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October 2022

OTS, Caltrans Release New "Go Safely" Public Service Announcement

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) released a new “Go Safely” public service announcement emphasizing the outsized role drivers play in keeping themselves and others on the road safe.

During a news conference at Sacramento's Golden 1 Center, the OTS and Caltrans unveiled the new "We Are Human" education campaign, which  recognizes that we will inevitably make mistakes, but they do not need to result in serious or tragic consequences on the road.

The four videos feature road "mistakes" leading to close calls with a cyclist and a family walking to highlight actions drivers can take so that everyone on the road – whether you are walking, biking, or riding – can “go safely.”

Initially launched in 2018, "Go Safely, California" is a comprehensive education and encouragement campaign that prioritizes safe travel habits. The campaign includes fundamental principles and elements of the “Safe System” Approach, which emphasizes safer street design, safer vehicles and safer people all working in concert to make crashes, when they do happen, less severe.

"Educating the public on safe driving behaviors through creative and captivating videos and messages is one of multiple tools – along with enforcement against dangerous behaviors, safer road designs with safer speeds – that are needed to provide multiple layers of protection for everyone on the road," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said.

“No longer can we as a society accept traffic deaths as routine,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “With the ‘Safe System’ Approach, we are focused on changing individual behaviors as well as the system itself to be more forgiving to mistakes, enabling every driver, passenger, bicyclist and pedestrian to arrive at their destination safely, every time.”

In 2020, 6,516 pedestrians were killed in the United States – including 986 in California. Last year, pedestrian fatalities were projected to be up 13% nationwide compared to 2020.

The new PSAs will run throughout October’s National Pedestrian Safety Month to highlight the right of everyone to walk or roll safely and reminds drivers of their responsibility to stay alert for pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable road users.

"We Are Human" will be seen on digital platforms, as well as audio messages on radio and streaming services, and feature the winner of the Get Off Your Apps’ video contest. Roger Lua’s winning video showing the dangers of distracted driving landed him a role in the new PSAs filmed last month in Sacramento.

Office of Traffic Safety Celebrates Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day,

Highlights Importance of Safe Routes for Students to Take to Class

The OTS joined students and staff from Kingswood K-8 Citrus Heights Oct. 12 to celebrate the 26th annual Walk, Bike, and Roll to School Day.

The national event highlights the health benefits of walking to school and the need for safe routes for students to walk and bike to school. The OTS partnered with the Sacramento County Office of Education and Kingswood K-8 Club Live Program as participants carried signs while walking to campus, reminding drivers of their responsibility to stay alert for pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable road users.

“Kids should feel comfortable and safe walking or riding a bike to class,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “Pedestrians and bicyclists do not have the same protections as drivers and passengers. Drivers should slow down and drive like their niece, nephew, cousin, child or sibling is walking or rolling to class.”

Kingswood K-8 is one of three schools benefitting from the San Juan Unified School District’s current Safe Routes to School program. The City of Citrus Heights received $30,000 in grant funds to implement the program as part of the Non-Infrastructure portion of the Mariposa Avenue Safe Routes to School project that completed the bicycle and pedestrian network in this area.

“Safe Routes to School has been a part of the San Juan Unified School District for over a decade,” said Natalee Dyudyuk, Community Safety Specialist for Safe Routes to School. “More than half of the SJUSD schools have benefited from education, encouragement, and evaluation of all surrounding active modes of transportation.”

The active transportation grant is part of more than $12 million in additional investments throughout the state from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to improve bike and walking safety around schools.

Office of Traffic Safety Provides Historic Investments to Improve Safety of Everyone on California Roads

Leveraging significant, once-in-a-generation transportation investments, the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) has awarded approximately $108.5 million in federal funds for 373 grants to expand safe walking and biking options and provide key education and enforcement programs that make roads safer.

These historic levels of highway safety funds will support comprehensive and effective traffic safety measures, as well as bolder, transformative approaches that will collectively help save lives,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “We are in an incredible position to invest in our highest traffic safety priorities so that every Californian can go safely.”

The federal funds come from the multiyear Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and are made available to states and U.S. territories by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to identify current and future traffic safety needs.

The OTS funding marks a nearly 15% increase in awards from the previous federal fiscal year and is on top of the state’s $47 billion multiyear infrastructure package, which provides an additional $1.05 billion for active transportation projects to expand safe walking and biking options.

The OTS grant programs fund hundreds of agencies and non-profits throughout the state in the areas of alcohol and drug-impaired driving, distracted driving, seat belts and child safety seats, bicycle and pedestrian safety, emergency medical services, police traffic services and traffic records.

