Your Monthly Update
August 2021
The OTS Equity Statement
Throughout history, deeply rooted racism has led to inequitable policies and practices that have threatened transportation safety for communities of color and underserved communities. Equity is a fundamental principle in transportation safety. The transportation system must be safe for all road users, for all modes of transportation, in all communities and for people of all incomes, races and ethnicities, ages and abilities.
The OTS embraces its role in transportation safety to advance equity and to prioritize its traffic safety efforts toward any person or community that has been marginalized and burdened by poverty and inequality. Data-driven safety initiatives must be developed and administered with an equity lens to ensure our most vulnerable and underserved populations are prioritized. Our actions must be sensitive to community desires and needs, striving to include the voice of every community in traffic safety. 
Traffic crashes continue to claim the lives of thousands of people on California roadways each year. Data analysis shows overrepresentation of people of color in crashes, including those involving fatalities. It is clear - roadway travel is riskier for people of color and this disparity has gotten worse in recent years. Several factors contribute to these results, but understanding travel patterns, where fatal and serious injury crashes are occurring and the disproportionate impacts on certain communities will allow us to identify targeted actions to address the underlying factors and causes and improve safety.
The OTS is committed to taking a comprehensive, inclusive and equitable approach to delivering education, enforcement and outreach programs to save lives on all of California’s roadways.
Report: Deadly road rage on the rise
Road rage incidents have been more prevalent the past year and a half, with the California Highway Patrol seeing a "noticeable uptick" in cases of tensions flaring on state highways.

Some police departments have started tracking road rage incidents, with others like the CHP looking at options to better track road rage altercations called into dispatch centers.

And lately, it's been more than obscene gestures or honking in frustration; that anger on the road is ending in tragedies. In June in Orange County, a 6-year-old boy riding in a booster seat was shot and killed while his mother was driving him to kindergarten, the CHP reported. A car had cut her off and she put up her middle finger, which angered one of the passengers, who allegedly shot into the mother's car, fatally injuring her boy.

“People are getting shot. People are getting hurt,” Officer Blake Page with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department told PEW Charitable Trusts. “It’s just not worth it.”

Police say road rage cases sometimes start with a fender bender, when drivers argue who is at fault, but it's often a result of aggressive driving such as speeding, weaving through traffic, tailgating or cutting off drivers. But instead of the honk or obscene gesture, it escalates into thrown objects, driving cars off the road or purposely hitting them, PEW Charitable Trusts reports.

According to a recent report by Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun violence prevention organization, 42 people a month on average were shot and killed or wounded as a result of road rage the past year. That is nearly double the monthly average of 22 deaths and injuries from the previous four years. So far this year, someone has been shot and killed or injured in a road rage incident every 18 hours.

There were 446 crashes and 501 deaths linked to road rage in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Some psychologists are calling drivers' short fuse "COV-Rage," a consequence of a fast return to normalcy with commutes and traffic, coupled with the confusion, stress and uncertainly of the pandemic.

"There has been such a roller coaster of change," Dr. Michelle Carcel, a clinical psychologist in San Diego, told KGTV San Diego. "As humans, we're just not built for quick change. We need gradual change."

Police agencies advise drivers to stay calm and avoid confrontations in road rage situations. If you are a victim of road rage, pull over in a safe, well-lit place and call 911.

For those who are angry or frustrated by another driver's actions, it also helps to reflect on why you might be getting angry, focus on what is important to you, and take proactive measures to calm down, Dr. Carcel said. This means remaining courteous, maintaining proper following distance, using turn signs, allowing drivers to merge and not speeding or driving recklessly.

"If you're feeling rage, it's probably an indication that there's more going on in your life. There's more under the hood, so to speak," Dr. Carcel said. "Underneath all that anger, underneath the rage is usually pain and hurt. People need to do a check-in emotionally and just say, 'How am I feeling right now,' before they get behind the wheel."
2021 California Traffic Safety Survey: Texting and Driving Remains
Biggest Safety Concern
Texting and driving is the biggest traffic safety concern for California drivers, an online survey by the OTS, University of California Berkeley's Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), and Ewald and Wasserman Research Consultants found.

