Your Monthly Update
November 2021
NHTSA: U.S. traffic deaths for first half of 2021 reach highest point since 2006
More Americans died in traffic crashes during the first half of this year than any other six-month period on record, based on preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to the Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Half (January-June) of 2021 report released by NHTSA last month, there were an estimated 20,160 motor vehicle fatalities in the first half of 2021, up from 17,020 fatalities reported in the first half of 2020 – an 18.4% increase.

“This is a crisis," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release. "We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America."

In the second quarter of this year alone, there were 11,225 estimated traffic deaths, a staggering 23.1% increase from the 9,120 reported in 2020, the highest number since 1990.

All 10 NHTSA regions reported increases in fatalities. NHTSA Region 9, which includes California, Arizona, Hawaii and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands, reported a 25% increase in estimated fatalities in the first half of 2021 compared to the previous year.

"We are doing everything possible to improve the safety of people biking and walking as part of a larger, comprehensive plan to reduce serious injuries and deaths on our roads," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "But we need the collective efforts of everyone to practice safe driving habits to reverse this alarming trend."

To address the monumental increase in traffic deaths, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is developing its first National Roadway Safety Strategy that identifies actions rooted in the Safe System Approach, which steers vehicles, roads, speed limits, post-crash care and the movement of people toward safer travel. The plan will be released in January, drawing input from all levels of government, as well as the auto industry, traffic safety advocates, engineers and community groups.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is also adding nine new safety countermeasures to its list of highway design elements that offer proven protections to everyone on the road, including appropriate speed limits for all road users, crosswalk visibility enhancements, and bicycle lanes.

“Everyone should be able to leave home and get to where they’re going safely,” Secretary Buttigieg told Bloomberg CityLab. “When you look at our tendency as a country to think of this as a necessary cost of doing business — like it’s part of life, almost as if we were at war — we know we need to change our mentality.”
Steven Cliff Nominated by President Biden to Serve as NHTSA Administrator
Steven Cliff (pictured on far right above) at a Walk to School Day event in Elk Grove last month. Cliff has served as Deputy Administrator since February.
Dr. Steven Cliff was nominated by President Joe Biden last month to serve as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) new administrator.

Dr. Cliff has served as Deputy Administrator for NHTSA since February, overseeing an agency that sets vehicle safety standards, manages recalls and funds state highway safety programs like the OTS to educate the public on ways to drive, ride and walk safely. He also oversees efforts to establish fuel economy regulations and coordinate testing and rollout of advanced vehicle technologies.

Prior to NHTSA, Cliff worked for the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has regulatory oversight for vehicle emissions standards and works to advance technological innovations that help reduce the state's carbon footprint.

"The OTS wants to congratulate Steven Cliff on his nomination to serve as NHTSA's Administrator," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "Steve has an extensive background that will further our mission of reducing roadway fatalities. We look forward to working with Steve at a critical juncture in traffic safety."

Cliff earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego in 1998.

His nomination requires Senate confirmation. NHTSA has been without a confirmed administrator since the end of 2016.
New Law, OTS Grant Target Speeding, Street Racing and Sideshows
A new bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom aims at increasing penalties for illegal street racing and so-called "sideshows."

California Assembly Bill 3, authored by Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield), allows courts to issue driver's license suspensions for up to 6 months for "exhibition of speed," such as burning rubber, revving engines and other stunts known as sideshows. These stunts often involve hundreds of spectators that take over roads, block traffic, and often lead to street racing. The law goes into effect July 1, 2025.

“This law helps make our communities safer by giving law enforcement another tool to curb reckless sideshows,” Fong said on Twitter. “We’re sending a message that this dangerous activity is no longer acceptable.”

Current law for an exhibition of speeding conviction results in jail time of not more than 90 days, a fine of not more than $500, or both a fine and jail time. The new law expands the driver's license suspension period of no more than 90 days to six months, and restricts offenders to driving only for getting to and from work.

Excessive speeding, street racing and sideshow activities have dramatically increased over the past 18 months. During that time, the California Highway Patrol has issued more than 44,000 citations to drivers going more than 100 miles per hour.

