Your Monthly Update
May 2022
Report: Projected Increase in Pedestrian Fatalities
During First Half of 2021
The number of people struck and killed by drivers continued to rise throughout the country as pandemic-related stay-at-home orders eased, a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found.

Pedestrian deaths were up 17% for the first half of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020, with 39 states reporting increases.

During the first six months of last year, 3,441 people were killed while walking, including 470 in California, which saw a marginal increase (1.5%) in pedestrians killed compared to 2020.

“Walking is the most basic form of transportation, but there is a pedestrian safety crisis due to drivers speeding, being impaired or distracted, or engaging in other dangerous behaviors,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a statement. “We need to leverage everything that works – infrastructure improvements, changes to road design, equitable enforcement of traffic safety laws and community outreach – to reverse this deadly trend and make our roadways safe for people walking, biking and rolling.”

The rate of which pedestrians were killed per billion vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2021 spiked 28% above rates seen from 2017 to 2019.

The report also noted that the three largest states by population – California, Florida and Texas – accounted for 37% of all pedestrian deaths in the first six months of 2021.

GHSA, which represents state highway safety offices, attributed the rise in people killed while walking to more risky driving behaviors, less traffic enforcement during COVID-19, road design, and larger vehicles.

Previous research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has shown that SUVs and pickups – which are more popular than ever in the U.S. – are more deadly to pedestrians than smaller sedans because they are higher up and tend to strike pedestrians in the chest, head and neck area.

"The alarm bells have been going off for years, and this GHSA report again sounds the alarm of the dire situation we are facing on our roads," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "This is not acceptable, and should not be treated as the cost of traveling. We must leverage all strategies available to change the course of pedestrian safety in this country."
Study: Car Crash Rates With
Bicyclists and Pedestrians
Decreased with Asphalt Art
Colorful crosswalks and painted intersections are making roads safer by slowing down drivers and prompting them to more actively look for bicyclists and pedestrians, a study commissioned by Bloomberg Philanthropies found.

Researchers found a 50% drop in crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians and a 37% decrease in crashes that resulted in injuries. Researchers compared historical crash data and real-time video of intersections before and after the art was installed at 22 locations throughout the country.

Overall, locations with the asphalt art saw a 17% decrease in crashes, the study found.

The so-called "Asphalt Art" is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies' Asphalt Art Initiative grant program, which supports city efforts to design and paint colorful crosswalks, intersection murals, bridge underpasses and pedestrian plazas.

The first projects in California – Long Beach and Calexico – are expected to start later this year.

"It’s all psychological," Michael Flynn with Sam Schwartz Consulting, who conducted the study, told Axios. "Traffic engineering is a social science. You're changing driver expectations."

However, the crosswalk art does not meet uniform standards for roadway markings established by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and little has been studied to determine the safety impact of asphalt art.

The asphalt art initiative comes at a time when the FHWA is currently updating a new edition of its Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which has not been updated since 2009. The MUTCD sets guidelines for traffic engineers on everything from road signage to pavement markings.
U.S. DOT Announces New
Equity Action Plan
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released an Equity Action Plan to expand access and opportunities to underserved or disadvantaged communities as a result of inequitable transportation policies.

The plan focuses on four areas – wealth creation, power of community, interventions and expanding access – that help the agency with how they view and deliver transportation programs. The USDOT has added Equity as a Department-wide strategic goal.

"At its best, transportation can be a powerful engine of opportunity, connecting people to jobs, education, and resources—whether they live in a big city, a rural community, or anywhere in between," USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. Ensuring equity and accessibility for every member of the traveling public is one of the Department of Transportation’s highest priorities.”

"Done right, transportation policy can help level the playing field," USDOT said. "It can transform economies, connect people to opportunity and empower underserved communities to build generational wealth for the future."
UCLA Study: E-Scooter Injury Rate in L.A. Higher Than Other Road Users
Bicycles, e-bikes, e-scooters and motorcycles account for a higher rate of injury crashes, a six-year study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found.

Researchers looked at data from 180 outpatient clinics and two hospitals in greater Los Angeles from January 2014 to May 2020.

While evaluating millions of medical notes, researchers found 1,354 electric scooter-related injuries, or 115 injuries per one million rides. That injury rate is higher than national rates for motorcycles (104 per one million rides), bicycles (15 per one million rides), cars (eight per one million rides), and walking (two per one million trips). Electric scooter injuries also included pedestrians who were hit by riders.

While the injury rate for electric scooter rides were higher, they were often less serious than those involving motorcycles or vehicles, and significantly less deadly.
Study: Pedestrian Head Starts at Signals Reduced Close Calls with Cars
Traffic signal timing that gives pedestrians a five-second head start at crosswalks before a light turns green led to a significant drop in "vehicle-pedestrian close calls," a Bellevue, Wash. pilot project found.