The 2021 California Traffic Safety Survey asked drivers about their traffic safety concerns, including speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving and bicycle and pedestrian safety.

The survey has been conducted since 2010, but through an online, self-administered survey of drivers the past two years.

"This annual survey provides a good idea of how the public perceives certain behaviors that impact traffic safety," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "It serves as a guide for how to implement programs that benefit the safety of everyone on the road."

Among the key findings:
  • “Distracted Driving because of TEXTING” was the biggest safety concern for 74.3% of surveyed drivers, followed by “Speeding and Aggressive Driving” (73.8%) and “Drunk Driving” (68.7%).
  • “Aggressive Driving / Road Rage” was the most frequent response in Southern and Central California regions to behavioral changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The majority (59.8%) of surveyed drivers said they have never made a driving mistake while using a phone, a significant decrease from 2020.
  • More than half (51.9%) of drivers in 2021 indicate that they have been hit or nearly hit by a driver who was talking or texting on a cell phone.
  • Less than a third of respondents (32.8%) believe it is safe to drive 10 miles an hour over the speed limit, a 3.1% drop from 2020.
  • 9.2% of surveyed drivers admitted to driving when they thought they had too much to drink in the past six months, a 1.4% increase from 2020.

In addition to asking drivers their opinions on traffic safety issues, the survey tested participants' retention of traffic safety campaigns, distracted driving behaviors and experiences as a bicycle and pedestrian.

Survey participation was anonymous, with 2,801 responses in May.

The study's margin of error is +/- 1.85% at a 95% confidence level.
Researchers Test A New Metric for Designing Safer Streets
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania collected eye-tracking data to better understand how bicyclists in Philadelphia interact with varying road environments.

The study published last month in Accident Analysis & Prevention looks at how "cognitive workload", or a person's ability to recognize and process information, could be measured in cyclists to determine what road designs help people react appropriately with what's around them. The findings could be used to recognize potentially dangerous roads before a crash.

Cognitive workload studies are not new and have been used for air traffic control and driving, but are more challenging to perform with bicyclists and pedestrians because of the difficulty in creating realistic scenarios.

The University of Pennsylvania researchers evaluated how different infrastructure designs triggered cognitive workload and stress in cyclists. In 2018, 39 cyclists rode on a U-shaped route sporting eye-tracking glasses with cameras and equipment capable of picking up rapid eye and head movements. The route was also one of Philadelphia's newest protected bike lanes, with a mix of unprotected areas and places where bikes and cars share the road.

“We felt that, in a short segment of space, our subjects could experience a range of transportation-infrastructure designs which may elicit different stress and cogitative workload responses,” Megan Ryerson, the study's lead author and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Pennsylvania's Stuart Weitzman School of Design, said in a news release.

Researchers found that riders had increased cognitive workload in areas with a disproportionately high number of crashes. Higher cognitive workload increases the threat of a crash because a person is less able to process new information, such as a pedestrian or driver entering a bike lane.

Current federal guidelines for infrastructure improvements at unsafe crossings require a minimum of 90-100 pedestrians crossing the location every hour or a minimum of five pedestrians who were struck by a driver at a given location in one year.

The researchers wanted to find safety metrics that could be applied before a serious injury or death incident.

“We don’t have to be reactive in planning safe transportation systems; we can instead develop innovative, proactive ways to evaluate the safety of our infrastructure,” Ryerson said.

The challenge is that transportation systems are designed and refined using crash or fatality data instead of data on human behavior, Ryerson said. Using crash or fatality data also does not show where people might want to cross, for example, but do not because they believe it is too dangerous.

The same researchers are now analyzing more eye-tracking data from cyclists traveling on roads before and after the installation of protected bike lanes, which they hope will allow for a better gauge on the impacts of design changes.

