Your Monthly Update
September 2021
GHSA Releases Independent Recommendations to Advance Equity in Traffic Safety Programs
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released a report last month with new recommendations to help reduce racial disparities in traffic enforcement, particularly among communities of color.

The 10 recommendations include the collection and analysis of racial data for every traffic stop to better understand potential disparities in who is being stopped, as well as support for increased funding for racial data collection.

“GHSA is committed to taking meaningful steps to eliminate racial disparities in traffic enforcement and to make our nation’s highway safety programs more just and equitable for all road users,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a statement. “Our goal is to prevent motor vehicle crashes, injuries and deaths, but that is unobtainable as long as racial disparities exist. These recommendations are another step forward in our ongoing journey to ensure traffic safety programs work for everyone.”

Another recommendation supports increased use of automated enforcement that is applied equitably and solicits community input on the best ways it can be used to help reduce risky driving behaviors.

Other recommendations include encouraging communities of color and other underserved areas to be involved in the highway safety planning process, prioritize traffic enforcement on the most dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding and impairment, encourage new police recruitment and training standards so the demographics of law enforcement personnel more closely reflect the communities they serve, and support for driver licensing policies that limit penalties for moving violations and explore flexible fee options for traffic citations, driver licenses and vehicle registration.

In addition, the GHSA report recommended working with Vision Zero and Safe System initiatives to leverage all road safety tools.

The recommendations were developed by Kimberly-Horn, a consulting firm, after a review of national best practices and discussions with state highway safety office leadership.

GHSA will discuss the report and other ideas to advance equity at its Annual Meeting later this month in Denver. 
Study: Shift in consumer preference for SUVs, light trucks has led to greater rates of pedestrian deaths
Areas of the U.S. with a higher proportion of heavier, larger vehicles saw a bigger rise in pedestrian deaths,
a recent study published in Economics of Transportation found.

The study's author, Justin Tyndall, an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Hawai’i's Economic Research Organization, tracked the characteristics of vehicles across U.S. metropolitan areas over the past 20 years and compared them to pedestrian deaths. Metro areas that saw an increase in the number of large vehicles also saw a greater rise in pedestrian deaths, the study found.

Since 2000, U.S. drivers have hit and killed more than 100,000 pedestrians, the study said. Over the same period, the average weight of a vehicle involved in a crash has increased by about 440 pounds.

"While larger vehicles are designed to protect their drivers and passengers in the event of a crash, less concern is given to the effect on pedestrians," the study said.

Light trucks – sport utility vehicles (SUVs), pickup trucks and minivans – have also become more common compared to cars, with SUVs as a share of vehicles rising by about 60% since 2000. Last year, SUVs and "crossovers" accounted for half of vehicle purchases, according to IHS Markit, an analytics company that tracks consumer trends.

"In addition to being heavier, light trucks tend to have higher front ends, limiting the ability of the driver to see pedestrians and making crashes more lethal for pedestrians," Tyndall said in a Twitter post.

Previous studies have found that SUVs and pickup trucks are deadlier to pedestrians for this very reason, but also because the heavier load takes the vehicle longer to stop and strikes with more force compared to a lighter vehicle.

Tyndall estimates that 8,100 pedestrian deaths would have been avoided from 2000 to 2019 if all light trucks were replaced with sedans.

"If the popularity of large vehicles continues to rise there is likely to be a corresponding increase in pedestrian fatalities," the study said.
Justin Tyndall on Twitter: "US drivers have hit and...

US drivers have hit and killed over 100,000 pedestrians since 2000. The rate of pedestrian deaths has been increasing recently, even as driver/passenger deaths have fallen.

Read more
Study: Transportation changes could improve public health
Transportation innovations such as electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and ride-hailing services will have a dramatic impact on greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum use by 2050, according to a new paper by Cornell University researchers.

By 2050, petroleum consumption could be cut by 50% and carbon dioxide emissions by 75%, while also preventing 5,500 premature deaths. The widespread adoption of electric vehicles is the most important piece with the most significant air quality and health benefits, and biggest carbon reductions, researchers said.