The OTS has allocated $2 million in funding for the CHP to target dangerous driving behaviors like excessive speeding, street racing and sideshows. Known as RADARS VI, or Regulate Aggressive Driving and Reduce Speed, the grant program also works to collaborate with local law enforcement agencies to establish racing and sideshow task forces, and develop social media campaigns educating the public about the dangers of speeding and street racing.

“Reckless driving behaviors are a significant threat to all who use California’s roadways,” CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray said in a press release announcing the grant. “The RADARS grant will provide for a focused education and enforcement campaign targeting speeding motorists and aggressive driving behaviors, including street racing and sideshow activities, to help prevent crashes resulting in death or injury.”
The OTS Announces Partnerships with Los Angeles Chargers and Sacramento Kings Encouraging Fans to
Have a "Go Safely Game Plan"
The OTS is partnering with Los Angeles Chargers and Sacramento Kings to encourage fans to plan ahead and commit to a “go safely game plan.” Fans will see messages promoting the importance of having fun responsibly by not driving under the influence of alcohol during Chargers and Kings home games, Golden 1 Center events, and on each team's website, TV broadcasts, mobile app, and social media channels.

“We are proud to expand our partnerships to include the Los Angeles Chargers and Sacramento Kings on a game plan that’s always a win-win: choosing a safe, sober way to get home,” said OTS Director Barbara Rooney. “Building off the success of our partnership with the Kings, we are excited to introduce the ‘go safely game plan,’ where we’re all on the same team. Being a team player means making sure everyone has a good time and enjoys games and events responsibly.”

“As part of our ongoing commitment to provide a positive and safe experience for our fans and guests, we are proud to promote the OTS ‘go safely game plan,’ ” said Sacramento Kings President of Business Operations John Rinehart. “This important messaging encourages fans to plan ahead to ensure the wellbeing of themselves and others.” 

Since 2018, the Kings and OTS have partnered to remind fans about practicing safe road behaviors to make sure they get to and from events safely.

This year, the partnership is expanding to include the Los Angeles Chargers and focuses on the “go safely game plan” that will always bring home the “W:”
  • Before you grab a drink, grab a designated sober driver.
  • If you’ve been drinking, grab a safe ride home: take public transit or use a ride-hailing service.
  • Stick to the “go safely game plan” – don’t let friends drive impaired.

To learn more about the "go safely game plan," visit
November 7-14 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week
With Daylight Saving Time ending Sunday, Nov. 7, and our clocks turning back an hour, drivers may be struggling with the transition.

The OTS encourages all of our partners to promote Drowsy Driving Prevention Week Nov. 7-14, to remind people of the dangers of drowsy driving at any time of year, but particularly when we "fall back" and darkness comes an hour earlier.

"Driving when you are tired is a recipe for risk," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "Without enough rest, you may doze off in the worst place possible: behind the wheel. We encourage everyone to find a safe place to pull over to stretch their legs or get a few minutes of shut-eye if they are having difficulty staying alert."

In 2019, 697 people were killed in drowsy-driving related crashes throughout the country, according to NHTSA data.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends we all get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, stick to a consistent sleep schedule, and take regular breaks on road trips every two hours or 100 miles.

The tell-tale signs you are sleepy are yawning often, daydreaming, missing an exit or difficulty remembering the past few miles driven.

Let's keep people awake at the wheel, and inform them of the dangers of driving tired!

For more tips and resources related to drowsy driving, visit

We also have a drowsy driving informational video and tip card to promote Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

There's also more than 80 roadside rest areas throughout the state. To find a rest area or to check for the latest travel information on state highways, drivers can visit Caltrans' QuickMap at or download the free app.
AAA Study: Vehicle Safety Systems Struggle to Function Effectively
During Bad Weather
If you are driving in inclement weather, don't be too dependent on advanced safety systems in cars.

According to a recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA), systems like automatic emergency braking and lane assist did not perform as well in moderate to heavy rain.

"Often these systems are tested in somewhat perfect conditions," Greg Brannon, AAA's director of automotive engineering and industry relations, told ABC News. "But the reality is drivers don't drive in perfect conditions."