Researchers believe this proactive approach about safety is possible with data on an individual level to determine whether design changes would be beneficial, and before anyone is hit by a vehicle.

“Our finding, that safety and stress are a function of the infrastructure design and not the individual, is a shift in perspective for the transportation-safety community," Ryerson said.
AAA: Americans Cut Driving Nearly In Half During Early Stages of Pandemic
People cut their driving trips by almost half at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's New American Driving Survey found.

While the dramatic shift in traffic patterns last year are well documented, the AAA research looks at the types of trips and people who changed their driving habits on a month-to-month basis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our commute habits and patterns in the United States,” Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a press release. “Findings based on our survey data provided some contextual information to understand better how this unfortunate event has affected the way we travel.”

Daily trips for all modes of travel fell from an average of 3.7 trips per day in 2019 to 2.2 trips in April 2020. Average trips remained at about 20%-25% below 2019 levels during the second half of 2020. Early in the pandemic, the drop in travel was most prominent among teens and young adults (ages 16-24) and people 65 and older.

Other key findings:
  • Work-related travel dropped by 40% in April 2020, Commuting remained about 25% below pre-pandemic levels among workers on work days, with widespread telework a likely contributor.
  • The percentage of the population who stayed home all day varied between 9% and 14% pre-pandemic but increased to 26% in April 2020. Those with the highest levels of education were more likely to stay in the same place compared to those who did not attend college, an indication of the type of jobs that could be done remotely that were held by those with higher levels of education.

Yet with fewer cars on the road and more people at home, the U.S. is projected to have the highest number of traffic fatalities in 2020 in more than 10 years, with about a 7.2% increase compared to 2019.

"How, when and where we travel is markedly different than before the pandemic," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "It is alarming and troubling to see such a spike in traffic deaths, but an indication that we need to double down on curbing speeding, impaired driving, and getting everyone to always wear their seat belt."

The current AAA study examined the daily number of trips made by residents each month among 7,873 respondents who were interviewed between July 1, 2019 and the end of 2020.
Grantee Spotlights
SCAG's "Go Human" Campaign Awards Community Streets Mini-Grants Projects
The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) awarded 31 community streets mini-grants worth more than $275,000 to support safe street spaces, particularly those most harmed by traffic deaths and injuries.

Recipients were awarded based on community-driven projects, response to community needs and advancing equitable solutions to traffic safety in disadvantaged communities.

The projects are part of SCAG's regional active transportation safety and encouragement campaign, Go Human, which is funded by the OTS.
Los Angeles County Rolls Out "Drive Slow" Anti-Speeding Campaign
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health launched a new anti-speeding campaign in three different neighborhoods encouraging drivers to "drive slow" and "turn left slow."

The blue and gold messages will be in English and Spanish on billboards, bus shelter posters and light pole banners in the Walnut Park, Westmont/West Athens, and West Whittier/Los Nietos neighborhoods.

Residents are also able to pick up a free lawn signs at three different locations: Supervisor Hilda Solis's Southeast Los Angeles Field Office in Huntington Park, the Woodcrest Library in Westmont, and Sorensen Library in West Whittier.
Art Contest Winners Display Work Across City of Lancaster
Young artists in Lancaster who used their work to encourage safe biking and walking behaviors will now have it on display across the city.

Fourth grader Kaitlyn Gardiner's "Eyes Up, Phones Down" winning design is now on a signal cabinet wrap, and the 15 other winners will be able to see their work on other signal cabinet wraps.

The City held a signal cabinet wrap art contest for K-12 students last year utilizing one of the four "SEE AND BE SEEN" education campaign safety messages:
  • Make eye contact
  • Eyes up, phones down
  • Ride right in the bike lane
  • Keep in mind, walk between the lines

The art contest is part of the City’s SEE AND BE SEEN Active Transportation Safety and Healthy Living program funded by the OTS.