“There are all these important emerging trends in the development of transportation, and they are becoming a reality in the near future,” civil and environmental engineering professor Oliver Gao said.

Published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, the research factored in human health and the subsequent economic benefits, a shift from previous research on the impact of new transportation innovations on fuel usage and emissions.

“It is worthwhile to understand the effectiveness of these mitigation strategies, as deep de-carbonization is needed in the transportation sector,” lead author Shuai Pan said.

Researchers projected vehicle fleets, miles traveled, energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions to assess the impacts of changing emissions on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as well as the health and economic benefits of populations in 10 major metropolitan areas.

Depending on how widely ride-hailing services and electric and autonomous vehicles are adopted, their simulations found that reductions in emissions could prevent between 2,300 and 8,100 premature deaths, with California among five states that would see the biggest drop in premature deaths.

The paper is only modeling projections of potential impacts, and is limited in scope due to fully autonomous vehicles not yet being widely commercially available. The sales of electric vehicles are also still far below conventional gas-powered vehicles. Autonomous vehicles could also lead to increased travel and offset other gains to reduce carbon emissions.

The paper concludes that policies are needed to promote the use of shared electric vehicles through economic incentives and investments in electric charging stations.
Study: Hands-free cell phones laws help reduce driver deaths
More than 100 driver deaths and nearly 14,000 driver injuries are prevented every year due to hands-free cell phone laws, a recent study by researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital found.

The study, published July 29 in Epidemiology, looked at drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, and total deaths involved in crashes from 1999 through 2016 across the U.S. Researchers then compared the crashes to varying restrictions on cellphone use.

Total restrictions on hands-free cellphone laws were associated with fewer driver deaths, but partial laws that allow only phone calls, texting, texting plus other non-call uses, and calling plus texting bans did not reduce fatality rates. Researchers pointed to increased compliance with laws, as well as the perception that the laws are being strictly enforced, as contributors to the reduction in driver deaths.

Researchers analyzed traffic fatality rates by state, year and quarter, as well as other studies that regularly monitored drivers and found cell phone use increased the risk of crashes by two to six times.

“We’re not suggesting states take people’s phones away while driving or tell them not to use their phone while driving,” lead author Dr. Motao Zhu said. “We’re recommending that, if you need to use your phone while driving, you do so hands-free. Further, we recommend states implement hands-free cellphone laws to encourage this behavior change.”

Distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,142 people in the U.S. in 2019 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to this year's California Traffic Safety Survey, “Distracted Driving because of TEXTING” was the biggest safety concern among nearly 75% of respondents.

California has had distracted driving laws since 2008 and is one of 21 states with a hands-free cell phone law, which prohibits almost all cell phone use while driving. Under the current law, drivers are not allowed to hold a cell phone while driving.

Since July 1, a violation for using a handheld cellular phone or texting while driving will also add a point to the driver’s record for each violation occurring within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense.

"Our research demonstrates that hands-free laws save lives and reduce the societal costs associated with distracted driving," Dr. Zhu said.
AAA Study: “Miles-to-Empty” Gauge Estimates Vary Depending on Travel Patterns, Driving Scenarios
When your fuel gauge says you're running on empty, if may be closer to empty than it's telling you, a new study by AAA found.

AAA tested the accuracy of in-dash fuel economy displays that estimate the number of "miles-to-empty" and miles a vehicle gets per gallon. AAA found that the estimates vary significantly over shorter trips, or rely on what affects gas mileage, such as speed and acceleration.

This means drivers could be risking it if they are too reliant on the fuel gauge displays.

“People want to get the most out of a tank of gas, especially when prices are higher,” Megan McKernan, manager of the Automotive Research Center, said. “Collectively, the systems we tested were relatively accurate, but a closer examination of different driving scenarios revealed significant variability based on changes in speed, acceleration and distance.”

According to a AAA consumer survey, nearly three out of every four drivers (74%) look at their "miles-to-empty" display when they are low on gas to decide when to fill up.

AAA recommends filling up when the gas gauge reaches a quarter of a tank.

