Your Monthly Update
March 2022
Report: Traffic Deaths Rise at Record Pace in First Nine Months of 2021
The number of people killed on U.S. roads continues to climb at a record pace, according to newly released data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

An estimated 31,720 people died in traffic crashes throughout the country in the first nine months of 2021, a 12% increase over the same period in 2020 and the highest percentage increase over a nine-month period since NHTSA began recording deadly crash data in 1975.

“People make mistakes, but human mistakes don’t always have to be lethal. In a well-designed system, safety measures make sure that human fallibility does not lead to human fatalities,” U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a news release.

Traffic deaths increased in 38 states, including a 17.2% increase in California, from 2,770 deaths over the first nine months in 2020 to 3,246 over the same period in 2021.

“The startling number of deaths on our roads is unacceptable, unwelcome news,” Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) Director Barbara Rooney said. “The OTS will continue to invest in education and enforcement programs that seek to change the most unlawful and dangerous behaviors while also embracing the Safe System approach. Saving lives is our mission. If we are going to make an impact and change the course of roadway deaths, we must take advantage of all strategies available.”

The news comes five days after the USDOT released the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), a new roadmap to address issues that are making roads more dangerous by adding multiple layers of protection with safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and post-crash care.

Among the key actions from the NRSS is embracing the Safe System approach, which is a concept that acknowledges both human mistakes and vulnerability, rather than just focusing on driver behavior.

Traffic deaths began to rise in 2019, and traffic safety professionals have attributed the spike in deaths in 2020 and 2021 to reckless driving behavior such as speeding and not wearing seat belts.

"Roadway safety has worsened nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic and shows no signs of improvement," Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) executive director Jonathan Adkins said in a statement.

GHSA, which represents state highway safety offices, said a comprehensive approach is needed to enact broad safety changes.

“We’ve got to do more of what works. Traffic enforcement has got to be part of the solution,” Adkins told the Associated Press. “But we’ve got to look at how we build roads. We’ve got to look at the whole system.”
Gov. Newsom Appoints Caltrans Director to Serve as CalSTA Secretary
Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Director Toks Omishakin to serve as Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA).

CalSTA was most recently led by Secretary David Kim, who stepped down in January. Since then, Undersecretary Elissa Konove has served as Acting Secretary. The CalSTA Secretary position requires Senate confirmation.

“As head of the largest and most complex transportation system in the nation, I’m confident that he’ll continue to bring his forward-thinking leadership and dedication to serving the people of California to advance our ongoing work to build safer, healthier and more sustainable communities that serve all Californians," Gov. Newsom said in a statement announcing Omishakin's appointment.

Omishakin has been Caltrans Director since 2019 and previously worked at the Tennessee Department of Transportation as Deputy Commissioner for Environment and Planning.

Omishakin holds a Master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Jackson State University.
Study: Pedestrian Detection Systems Reduce Crash Risk, But Not in Dark
Automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems are reducing the number of injury crash rates with pedestrians, but are less effective at night on roads without streetlights, a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study found.

In all light conditions, crash rates of all severities involving pedestrians were 27% lower for vehicles with AEB than vehicles without the safety feature, and injury crash rates with pedestrians were 30% lower, the study found.

When researchers looked at crashes involving pedestrians that happened at night, there was no difference in the crash risk for vehicles with and without pedestrian AEB.

Researchers also found a 32% reduction in the odds of a pedestrian crash on roads with speed limits 25 mph or less with vehicles equipped with pedestrian AEB, and a 34% decrease on roads with 30-35 mph limits.

“This is the first real-world study of pedestrian AEB to cover a broad range of manufacturers, and it proves the technology is eliminating crashes,” IIHS vice president of research study author Jessica Cicchino said in a news release. “Unfortunately, it also shows these systems are much less effective in the dark, where three-quarters of fatal pedestrian crashes happen.”

IIHS researchers are developing a nighttime test of pedestrian AEB, with plans to release official nighttime pedestrian crash prevention ratings for vehicles later this year.

Pedestrian AEB systems warn drivers when they are at risk of striking a pedestrian and apply the brakes to help stop the vehicle in time or limit the impact.