Great work by all these talented artists! You can check out a digital exhibit of the students' artwork here.
US House passes new provisions requiring drunk driving technology
in new cars

The U.S. House passed new provisions last month in the INVEST in America Act that would require drunk driving prevention systems in all new cars.

Originally proposed as the "Honoring Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate (HALT) Drunk Driving Act," the provisions were passed as part of a transportation and infrastructure bill July 1.

The changes were proposed following the death of a Metro Detroit family. Issam, Rima, Ali, Isabella, and Giselle Abbas were killed by a wrong-way drunk driver in 2019.

If made law, the HALT Act provisions call on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a rule-making process involving a variety of driving performance monitoring systems, including lane departure warning, cameras or other sensors to monitor a driver's head and eyes, as well as alcohol detection systems that use sensors to determine whether a driver is drunk and then prevent the vehicle from moving.

The bill's passage comes as the first product equipped with new alcohol detection technology will be available in commercial vehicles for the first time later this year. A partnership between the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety and NHTSA, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) Program has been researching and testing drunk driving prevention technology since 2008.

Requiring the driver monitoring technology as standard safety equipment on all new cars will save 9,400 lives a year, a 2020 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found. According to NHTSA, a person dies in a drunk driving crash every 52 minutes. The number of drunk driving deaths increased 9% in 2020 despite fewer miles traveled, preliminary estimates from NHTSA found.

The HALT Act is similar to a bill introduced in the Senate, the Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act, that became part of the Surface Transportation Act. The bill still needs to pass the full Senate.
Study: Public transit, air travel
likely to decrease with
autonomous vehicle deployment

Fully autonomous vehicles are still years away, but new research on how autonomous vehicle deployment may affect the state's emissions goals point to more people traveling by vehicle.

A new study from the University of California, Davis' 3 Revolutions Mobility Program and presented by the Air Resources Board found that connected and automated vehicles, or CAVs, are likely to increase vehicle miles traveled by 40% in 2050 and lower the number of people who take public transit. CAVs could also reduce in-state air travel and increase traffic congestion, the study found.

The UC Davis researchers used travel demand models for 2050 developed by Caltrans that looked at six different scenarios: three for privately owned CAVs and three for shared CAVs such as ride-hailing. The first three scenarios followed the current model for people using personal vehicles, how personal CAV use would change if road use pricing made them more expensive, and personal CAVs that are zero emissions.

Privately owned CAVs that are not electric and are not subject to road use charges resulted in a 5% to 40% increase in vehicle miles traveled, the researchers found. Researchers pointed to this increase in shared CAVs due to a higher demand for personal trips, especially if CAVs could supplement longer distance trips traditionally done by rail or plane.

“This study highlights the importance of early deployment of zero emissions vehicles,” 3 Revolutions Future Mobility Program Director Giovanni Circella told SpectrumNews1. “ZEVs will cut emissions, but other negatives from CAV deployment will remain because of an increase in travel and pretty substantial increase in travel congestion that will be likely.”

Researchers suggested policies that promote CAV use as shared vehicles and as first- and last-mile travel to public transit.

The Air Resources Board worked with UC Davis on this study to understand what could be done to reduce emissions when automated vehicles become widely used.
Ford Driving Skills for Life Returns to California
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), Ford Motor Company Fund and California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) are teaming up to provide free safe driving clinics for teens in Northern and Southern California throughout August.  

The hands-on Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program will launch in Anaheim, Calif., Aug. 7-8, followed by stops in Oceanside/San Diego Aug. 21-22 and the Sacramento region Aug. 28-29. 

A select number of registrants will be prioritized for underserved youth, and Lyft will provide ride coupons to help those who need transportation to and from the driving clinics.

Ford DSFL will host 38 safe-driving training sessions as part of an eight-city tour, with additional stops in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville and Phoenix.

Now in its 18th year, Ford Driving Skills for Life pairs newly licensed drivers with professional driving instructors for next-level instruction. The program addresses the critical factors responsible for most crashes, including vehicle handling, hazard recognition, speed and space management, distracted driving and impaired driving. The clinics focus on skills and information not currently offered in standard driver education courses.  