City officials looked at footage from traffic cameras at 20 intersections after pedestrian intervals were introduced. The 2020 pilot has since been expanded to 41 downtown intersections.

Video analytics helped officials evaluate footage from intersection traffic cameras and showed a 42% reduction in vehicle-pedestrian close calls after pedestrian intervals were introduced, according to a city news release.

Failing to yield to pedestrians accounted for 41% of all pedestrian deaths and serious injuries in Bellevue over the past 10 years, the city said.
SUVs Struggle in IIHS Evaluation of Seat Belt Reminders
There's more work to be done to improve seat belt reminders on SUVs, an evaluation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found.

Among the 26 SUVs tested, only two Subaru models, the Ascent and Forester, earned a "good" rating.

Under the new car rating system by IIHS for seat belt reminders, rates are given as good, acceptable, marginal or poor, based on the volume, length and timing of the audible alert reminding drivers and passengers to put on their seat belt.

To earn a good rating, a seat belt reminder needs an audible signal and visual alert on the instrument panel or in-dash display when the vehicle is moving at least 6 mph and the system detects someone in the front of the vehicle not wearing a seat belt, or someone in the back that unfastened the belt. The alert must also be loud enough to be heard over background noise.

“The gold standard is an alert that’s impossible to ignore,” IIHS Senior Test Coordinator Sean O’Malley, who conducted the evaluations, said.

For example, the Honda HR-V, which earned a "poor" rating, had a red icon flash on the instrument panel, but the chime sound was barely audible and only lasted five seconds, researchers said. The chime alert went on again 25 seconds later, with a five-seconds-on, 25-seconds-off alert pattern continuing for two minutes.

The Subaru Forester had a chime that was much louder, and included a red seat belt icon in the instrument panel for both front and back-row seat belts that were not fastened. The reminder chime does not stop until the driver puts on the seat belt.

Eleven of the 12 vehicles rated "poor" fall short of the length or sound level requirements, with audible alerts that are as short as five seconds.

“By now everybody knows that seat belts save lives when they are used,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a press release. “Our research shows that effective seat belt reminders can also save lives by getting those who aren’t diligent about belt use to buckle up. These new ratings are designed to push manufacturers to realize that potential.”

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards require seat belt reminders to have an audible signal that lasts for four to eight seconds and a visual alert that lasts at least one minute whenever the driver's seat belt is not on.

Previous research by IIHS found that more noticeable and persistent alerts could compel up to 34% more people to wear a seat belt, preventing an estimated 1,500 deaths a year.

“Most Americans use their seat belts, especially in the front seat. But the small number who don’t translates into a lot of fatalities,” Harkey said. “Almost half of the drivers and front seat passengers killed in crashes in 2019 weren’t belted.”

Simple software adjustments could potentially improve some of the poor-rated vehicles to an acceptable rating, IIHS said.
Survey: 7 in 10 Drivers Use Their Phone Behind the Wheel
Seventy percent of licensed drivers admitted to using their phone while driving for personal reasons in the past three months, survey results from Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety found.

The survey of nearly 2,000 licensed drivers throughout the country was conducted by The Harris Poll, a market research and consulting firm.

"This survey reveals the deadly and dangerous decisions by drivers contributing to this horrific fatality and injury toll," president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Cathy Chase said in a statement. "The public understands this hazard and strongly supports numerous strategies to prevent distraction and its impacts..."

The survey comes after the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) announced that they will release a report this summer looking at distracted driving challenges and identifying actions states can take to address them.

With funding from General Motors, GHSA will provide grant funding to State Highway Safety Offices to assist in incorporating the report's recommended actions.

“Look around and you’ll see distracted drivers everywhere – it’s a safety epidemic,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a statement. “This unique collaboration will shine a light on this problem and help advance one of the core principles outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy, which calls for safer people by encouraging safer behaviors. Making attentive driving the norm will benefit everyone on the road.”

Most notably, the Harris Poll survey found that cell phone use was even higher (86%) among drivers on the job.

Cell phone use was highest among people 18 to 34 years old. The survey also found that nearly one in three drivers (31%) had either been in a crash or knew someone who had been in a crash involving a driver on their phone.

The survey was conducted at a 95% confidence interval with a 2.8% margin of error.
OTS, Caltrans and CHP Partner to Raise Awareness About the Dangers of Distracted Driving
The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) hosted an event April 15 to kick off a new statewide education campaign during April's Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The effort is intended to educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving and encourage drivers to “Get Off Your Apps” and put the phone away.

"Whether at work, watching TV, or scrolling on our cell phones, we look at plenty of screens throughout the day," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "When you're driving, your screen in the car should only be the road in front of you for everyone's safety."

The campaign ran from April 11-24 and featured a series of safety messages on broadcast television, digital platforms including social media and streaming services, and digital billboards. In addition, public service announcements (PSAs) ran on Spanish and English radio.  