AAA researchers simulated rain by using water held atop the cargo area of the test vehicle, and connecting it to a nozzle above the windshield to simulate the spray pattern of rain.

Researchers found that vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking traveling at 35 miles per hour collided with a stopped vehicle a third of the time. Cars with lane keeping assistance left their lanes 69% of the time, AAA found.

“Vehicle safety systems rely on sensors and cameras to see road markings, other cars, pedestrians and roadway obstacles. So naturally, they are more vulnerable to environmental factors like rain,” Brannon said in a press release.

AAA researchers also simulated other conditions, such as bugs and dirt on the windshield, which did not have a negative impact on the performance of advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS.

Previous AAA research has shown impacts to performance of ADAS, such as struggling to stay within a marked lane in moderate traffic on curved roadways and streets with busy intersections, and failing to stop for pedestrians in different scenarios like crossing in front of a car or walking at night.

While driver assistance technologies have immense potential to reduce crashes and save lives, AAA cautioned they are not a replacement for a fully engaged driver.
Employee Spotlight
Marcie Palomares
Marcie (pictured above, second from right) enjoys decorating and spending time with her husband and three kids. Pictured below: Her home decked out to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos and one of her many birthday-themed boards in the OTS office break room.
Meet the OTS Accounting Officer Marcie Palomares. Marcie manages payments for our office and the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA). Our accounting team continued to go into the office to process claims and take care of our books while the rest of us worked from home during COVID-19 related shutdowns. We caught up with Marcie so our grantees and partners could learn about what she does every day and how she mastered her decorating skills that brightens up our office.

Some of the responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.

How long have you worked at the OTS? Did you have prior state service before joining the OTS?
I have been at the OTS for 13 years, since August of 2008. Prior to the OTS, I was with the Employment Development Department (EDD) for 10 years. I started as a student assistant with the state and worked my way up from the entry level accounting position to the role I am in now.

What do you enjoy most about working at the OTS? What makes the job fulfilling and keeps you motivated?
I truly enjoy working at the OTS and all that the OTS stands for. The efforts that we make to ensure safer roadways in California is not just a message that we put out there in writing but it’s something that I personally believe in for my safety and that of my family. And I’m happy to know that accounting is part of the cycle to keep the OTS running.

I enjoy my work. Even though other people may think that accounting is boring and crunching numbers, there is so much more involved in it. There is always something that keeps us busy and on our toes.

You have quite the reputation for your decorations around the office. When did you start decorating and what is your inspiration? Where do the ideas come from? Do you have a favorite holiday or theme? 
I learned crafting from my family, so I have always enjoyed decorating for all occasions. I guess you can also say that it’s mentally soothing. Growing up and seeing all the themed décor for major holidays, I enjoyed all the little attention to detail that it took to create a certain look. That always motivated me to create and make my own décor. I like to decorate for all occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, making it special and unique for that specific person. I figure that if it brings happiness and a smile to me that maybe it does for someone else too. My favorite holidays are Halloween and Christmas and yes, my house is all decked out for each!

When you are not designing our break room birthday board or making grantees happy paying out claims, what do you enjoying doing in your spare time?
Besides crafting I enjoy drawing, painting, reading, music and dancing. I am big on spending time with family, especially with my husband and my three kids.
One thing you want to share that people even within the OTS office may not know about you.
One thing about me that others may not know is that I have OCD. That may explain why in my cubicle, all my files and folders are coordinated by color, numerically and alphabetically. But I always try my best to not let myself be so obsessive over it and I have toned down on it!
Grantee Highlights
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)
"School Streets" Program
The first "School Streets" project started at East Hollywood's Dayton Heights Elementary School last month.

A section of street in front of the school is closed to cars from 7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday until the end of the month.

Kids use the street biking and walking to school, which is now a space to stay active and play before class.

The pilot project is a partnership between the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Los Angeles Walks, SCAG and the OTS.
Fresno Police Department Participates
in Walk to School Day
Due to heavy smoke in Fresno early last month, the Fresno Police Department participated in National Walk to School Day two weeks later than most.

A few motor officers joined students at Oraze Elementary School for a walk to class the morning of Oct. 20.
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