“We know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens,” said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA Executor Director. “Each year, more than 2,000 teen vehicle occupant deaths occur. Speeding and inexperience are often critical factors in these accidents.” 

“The lack of experience of newly licensed drivers remains a serious problem resulting in a disproportionate number of crashes for teens. We are grateful to be able to safely resume free, hands-on training that is so desperately needed,” said Jim Graham, Global Manager, Ford Driving Skills for Life. 

In California, drivers ages 16-19 are nearly three times as likely to be in a serious crash compared to other drivers. In California, 164 teens ages 16 to 19 were killed in crashes in 2019, with 354 drivers 20 and under involved in deadly crashes across the U.S. over the same time period.  

“Experience and training make for better drivers, particularly newly licensed teens,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “We are thrilled to kick off this great program in California that puts parents at ease by providing teens with life-long safe driving skills.” 
Ford DSFL has provided free, advanced driver education to more than 1 million newly licensed teen drivers in the U.S. and 46 countries worldwide since 2003.  
For more information and updates on tour locations as well as COVID-19 safety protocols, visit  
Sign up for the 2021 GHSA Conference!
The GHSA Annual Meeting will be held in-person at the Sheraton Denver Downtown in Denver, Colo. Sept. 11-15.

Register by August 13 for the early bird reduced rate.

This year's theme, "Moving Mountains: Forging a New Traffic Safety Landscape," focuses on challenges we face as we transition to a world 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.
Check out our GHSA Conference Webinar on Effective, Impactful Traffic Safety Messaging
Join us August 25 at 11 a.m. for our GHSA Conference panel on how research and data help build effective safety campaigns.

Informative messages that reach the right audience but also prompt behavior change do not happen by accident. There's a method behind the messages that make them compelling.

Other speakers on the panel are from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GDC Marketing & Ideation, and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Register for the free webinar here.
OTS Spotlight:
New LEL Marc Gomez
The OTS welcomes Marc Gomez to the team as our new law enforcement liaison (LEL).

Marc has nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience with the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

Marc started his career with the CHP at age 21 at the CHP's Newhall office in Los Angeles County, then the Bay Area in the CHP's Golden Gate Division. Marc served a variety of roles, including motor officer, motor sergeant, investigations, and as a defensive tactics and physical training instructor at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento. He also had stints with the CHP's Martinez, Oakland and Redwood City offices, and "retired" in 2011 as a sergeant.

"I love being around people that are in law enforcement," he said. "I grew up in it. Law enforcement has been pretty much my whole life,"

A San Francisco native, Marc is looking forward to working with different agencies and officers, many of whom he got to know over the years as an instructor.

"It's kind of neat going back," he said. "It's just nice to reconnect with law enforcement agencies again. It's something a little different."

After a 10-year hiatus, Marc is excited to get reacquainted with traffic safety initiatives, many of which he had experience working on as a motor officer and sergeant.

"It's combining two things that I love," he said, "Traffic (and training) was a big part of my career."

In his spare time, Marc enjoys spending time with family on their house boat, designing outdoor Christmas decorations, and working out. Marc likes to take part in a variety of cardio activities from lifting weights and running, to boxing.

"My wife thinks I'm obsessed with it," he said.

Marc lives in Vacaville with his wife and 14-year-old son.

He also has adult triplets, two girls and a boy, from a previous marriage. His son is following in Marc's footsteps; he graduated from the CHP Academy last month and will begin his career with the CHP's West Los Angeles office. His son was also a star quarterback in high school and college, leading Solano Community College to a conference championship before playing at the University of La Verne and later in Germany.

One of his daughters is a dental assistant in Solano County, and the other lives in Alabama, working as an EMT.

So far, Marc is enjoying his second career in law enforcement, even if it's without the badge and uniform.

"It's been an awesome experience so far," he said. "I'm looking forward to being part of the team."
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 916-509-3030