AAA tested the accuracy of the fuel economy and range by running vehicles through a series of simulated driving scenarios. The vehicles tested showed a relatively low error rate, but it varied widely, AAA said. The results point to the vehicles responding to changes in driving differently, which also means historical driving data plays a role in determining fuel efficiency and range.
Share the Road. Share the Responsibility. OTS to Launch New Bicycle, Pedestrian Safety Campaign
The OTS is rolling out a new education campaign encouraging bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians to "share the road" and "share the responsibility" by looking out for one another.

Starting Sept. 13 through Oct. 10, the campaign will feature a series of safety messages at transit stops, shopping centers and on buses, as well as video public service announcements on social media, and audio versions on radio.

The goal is to raise awareness about the dangers bicyclists and pedestrians face on the road, and the actions required to keep everyone on the road safe. September is also California's Pedestrian Safety Month.

"We are all going places," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "So whether you are getting to your destination on a bike, walking or driving, it's important that we look out for one another and share the road."

As part of the OTS campaign, the OTS will be hosting a bicycle and pedestrian "traffic safety superheroes" event at Sacramento's Safety Center campus on Sunday, Sept. 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to dress up as their favorite superhero for a day full of bicycle and pedestrian safety activities.
Ford Driving Skills for Life
Returns to California
The Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program kicked off an eight-city tour with stops in Northern and Southern California throughout August.

The OTS partnered with Ford Motor Company Fund and the Governors Highway Safety Association to provide free hands-on driving clinics for newly and soon-to-be licensed teens.

The driver training sessions were held in Anaheim Aug. 7-8, Oceanside Aug. 21-22 and McClellan Park in the Sacramento region Aug. 28-29.

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 DSFL clinics focus on skills and information not currently offered in standard driver education courses. 

“Experience and training make for better drivers, particularly teens who are just starting the process to get their license,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “We were thrilled to offer this great program that puts parents at ease by providing teens with life-long safe driving skills.”
“The lack of experience of newly licensed drivers remains a serious problem resulting in a disproportionate number of crashes for teens," said Jim Graham, Global Manager, Ford DSFL.

In California, drivers ages 16-19 are nearly three times as likely to be in a serious crash compared to other drivers. 

Driving Skills for Life will host more training sessions in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville and Phoenix.

You can check out highlights from the driver training sessions in Anaheim on the OTS Facebook page.
ABC Announces Grant Applications Are Available for Local Law Enforcement
The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) anticipates awarding grants of up to $20,000 to local law enforcement agencies for Minor Decoy, Shoulder Tap and Informed Merchants Preventing Alcohol-Related Crime Tendencies (IMPACT) programs. Funded through OTS grants, the programs focus on reducing underage drinking.

To apply for a grant, submit the following documents to the ABC: 
  • A Letter of Interest
  • Printout of your City/County Traffic Safety Rankings. This can be found on the OTS website. (alcohol involved fatalities, injuries, and had been drinking (HBD) drivers under 21).  
  • Budget Estimate
Send all of the above documents to:
Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
Attn: Diana Fouts-Guter, Grant Unit
3927 Lennane Drive, Suite #100
Sacramento, CA 95834

All letters of interest must be received by Sept. 20 at 5 p.m.

The funding of these grants is contingent upon the ABC receiving OTS grant funds for the 2022 federal fiscal year. 

The grant period is from Oct. 1, 2021 through Aug. 31, 2022.

For additional information on the grant process please go to ABC’s Underage Drinking page.

Grant awards will be based on the agency's OTS Crash Rankings, goals and objectives relative to funding priorities and the ability to implement the grant.

If you have any questions regarding the letter of interest, please call Diana Fouts-Guter at (916) 928-9807.
Last chance: 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 Sept. 7 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.
In Case You Missed It

You can follow the conversations of our Aug. 18 Twitter chat with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) here:
How do you build traffic safety messages that reach the right audience and get them to act? Our pre-GHSA conference webinar with NHTSA, Colorado Department of Transportation and GDC Marketing and Ideation discussed best practices for communicating effective safety messages. View the recording here:
OTS In the News
Listen to our Aug. 8 interview on Sacramento Public File with Audacy's Doug Thomas:

OTS Director Barbara Rooney was featured in an American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) article highlighting the impacts the pandemic has had on traffic safety:
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