Among the programs funded by the OTS:

  • $8.68 million dedicated to improving the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. Funding supports programs such as local walking tours, bicycle/pedestrian safety training, community bike rides and bicycle training courses that encourage safe routes to ride.
  • $49.8 million for police traffic services to deter, prevent and stop dangerous and illegal driving behaviors such as alcohol- and drug-impaired driving, speeding, and distracted driving.
  • $36.77 million for statewide prosecutor training network and dedicated prosecutors managing DUI cases, treatment programs for people convicted of DUI, and education programs for teens and the public on the dangers of impaired driving.
  • $4.4 million for child passenger safety seat programs that provide classes, training, educational resources and car seats for parents and caregivers in need.

The grant programs run through September 2023.

New Employee Spotlight

Samantha DeMelo

Layla Candelaria

Samantha "Sam" DeMelo joins the OTS as our Marketing and Outreach Specialist/Public Information Officer (PIO). Sam brings nearly 20 years of experience in marketing and communications to the OTS, and will provide strategic oversight for our campaign initiatives and projects.

She previously served as a PIO for Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Samantha also worked as Communications Manager for the County Behavioral Health Directors Association and Blue Diamond Growers.

On the weekends, you can find her on the sideline of a soccer field, running or reading an Agatha Christie novel.

Sam lives in Elk Grove with her husband, daughter, and four-legged fur kid, Stella.

We asked Sam a few questions to get to know her. 

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.

What are you looking forward to most in your new role?

I am looking forward to using my creative experience and collaborating with partner agencies and organizations to help share our great work to make California's roadways safer. 

What is your favorite movie?

Pulp Fiction. I love the interrelated stories and it's also one of my favorite movie soundtracks.

One day to unplug. No strings attached. What would that day look like?

I would drive to Bodega Bay and spend the day at the beach, indulging in a bowl of clam chowder and enjoying the sounds of the ocean.

What or who inspires you?

My family inspires me. They are my reason for wanting to be the best version of myself.

Layla Candelaria joins the OTS as a Staff Services Analyst in the Administrative Services Unit.

Layla has more than five years of experience working in administration, most recently serving as an Office Technician within the Hazard Mitigation Planning Division of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES).

Layla is the voice you will likely hear when you call our office, and will perform various analytical, special project, and administrative assignments for the OTS.

We asked Layla a few questions to get to know her. 

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.

What are you looking forward to most in your new role?

I’m looking forward to learning more about traffic safety and gaining more tools for my toolkit along the way. I love learning from others and I can’t wait to pick up as much as possible from my new team members.

What is your favorite movie?

My current favorite movie is Thor: Love and Thunder. I’ve watched it about 8 times already and it just came out.

One day to unplug. No strings attached. What would that day look like?

I would love to go Lake Tahoe with my family for the day. Unwinding in a beautiful cabin, drinking hot chocolate and watching my kids play in the snow. Sounds like a perfect day to me!

What or who inspires you?

Older versions of myself inspire me to do better the next day, year, etc. I am always trying to grow and older versions of myself are what inspire me to keep pushing to reach all of my goals in life. 

Angela Pyara

Angela Pyara joined the OTS in August as the Deputy Director of Technology and Administration. Angela brings over 15 years of experience in budget administration and fiscal management, most recently serving as Manager, Budget Administration & Development at the Department of Motor Vehicles. She wears many hats at the OTS, managing the accounting and information technology teams, both crucial to our day-to-day operations and workflow.

We asked Angela a few questions to get to know her. 

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.

What are you looking forward to most in your new role?

I am looking forward to working closely with the OTS team members personally as well as getting to know how my area can better support OTS’s mission to “Go Safely.” I believe the best reward is to see my team implement efficiencies in our processes to better serve internal and external customers. I strive to learn more about the processes within the areas I oversee and support to assess what is working well and identify areas that can be improved. 


What is your favorite movie?

Too hard to pick just one – definitely no scary ones.


One day to unplug. No strings attached. What would that day look like?

Awesome breakfast (definitely needs to include waffles or French toast) with family and friends followed by a beach or lake day – paddle boarding, swimming, snorkeling, floating, or lounging in the sun with my favorite drink (currently – watermelon and cucumber juice) and snacks.


What or who inspires you?

My family and friends are a constant source of inspiration for me.

OTS Director Barbara Rooney

Elected Chair of the Governors Highway Safety Association

OTS Director Barbara Rooney is the new Chair of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) Executive Board.

Rooney was elected Chair during GHSA's Annual Meeting last month to lead GHSA’s efforts to work toward zero deaths on America’s roadways through proven and effective countermeasures that address unsafe driving – speeding, not buckling up, and impaired and distracted driving.

