic inequalities have contributed to an unacceptable imbalance in traffic safety,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “GHSA is focused on promoting racial justice and finding solutions that advance just results in the country’s behavioral highway safety programs."

"Safety initiatives must be developed and administered with an equity lens ensuring our most vulnerable and underserved populations are prioritized," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "Our actions must be sensitive to community desires and needs, ensuring every community has a voice in traffic safety."

Titled "An Analysis of Traffic Fatalities by Race and Equity", the study also identifies actions State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) and communities can take to advance equity in traffic safety. This includes considering traffic death disparities among races and ethnicities a public health issue, prioritizing infrastructure improvements in low-income communities, and ensuring there are diverse staff in transportation leadership positions and traffic safety groups that have a say in where improvements should take place.

Additionally, while enforcement helps reduce crashes, police and community leaders should engage with one another to build more trust, as well as evaluate how equitable traffic enforcement could be utilized. Education programs geared toward specific racial and ethnic groups is also recommended.

Experts note the likely source of traffic safety-related disparities among racial groups is the historically different levels of investment in road safety. A study published this year in the Journal of Transport and Land Use looked at stretches of road where six or more pedestrians were struck and killed over eight years. More than 75% of the roads had speed limits of at least 30 miles per hour and bordered lower-income neighborhoods, the study found. Seventy percent of the roads required pedestrians to cross five or more lanes of traffic.

The GHSA report is an initiative that is part of a broader focus by GHSA on equity, especially to help build trust and positive interactions between law enforcement and communities of color.

“This problem didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be fixed overnight — but we have to begin taking meaningful steps forward every day to make our roads safe for all people and communities,” Adkins said.
NHTSA: U.S. Traffic Deaths Reach Highest Number Since 2007
The number of people killed in crashes last year reached the highest level in nearly 15 years, even with less people driving as a result of the pandemic, preliminary estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found.

According to data from NHTSA released last month, 38,680 people died in crashes across the country last year, the highest level since 2007 and a 7.2% increase from 2019. This is despite a 13.2% reduction in vehicle miles traveled in 2020 compared to 2019.

More alarmingly, the number of Black people who died in such crashes increased by 23% from 2019, the largest spike among all racial groups.

"The numbers are hard to hear, and quite frankly, unacceptable," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "Enhancing the lives of everyone, particularly people of color and the most vulnerable, is how we get to racial equity and reverse this troubling, upward trend."

"It’s mind-boggling and extremely frustrating to see the tremendous loss of life from COVID compounded by preventable traffic crashes," Pam Shadel Fischer, the Governors Highway Safety Association's (GHSA) Senior Director of External Engagement, said in a statement. "As more drivers get back behind the wheel this summer, the spike in traffic deaths is an ominous sign for the safety of our nation’s road users."

The report comes after new data from GHSA projected a 21% increase in pedestrian deaths in 2020, the largest ever year-over-year increase.

NHTSA attributed the increase in traffic deaths to drivers taking more risks on less congested roads, such as speeding, not wearing seat belts or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

"Traffic data indicates that average speeds increased throughout the year, and examples of extreme speeds became more common, while the evidence also shows that fewer people involved in crashes used their seat belts," NHTSA said in a press release.

Motorcycle deaths increased 9% last year, while bicyclist deaths were up 5%. Pedestrian deaths remained steady at 6,205, and the number of people killed in vehicles rose 5%. Speeding-related crashes were also up 11% from last year.

However, there was some positive news. Crashes involving large trucks declined, as well as a 9% decline in deaths involving people 65 and older.
Studies: Crash rates spike following marijuana legalization
A new set of studies by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found crash rates went up to coincide with the legalization of recreational marijuana use and sales in five western states.

“Our latest research makes it clear that legalizing marijuana for recreational use does increase overall crash rates,” IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey said in a press release.

However, preliminary results of another IIHS study of injured drivers who went to the emergency room in California, Colorado and Oregon found drivers who used marijuana alone were no more likely to get in a crash than drivers who hadn't used marijuana. This is consistent with a 2015 NHTSA study that found a positive test for marijuana did not increase the risk of being in a police-reported crash.

More than a third of U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older, including California.

Driving simulator tests have shown that drivers who used marijuana react more slowly, have more difficulty paying attention and maintaining the car's lane position, but drivers are also more likely to drive at slower speeds and keep more distance between the vehicle ahead of them.

Researchers at IIHS and HLDI have conducted a series of studies since 2014 looking at the impacts of marijuana legalization on crash rates.