“April is set aside to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, but our educational efforts continue year-round," Caltrans Acting Director Steven Keck said. "We urge all drivers to make safety their priority, eliminate distractions and keep their focus on the road.”

“Inattention behind the wheel can have deadly consequences," California Highway Patrol (CHP) Commissioner Amanda Ray said. "Together with our traffic safety partners, we are working toward improving driver behavior and encouraging voluntary compliance with the law.”

As part of a statewide enforcement campaign focused on distracted driving, the CHP issued 835 citations on April 7 to drivers for violating the state's hands-free cell phone law. Last year, the CHP issued nearly 56,000 citations for cell phone law violations.

To view the full press conference, visit the OTS YouTube page.
OTS, Caltrans Holding Video Contest for Chance to Star in New PSA
The OTS and Caltrans are holding a video contest for the chance to win a role in the next traffic safety public service announcement (PSA) being filmed this summer.

All California residents 18 and older are eligible to participate. Participants are asked to submit a two-minute video explaining solutions to end distracted driving and what they do to avoid distractions.

Entries will be accepted until May 31, and everyone who submits a video also has the chance to win two tickets to the iHeart Music Festival in September plus travel expenses. All contest prizes are provided courtesy of iHeartMedia.

"Staying off the phone while driving and avoiding all other distractions are simple, but important habits that keep everyone safe on the road," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "We look forward to seeing creative, fun and engaging videos that bring light to a serious traffic safety concern."

For additional details about the contest, visit
May is Bicycle,
Motorcycle Safety Months
May is National Bicycle Safety Month and Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and the OTS encourages everyone to look twice for bicycle and motorcycle riders.

Drivers can keep riders safe by checking their blind spots when changing lanes, proceeding with caution through intersections, remembering to look carefully for bicyclists, motorcycle riders, and pedestrians before making a turn, and always looking for cyclists before opening the car door near streets or bike paths. California law also requires drivers to maintain a minimum of three feet of space when passing or overtaking a cyclist. If there is not enough room to safely pass, be patient and wait until it is safe.
“If you’re driving, be the best version of yourself,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “We are all pedestrians at one point and many of us ride bikes or motorcycles. Slow down and share the road so we may all get places safely.”

Helmets are required for all motorcycle riders. Riders are encouraged to wear a U.S. DOT-compliant helmet with eye protection, leather or other sturdy clothing, and reflective strips or decals to make it easier for drivers to see riders.

Although helmets are not required for bike riders 18 and older, wearing a properly secured helmet reduces a rider’s chance of a head injury by 85%.
SCAG "Mini-Grant" Projects
Selected for Regional Award
Two community-oriented service projects funded through the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Go Human "Mini-Grants" program have been selected for awards by the Inland Empire Section of the American Planning Association (APA). The awards cover multiple categories including best practices, healthy communities, transportation planning and urban design.

The Muscoy Sidewalks for Safety Coalition installed temporary crosswalks, bus shelters and curb extensions, creating opportunities to test road designs and build awareness around the unincorporated San Bernardino County community's traffic safety issues. The mini-grant project helped the community secure $1.88 million for permanent infrastructure changes and Safe Routes to School programming through the state’s Active Transportation Program.

The Artlands Mural Crosswalk in Redlands was designed by a local arts collaborative to support traffic safety and celebrate LGBTQIA community members and families.

APA Section Winners are eligible to advance to the APA California State’s Awards Program. The Inland Empire Section will host an awards dinner May 4.

SCAG's mini-grants program awards up to $15,000 for service projects intended to increase safety in historically disadvantage areas. This year's applicants will be notified of project awards the week of May 16.
Orange County Youth Council, Friday Night Live Student Members Work with Retailers to Reduce Underage Drinking
During April's Alcohol Awareness Month, members of the Orange County Youth Council (OCYC) and local Friday Night Live Partnership (FNLP) chapters visited two stores in Anaheim within walking distance of two high schools to discuss best practices to reduce alcohol sales to minors.

Youth leaders looked at the placement of alcohol, window coverage and signage warning about selling to underage customers. The store managers were also provided with a list of strategies to reduce sales to minors, including checking identification, staff training to detect fake IDs, display notices regarding ID requirements for alcohol purchases, and creating alcohol and non-alcohol sections of the store.

Both retailers agreed to sign a pledge to commit to implementing these safeguards, and students put stickers on alcohol products to remind customers that providing alcohol to minors is illegal.

“The merchant outreach project was a phenomenal event because we met with kindhearted store clerks who were enthusiastic about taking action to support the well-being of youth in our community,” John Nguyen, a senior at Garden Grove's Bolsa Grande High School, told the Orange County Department of Education in a press release.

The OCYC is a group of students who are part of FNLP. Funded through a grant with the OTS, The California FNLP provides programs in 51 counties focused on changing misconceptions about alcohol use among teens and reducing underage drinking.
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