Researchers looked at nearly 1,500 police-reported crashes involving a variety of vehicles from different automakers. Researchers then compared crash rates with the same vehicles that did not have pedestrian AEB.
Study: Traffic Deaths Decline in Utah After Law Lowers BAC Limit
Traffic deaths declined in Utah after the state lowered the legal limit to drive with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) from .08 to .05% three years ago, new research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found.

Utah's deadly crashes per mile driven dropped by nearly 20% (19.8%) in 2019, the first year under the lower legal limit. The fatality rates fell in other states, but not as drastically as in Utah, with only a 5.6% average reduction for the rest of the U.S.

Researchers also noted that the number of crashes and fatalities declined even though people drove more miles.

“Utah typically has one of the lowest rates of impaired driving fatalities in the nation, but this study shows that all states have room for improvement," NHTSA Deputy Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff said in a news release. "As our study shows, changing the law to .05% in Utah saved lives and motivated more drivers to take steps to avoid driving impaired."

When Utah became the first state to lower the per se law from .08%, lawmakers argued it would make driving safer, but opponents said it would discourage people from moving to or visiting the state.

Utah has long held some of the country's strictest liquor laws, including where certain types of liquor can be sold based on the alcohol content.

Under a .05% limit, a 180-pound man would be over the legal limit after two drinks, while a 120-pound woman could exceed the limit after a single drink.

Survey data also pointed to more people changing their behavior after the law went into effect, where more than one in four people surveyed said they would make sure alternate transportation was available when out drinking, such as a ride-hailing service or designated sober driver.

The National Transportation Safety Board has long encouraged states to lower the per se limit. All other states currently have a .08% legal blood-alcohol limit.
Study: 40% of Drivers Who Use Alcohol and Cannabis Report Driving Impaired
Two in five drivers who reported using alcohol and cannabis in the past year said they drove under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or a combination of both, a new study by Columbia University found.

Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study used data from 2016 to 2019, and compares different DUI categories.

The study found that between 2016 and 2019, 42% of drivers reported driving impaired in the past year from alcohol and/or cannabis use – 8% from alcohol, 20% from cannabis, and 14% from a combination of alcohol and cannabis.

Using both alcohol and cannabis was associated with a nearly three times higher odds of driving under the influence of cannabis, and three and a half times higher odds of driving under the influence of both alcohol and cannabis. Daily use also increased the likelihood of driving impaired.

“Alcohol and cannabis are two of the most common substances involved in impaired driving and motor vehicle crashes in the U.S.,” Columbia University Department of Epidemiology post-doctoral research fellow and author Priscila Dib Gonçalves said in a news release. “Examining the effect of simultaneous alcohol and cannabis use on self-report driving under the influence of alcohol-only, cannabis-only, and both substances using a nationally representative sample could contribute to better understanding the impact in adolescents and adults.”

Researchers included drivers aged 16 years or older who reported any past-year alcohol and cannabis use in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2016-2019) and a final study sample of 34,514 people.
Study: Signs Encouraging Drivers to Slow Down Lowered Driving Speeds
Fewer drivers are speeding on streets with "20 is Plenty" signs, a study from Portland State University found.

Driver speed data before and after speed limits were lowered from 25 to 20 mph in the city of Portland showed that lower percentages of people, albeit marginal, drove five to 15 mph over the speed limit.

After the city of Portland approved an ordinance in January 2018 to reduce residential speed limits to 20 mph, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) more than doubled the number of residential speed limit signs. A "20 Is Plenty" media campaign included the distribution of nearly 7,000 yard signs.

The PBOT then worked with Portland State University researchers to collect and track driver speeds at 58 locations throughout the city. Data was collected between 2013 and 2018, as well as between February and July 2019, after the speed limit was reduced.

While researchers could not conclude that speed limits caused a change in driving speed, the reduction in speeds are "noteworthy" due to the impact of higher speeds on other road users such as bicyclists and pedestrians.