Examining California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, researchers found that injury crash rates rose 6% and deadly crash rates rose 4% compared with other Western states where recreational marijuana and sales have not been legalized..

But studies of whether marijuana by itself increased crash risk were inconsistent. The latest from IIHS, which collected data from injured drivers in three ERs in Denver, Portland and Sacramento, showed no increased crash risk, except when combined with alcohol.

nationally representative survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also found that drivers who self-reported using both alcohol and marijuana were more likely than those who had only consumed alcohol to say they had driven while impaired and engaged in dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding.

"The increase in drivers who are impaired by both alcohol and marijuana is concerning," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "We must continue to inform the public that marijuana may also impact your ability to drive safely, especially when combined with alcohol. Driving sober is the safest way to drive."
Sale of to-go cocktails allowed through 2021
To-go cocktails are here to stay, at least through the end of the year, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month. Restaurants will continue to be allowed to sell takeout alcohol, as well as keep expanded outdoor dining.

Since pandemic-related shutdowns began in March 2020, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) offered regulatory relief to restaurants by letting them sell alcohol to-go, such as bottles of beer and wine, as well as pre-mixed cocktails ordered with food.

Expanded outdoor dining through temporary catering authorizations allows restaurants to sell alcohol "off-premises" in places like sidewalks and parking lots.
New Distracted Driving Law In Effect July 1
Starting July 1, a violation of the hands-free cell phone law could result in a point being added to a driver's record.

After July 1, a violation for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point against a driver's record. This applies to the violations of talking or texting while driving (except for hands-free use) and any use of these devices while driving by anyone under 18 years of age.
Report: 'Safe System' approach could dramatically reduce road deaths

A new approach to road safety focused on design and engineering - the "Safe System" approach - could dramatically reduce serious injuries and deaths if utilized in the U.S., a report from a consortium of experts assembled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found.

The Safe System Consortium is comprised of more than two dozen highway engineers, scientists and public health professionals who got together this year to reimagine road safety and equity in the U.S.

The Safe System Consortium believes a Safe System approach can improve equity if it is utilized in more historically underserved communities, closing the safety gap with other well-served areas.

The Safe System minimizes the chances for mistakes by drivers, pedestrian and bicyclists with roadway designs that reduce the severity of crashes when they do occur. This includes the use of infrastructure that reduces vehicle speeds, provides buffers between drivers and those biking or walking, and larger sidewalks. Examples like roundabouts, separated bike lanes, rumble strips, median barriers, flashing beacons at crosswalks, and narrowed lanes could all reduce deaths and serious injuries by forcing drivers to go slower and reducing interactions between cars and other road users, the report noted.

In Sweden, where the Safe System approach was first used, road deaths fell by about 67% from 1990 to 2017.

"We see the Safe System approach as a way of engineering safety into the road system—making safety natural and intuitive for those who use the roads, so that the way they'll feel most comfortable driving or walking is the safest way," said co-author Jeffrey Michael, a former senior official at NHTSA and now Faculty Development Chair at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"[N]ormal human lapses in judgment or diligence are expected, and roads are configured so that such errors do not lead to death or serious injury," the report said. "Even with a forgiving design, crashes will occur in a Safe System, so roads are designed to limit crash forces to survivable levels."

During U.N. Global Road Safety Week in May, the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) encouraged government policymakers to cut speed limits on roads and streets in urban areas to 20 miles per hour.

The WHO reported that 1.3 million people die every year in crashes, with more than 30% of those deaths related to speeding or reckless driving. The WHO estimates that 40-50% of drivers travel above the speed limit.

The Safe System Consortium report's recommendations include requiring Safe System principles when federal funds are used for road design, and being "tolerant of routine human errors" versus putting the responsibility on drivers and pedestrians to eliminate crashes.

"Some communities currently have much more than their share of exposure to traffic-related hazards, due to larger thoroughfares going through their neighborhoods, for example, and/or fewer safety measures," Michael said. "It's how our transportation system developed over the years—but we now have an opportunity to change our approach."
The OTS Launches New
"Did You Know?" Series Aimed at Reducing Crashes
The OTS has launched a new video series to educate teens and California drivers about safe driving practices. The “Did You Know?” series aims to reduce teen crashes throughout the state.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens 15-18 years old. In 2019, 354 drivers 20 and under were involved in deadly crashes in the U.S.

In California, 164 teens ages 16-19 were killed in crashes in 2019.