“We are at a critical juncture in traffic safety,” Rooney said in a news release. “Urgent action and a new way of thinking are needed to buck the trend in roadway deaths that continue to rise."

Under Rooney’s leadership, GHSA will continue efforts to advance equity in traffic safety by identifying actions state highway safety offices can take to reverse inequitable policies and practices that have burdened communities of color and historically underserved neighborhoods.


“Equity and roadway safety go hand in hand,” Rooney said. “Efforts to make our roads safer will also advance equity, which remains a fundamental principle in traffic safety.”

Rooney was elected GHSA Vice Chair in 2020 and 2021 and became Chair in 2022 following a vacancy. She previously served as Chair of the association’s Federal Relations Committee and Workforce Development Committee.

Rooney will serve a one-year term.

Ford Fund and GHSA Host Free, Hands-on Teen Driving Clinics in

Southern California

The OTS is partnering with the Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford, and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), to bring the free Ford Driving Skills for Life program and its hands-on training clinics to Southern California.

Event sessions will be hosted at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia Oct. 29-30, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana Dec. 3-4 and Manheim San Diego Dec. 10-11. 

To register, visit


Now in its 19th year, Ford Driving Skills for Life pairs newly licensed or permitted drivers with professional driving instructors. The program addresses issues and critical factors that influence crashes, including vehicle handling, hazard recognition, speed and space management, distracted driving and impaired driving.


“Teens are new, inexperienced drivers and Driving Skills for Life allows young drivers to learn in a safe environment alongside a professional instructor,” said Mike Speck, a manager of Ford Driving Skills for Life. “Our hands-on lessons reinforce the importance of developing safe driving habits while clearly demonstrating, through their own driving on a closed course, the risks involve with driving impaired or distracted.”


“We are excited to partner with Ford and bring this great program back to California,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “Focusing on issues drivers face that cause crashes prepares teens with the necessary skills to be safe and comfortable driving.”


In 2020, 446 people were killed in crashes on California roads involving drivers 20 or younger, accounting for nearly 12% of all deadly crashes. The rate of young male drivers involved in deadly crashes is more than twice that of young female drivers.


“Teen drivers are more likely than any other age group to be involved in a fatal crash due to inexperience and maturity,” said GHSA Senior Director of External Engagement Pam Shadel Fischer, a nationally recognized teen safe driving expert and co-author of Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving. “With programs like Ford Driving Skills for Life, we are reaching both new drivers and their parents with information that helps reduce risky driving behaviors.”

The Ford Driving Skills for Life Program made stops in Anaheim, Oceanside and Sacramento last year. To watch highlights from the 2021 Anaheim clinic, visit the OTS YouTube channel.

NHTSA: Traffic Deaths Decline From April-June This Year, Increase Overall During First Half of 2022

The number of people killed in car crashes in the U.S. this year declined 5% from April through June compared to 2021, according to new estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This marks the first decrease in two years, although the 20,715 killed in crashes from January to June is a slight 0.5% increase over the same period last year.

While the recent decline shows the start of a downward trend, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg said they are at levels that warrant immediate action.

“These deaths are preventable, not inevitable, and we should act accordingly,” Secretary Buttigieg said in a news release.

"Although it is heartening to see a projected decline in roadway deaths in recent months, the number of people dying on roads in this country remains a crisis," NHTSA’s Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said in a statement.

Nearly 43,000 people were killed on U.S. roads last year – including 4,258 deaths in California, the highest number in 16 years and largest year-over-year percentage increase since NHTSA began collecting fatality data in 1975.

“It is beyond tragic that nearly 10% of all traffic deaths in the country last year occurred on California roads – 4,258 lives cut short and countless families who will never get to see a loved one again," OTS Director Barbara Rooney and California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) Secretary Toks Omishakin said in a joint statement.

“...California is doing everything possible to implement comprehensive traffic safety measures to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on our roadways..."

NHTSA traffic fatality estimates are early and may change slightly. Final numbers will not be released until later this year.

Report: Rural Roads Have Disproportionate Share

of Traffic Deaths

Less than one in five people live in rural areas, but nearly half of deadly car crashes happen on rural roads, a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found. 

"While cities and urban areas have alternatives to driving, that’s not the case for people in rural areas,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a news release. “Unfortunately, the dangerous and deadly driving behaviors that have increased during the pandemic have taken an oversized toll on rural residents.”

Funded by State Farm, the study found that about 48% of U.S. traffic deaths occurred on rural roads from 2016 to 2020, despite only 19% of the U.S. population living in rural areas.