"Studies have found that even small reductions in speed can have large safety benefits," researchers said.
Uber Alerts Remind Drivers, Passengers to Buckle Up
Uber is now reminding passengers to buckle up by pinging a driver's phone and sending riders push notifications.

"We believe this new feature...will increase seat belt use and help drivers ensure a safe environment while on a trip," the ride-share company said in an announcement of the feature on their website.

Uber told Reuters riders will be sent the seat belt reminder alerts at the start of their next five trips, then periodically as they use the app.

While there is almost universal compliance with the seat belt law (96%) in California, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that 80% of people surveyed do not always buckle up on short trips or when using a taxi or ride-hailing service.
In Case You Missed It: GHSA Safe System Approach Webinar
Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) Director Barbara Rooney participated in a follow-up webinar Feb. 10 with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) to discuss how California is incorporating the Safe System approach into grant programs.

In case you missed it, you can watch the webinar on the GHSA website.

The webinar is a follow-up to a Jan. 18 webinar that discussed a GHSA report that supports the role of driver responsibility and behavior in the Safe System approach to traffic safety.

The Safe System approach recognizes humans make mistakes and that a combination of better road design, safer speeds, and safer vehicles all add layers of protection to the transportation system that ultimately help reduce the seriousness of crashes.
Law Enforcement Liaison
Spotlight: Tommi Tyler
The OTS would like to welcome a new member to our expanding Law Enforcement Liaison (LEL) team.

Tommi Tyler is a retired California Highway Patrol (CHP) captain with 28 years of service.

Tommi started his law enforcement career with the CHP in 1983, working mostly in the Redwood City area. And it all started with a push from his older brother, who was already a CHP officer, to join the ranks.

"Next thing I know I am taking all the necessary exams and tests," Tommi said.

He retired from the CHP in 2010, but stayed busy as a consultant in the commercial transportation industry.

But he isn’t closing the book on his law enforcement career. He's entering a new chapter with the OTS, thanks to current OTS LEL Ernie Sanchez. Ernie is a retired CHP Chief from the Bay Area, and was a colleague Tommi ran into from time to time during his career.

"Time flies," he said. "It really goes by quick."

Tommi held a variety of roles with the CHP, including training officer, weapons officer, and supervisor in the CHP's commercial enforcement program. In the CHP's Golden Gate Division, Tommi worked as a mobile road enforcement supervisor, patrolling areas to stop and inspect commercial vehicles.

Tommi also has experience working on federal grants, spending a year in Washington D.C. as part of a commercial vehicle enforcement partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). He worked with about two dozen systems auditors on mobile commercial enforcement trucks, and also visited other states to learn best practices and how to manage the FMCSA enforcement grant programs.

When he was promoted to captain in the Los Angeles area, he worked on a state program with the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Urban League that focused on traffic safety issues in underserved communities.

In his role as an LEL, Tommi will help coordinate enforcement activities, as well as promote collaborative efforts and trainings among agencies.

Tommi is a big sports fan, and enjoys watching his beloved Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants. When it comes to football, his heart is in the team that used to be across the bay, but is now in Sin City: the Las Vegas Raiders. He also likes to hit the slopes to go skiing.

Tommi lives in Fontana with his wife of five years.

Welcome to the team Tommi and go Raiders!
New and Improved
Go Safely, California Website
We are excited to roll out a new and improved "Go Safely, California" website. Check it out at The website is a one-stop shop for informational resources, our latest campaign initiatives, statistics and tips to help people stay safe on the go.
2022 Safer California Unintentional Injury Conference Returns November 15 & 16
Mark your calendars for this year's Safer California Unintentional Injury Conference on Nov. 15 & 16.

Hosted by the California Coalition for Children's Safety and Health (CCCSH), the conference is an opportunity for all levels of government to network and discuss best practices to reach a shared goal to prevent injuries to children and youth.

Topics will include teen driver safety, child passenger safety, vehicular heatstroke prevention, driveway backovers, Safe Routes to Schools programs, and much more.

To pre-register and learn more about CCCSH and the conference, email Steve Barrow

More details about online registration, exhibitor and sponsorships information will be released soon. Visit the CCCSH website for updates. 
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, 916-708-5128