“Crash risk is particularly high during the first months of having a license because drivers are naturally inexperienced,” said OTS Director Barbara Rooney. “These videos will help provide very useful information for teens and parents so that every trip is as safe as possible, and free of distractions. We encourage parents to take a few minutes and share these videos with their teen drivers so they can go safely, every trip, every time.”

The “Did You Know?” series video topics include: Driving: The Most Dangerous Action Teens Take; California Has a Hands-Free Cell Phone Law; California Graduated Driver License Law; Distracted Driving is Not Just Cell Phone Use; Distracted Driving is 100% Preventable, and the Administrative Zero Tolerance Law.

The video series coincides with a paid media campaign encouraging sober graduation celebrations. The sponsored campaign started in the San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles markets last month and will run through July 9.

To watch and share the "Did You Know?" videos, and to learn about other helpful ways to stay safe on the road, visit gosafelyca.org.
Safety Groups Offer Guidance for Automated Red Light and
Speed Enforcement
A new checklist developed by a group of traffic safety organizations addresses common concerns related to automated enforcement and helps serve as a guide to implementing or expanding automated enforcement programs.

AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Safety Council (NSC) outline a series of best practices that should be utilized for red light and speed camera programs.

The recommendations include creating an advisory committee of law enforcement, victim advocates, civil rights advocates, school officials and residents to allow for ample public input in the program. In addition, the locations selected should be driven by data, as well as equitable and transparent, with proper sight lines, signage and signal timing.

“Research by IIHS and others has shown consistently that automated enforcement curbs dangerous driving behaviors and reduces crashes,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a press release. “We hope this document developed with our highway safety partners will help communities take full advantage of this tool.”

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., including California, have enacted laws allowing red light cameras, according to GHSA. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. allow the use of speed cameras.

While California permits red light cameras in communities statewide, there is no law on the books that allows automated speed enforcement.

A bill (AB 550) introduced by Asm. David Chiu (D-San Francisco) this year that would have started a pilot speed enforcement camera program in five cities – Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and one unnamed Southern California city – died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Speed is one of the biggest dangers on the road. In 2019, 9,478 deaths — more than a quarter of all traffic deaths — occurred in speed-related crashes in the U.S.

Red light running is also a significant traffic safety issue. In 2019, 846 people were killed and an estimated 143,000 were injured in red light running crashes in the U.S. Most of those killed were pedestrians, bicyclists and people in other vehicles, and not the red light runners or passengers with them, the checklist noted.

The new checklist builds on one that was introduced in 2018. The addition of speed cameras to the checklist comes as speeding became more notable and widespread during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), more than 500 people were killed and more than 57,000 others were injured in speed-related crashes on California roads last year. Also last year, the CHP issued more than 28,000 speeding citations to drivers traveling more than 100 miles per hour. During the first four months of 2021, 9,300 more citations were issued for driving in excess of 100 MPH.

“After a year in which excessive speeding became commonplace nationwide and in the midst of a historic surge in pedestrian fatalities, we need to be considering all options to get drivers to slow down,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said.
Riskiest States for Bicyclists Change With New Streetlight Data Analysis
California moved from the 6th-most dangerous state for bicyclists to 10th-most dangerous, according to a new analysis from mobility and transportation analytics company Streetlight Data.

The five riskiest states, in order, are Delaware, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and New Mexico. The "safest" are Massachusetts, followed by New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Utah, Streetlight found.

Streetlight analyzed bike crashes nationwide using "de-identified and aggregated Location-Based Services and GPS data." The new analysis looked at the rate of deaths per bicycle miles traveled instead of deaths per capita. This changes which states were previously considered the most dangerous. NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) tracks bicyclist fatality rates on a per capita basis.

"Unlike BMT, prior measurements didn’t take into account factors such as not everyone bicycles, or cycles the same amount," Streetlight said.

"It's not really fair to compare bike crashes to the entire population of a state or city when the vast majority of residents don't ride bicycles," StreetLight’s director of content, Phaedra Hise, said in an email interview with SmartCitiesDive. "It makes more sense to measure risk compared to actual bicycle travel..."

The analysis comes as more and more people are riding bikes or e-bikes, as well as walking, but face increased risk due to speeding drivers. The GHSA projected that the pedestrian fatality rate increased 29% during the first half of 2020.
Cyclists could roll through stop signs under proposed Assembly Bill
An Assembly bill working through the Legislature would allow bicyclists to roll through stop signs.

Supporters say it creates predictable behaviors for drivers and lets cyclists continue their momentum, which allows them to get through intersections faster.

However, opponents argue there is a safety risk if bicyclists do not stop at intersections, where there are a lot of interactions with drivers and pedestrians.