Common causes for crashes on rural roads – distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts – are the same as in urban areas, but occur at a higher rate in rural areas, the study said.

At 1.76, the death rate per 100 million miles driven was much higher in rural areas than urban areas, where the death rate was 1.09.

The study cites a variety of reasons for. a higher fatality rate on rural roads, including more open roads that invite more risky behaviors, less law enforcement, longer trips, lower emergency response times, and fewer public transit options.

More fatal crashes in rural areas involved people driving alone and going off the roadway, head-on crashes and sideswipe crashes. 

The study suggested reducing speed limits, increased medical training and availability of emergency care would help lower the rate of deadly rural crashes.

IIHS: Automatic Braking Systems Have Issues Seeing Pedestrians at Night

A majority of midsize cars, SUVs and pickups with pedestrian automatic emergency braking (AEB) struggle to work effectively at night, a new test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found.

Only four of 23 vehicles tested earned the highest "superior" rating, avoiding a crash with the pedestrian dummy at two different speeds and headlight levels. More than half earned a "basic" score or no credit.

AEB systems are a standard feature in most new cars. Ratings were based on the average reduction in speed and whether they avoided striking the pedestrian dummy.

The nighttime tests included the pedestrian dummy crossing the road with a vehicle traveling at 12 mph and 25 mph, and a pedestrian dummy walking along the road at the edge of the lane at 25 and 37 mph.

“As we expected, most of these pedestrian AEB systems don’t work very well in the dark,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a news release

More than three-quarters of pedestrian deaths happen at night, previous research by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety found. 

Most vehicles fared better in identifying pedestrians during the day.

Study: Wildlife Crossings Reduce Crashes with Animals,

Potentially Save Millions

Wildlife crossings over highways reduced crashes involving animals and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, a Washington State University (WSU) analysis found.

There were one to three fewer crashes involving wildlife every mile within a 10-mile radius of a wildlife crossing, researchers said.

“We often talk about things that we can and cannot control,” Wisnu Sugiarto, WSU economics student and author of the study, said in a news release. “From a driver point of view, they may choose to drive safely, but still, unfortunately, there are animals that cross the road, and they end up hitting them. This shows there’s something we can do about these collisions.”

Published in Transportation Research Record, researchers looked at 13 wildlife bridges and underpasses in Washington state, which can range in cost from $500,000 for a tunnel-like underpass to more than $6 million for a crossing over a highway. Researchers then analyzed crash data from 2011 to 2020 at the bridges and underpasses, comparing crashes involving wildlife before and after wildlife crossings were built.

More significant crash reductions were around bridges, researchers noted. Deer are the most common wildlife hit by vehicles, and camera footage at the crossings showed deer appear to use bridge crossings more often, while underpasses are more popular with predators, such as black bears.

Over the 10-year study period, Washington state averaged more than 1,600 vehicle crashes with wildlife every year.

Earlier this year, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a wildlife crossing over a 10-lane stretch of U.S. 101 in Agoura Hills, Calif. Slated for completion in 2025, the 200-foot-long bridge would be the largest of its kind, helping populations of mountain lions freely cross mountains in the area.

NHTSA Publishes Notice of

Proposed Rulemaking for

Highway Safety Grant Programs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published its

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) last month, which outlines changes to NHTSA’s highway safety grant programs following the implementation of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). 

The proposed rulemaking includes many significant changes to NHTSA grant rules, including a transition to a Triennial Highway Safety Plan starting in federal fiscal year 2024, establishment of new grant programs, more allowable uses of funds, and new requirements for public and community participation in funding decisions and the planning process.

NHTSA is accepting comments until Oct. 31.

Safer California Injury Prevention Conference

Makes In-Person Return

The OTS will be in San Diego next month for the 2022 Safer California Unintentional Injury Prevention Conference.

Organized by the California Coalition for Children's Safety and Health (CCCSH), hundreds of professionals involved with local and state child injury prevention programs will convene at San Diego's Town and Country Resort Nov. 15 & 16 to discuss best practices, advances in programs and other measures being taken to protect our youth.

The OTS is a main sponsor of the conference, along with the California Department of Public Health.

To view the conference agenda, register and book hotel reservations, visit the CCCSH website.

Publications and Resources

Release Templates

School Bus Safety Week Release Template

Teen Driver Safety Week Release Template

Teen Driver Safety Week, School Bus Safety Weeks Social Toolkits

New "Go Safely" Public Service Announcements

Law Enforcement Liaison (LEL) Program

Safer California Conference

OTS Logos

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).
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