Existing law requires anyone in a vehicle, including bicyclists, to stop at a stop sign.

If passed, Assembly Bill 122 would require a bicyclist approaching a stop sign to yield the right-of-way to any vehicles in the intersection or approaching the intersection "close enough to constitute an immediate hazard, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to those vehicles until it is reasonably safe to proceed."

If it becomes law, it would sunset on Jan. 1, 2028.

The bill has already passed through the state Assembly and is currently under review in the state Senate.

Delaware, Idaho and Washington have similar laws allowing bicyclists to roll through stop signs, although Delaware's law expires later this year unless it is renewed by the Legislature.

Bicycling and e-bikes have gained in popularity since last year's pandemic-related restrictions as a socially-distanced way to exercise and travel. Between January and October 2020, bicycle sales were up 62% in the U.S. compared to 2019, with e-bike sales up 144% year over year, according to NPD Group, which tracks retail sales.
Study: Congestion pricing could get drivers to purchase smaller cars

Traffic is near or at pre-pandemic levels in many major U.S. cities, but a new study from Washington State University (WSU) suggests that congestion pricing could relieve rush hour traffic jams and get drivers to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

Researchers from WSU and the Brookings Institution looked at households in the Seattle area over a six-year period. They found that the worse the commute, the more likely commuters would buy bigger cars they thought would be safer or more comfortable. Researchers then modeled what congestion pricing - tolls for drivers on the road at peak hours - might do to change the type of car they bought.

The study found congestion pricing would drop the number of mid- to full-size SUVs on the road by 8%, which would result in a 10% decline in the vehicle fatality rate.

“We found that congestion pricing can reduce congestion on one side and reduce vehicle size on the other,” said Jia Yan, WSU economics professor and author of the study published in the Journal of Econometrics last month.

The shift from smaller vehicles to light trucks and SUVs is part of a growing trend in the U.S. In 1980, light trucks and SUVs made up only about 20% of new vehicles sold, WSU researchers said. In 2017, more than half (62%) of all new cars sold were light trucks and SUVs.

This is likely a factor in the increased danger to bicyclists and pedestrians. According to a report released by GHSA this year, the number of pedestrians struck and killed by SUVs increased at a faster rate compared to compact cars - 69% versus 46%. Other studies have also shown that larger vehicles increase the risk of deaths to occupants of smaller cars in multi-vehicle crashes, the WSU study said.

“If the highways you are traveling on are very congested, and you are sitting in a small car surrounded by many large SUVs, that may motivate you to purchase a larger car to protect yourself,” said Yan. “If the congestion decreases, and drivers can easily travel on a free-flowing highway that self-protection motivation drops.”
Report: Remote Work Changes Traditional Rush Hour
Rush hour is back, but the traffic patterns are very different, a new report from Streetlight Data found.

Streetlight Data estimates that vehicles traveled 20% more miles in March 2021 compared with the year before, when the global pandemic emptied roads. But in many big metro areas, traffic slowly builds throughout the day, with a big afternoon rush. The morning rush is no longer a slog, the report found.

In the Bay Area, the number of vehicle miles traveled fell by roughly half during the 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. peak late this winter, compared with 2020, the report found. But vehicle miles traveled during the evening – between 5 and 6 p.m., are only down by 25%. Overall, vehicle travel was down 22% in March 2021 compared to February 2020. But most states (37), saw an increase over the year before.

Previous analysis of hourly travel in five major metro areas – New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Tampa and Washington, D.C. – revealed a significant drop in morning rush hour, with an afternoon peak. This remained true for March 2021, with a "rush afternoon" now prominent.

As more Americans return to work and school, transportation planners are looking at what parts of pandemic-era travel were related to stay-at-home orders and what were related to remote-work policies.
GHSA Conference Returns In-Person
Don't call it a comeback! The GHSA Annual Meeting is returning in-person in the Mile High City this September.

The meeting will be held Sept. 11-15 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown in Denver, Colo.

This year's theme, "Moving Mountains: Forging a New Traffic Safety Landscape," focuses on challenges we face as we inch back toward a pre-pandemic world, but one where people work, interact and travel differently.

General sessions include the rise in speeding, emphasis on improving equity in traffic enforcement and preparing for automated vehicles.

To register and see a list of workshop topics, visit the GHSA website. Several pre-conference webinars will also be held for those unable to attend in-person.
MADD California Recognizes OTS Grantees for Anti-DUI Efforts
Vacaville Officer Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
Officer Bailey with his wife, Julie, who is also an officer with Vacaville PD, receiving the Top Arresting Office of the Year Award from MADD in 2017.
Officer Chuck Bailey with the Vacaville Police Department has always had a knack for spotting drivers suspected of DUI, and he's getting major recognition for it heading into his retirement in October.

Officer Bailey received MADD's Lifetime Achievement Award, recognized for being the top DUI enforcement officer for the last seven years for similar sized cities.

"As a longtime grantee, OTS grant funding and enforcement has become 'part of the culture' of Vacaville PD," the department said in an email announcing the award. "The officers and community look forward to the commitment and visibility of traffic safety in their city."

Over the course of Officer Bailey's decorated and storied career, he made 1,952 DUI arrests.

"We'll never know the countless lives saved by Chuck's efforts and are so grateful for his dedication to keeping Vacaville's streets safe," Vacaville PD said in a 2017 Facebook post announcing Officer Bailey's MADD award for top DUI arresting officer.

Excellent work Officer Bailey and we wish you a very happy almost retirement! Congrats to the Vacaville PD and countless other officers and their departments for their work keeping impaired drivers off the road!
District Attorneys Selected as Prosecutor of the Year
Three prosecutors with the Yolo County District Attorney's Office were recognized along with more than.a dozen other district attorneys as the MADD California Prosecutors of the Year for 2020.

Deputy District Attorneys Jordan Greenberg, Alex Kian and Jesse Richardson were selected because they "exemplify what MADD believes is necessary to end (DUIs)" and for "prosecuting to the full extent of the law in order to show the seriousness of this crime to offenders and our communities."

"It is our pleasure to recognize what you have accomplished this year and we look forward to what you will do to influence a world of No More Victims in the future," MADD said in an e-mail announcing the award.

The MADD Law Enforcement Recognition Awards were held virtually June 21-25 commemorating work by law enforcement and prosecutors across California.

The other prosecutors selected from offices funded by the OTS:
Kern County District Attorney's Office: Michelle Domino
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office: Yoobin Hernandez
Los Angeles City Attorney's Office: Adam Micale
Orange County District Attorney's Office DUID Prosecutors: Gaganjat Batth, Michael Briante, Caitlin Harrington, Bijon Mostoufi, Mike Paone, John Sinclair, George Smith, and Austin Young
Orange County Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP) Training Network: Soon Chang, Charles Henniger, Jessica Le, and Andrea Schug
Riverside County District Attorney's Office: Allison Pace
San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office: Justin Crocker
San Diego City Attorney's Office: Monique Dulanto
San Diego County District Attorney's Office: Laura Evans
Ventura County District Attorney's Office: Justus Spillner

The awards will be given in-person to the Yolo County prosecutors at an event in Rocklin July 17.

Congrats to all of our law enforcement and prosecutor teams for their efforts!
Happy Retirement Bill!
After a 47-year career in law enforcement, including 16 years as an OTS law enforcement liaison (LEL), Bill Ehart is starting a new, exciting chapter: retirement.

"...It is just time to enjoy the fully retired life, grandkids and do some more traveling," Ehart said in an email to the OTS staff announcing his retirement at the end of June. "...I think that together we have been able to truly help our law enforcement partners in their continuing traffic safety efforts and I know they all truly appreciate the work and assistance you and OTS has been able to provide."

"We will all miss Bill and we are grateful for his many contributions to traffic safety," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said.

Based in Orange County, Ehart "retired" from the Santa Ana Police Department after 28 years of service and shortly after joined the OTS as an LEL in 2005.

The LEL acts as a bridge between the OTS and law enforcement agencies, helping promote training and collaborative efforts among agencies.

"A great deal of what we do...is act as an interpreter so to speak for law enforcement," Ehart said in an interview last year profiling LELs.

Ehart served a number of different roles in his law enforcement career, but one of the most memorable for him was as a motor officer and Sergeant who directed the OTS safety grants for Santa Ana PD.
Ehart is a south Florida native, and served in the U.S. Marines before starting his career in law enforcement. A graduate of the University of Southern California (USC), Ehart is a die-hard USC fan, but recently became a big University of Georgia fan: his granddaughter recently graduated from the Athens, Ga. school.

"Farewell for now and I wish for you good health, fair wind and following seas," Ehart ended the email.

Fight on Bill, fight on. From all of our law enforcement partners and your work family at the OTS, we wish you a happy retirement!
The OTS administers traffic safety grants that deliver innovative programs and strives to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries on California roadways. The OTS is a department under the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA).
Contact the OTS Marketing & Public Affairs Team

pio@ots.ca.gov 916-509-3030