A Comprehensive Vision with No Roadway Fatalities Requires Enforcement Technology
Reprinted from Directions in Highway Safety from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)
As stakeholders for the safety of our roads nationwide, Conduent deploys automated enforcement systems in areas where studies have shown that vehicle crashes and fatalities can be significantly reduced — indicating that they are preventable. The concept of Vision Zero has been around for years as an ongoing road safety strategy that aims to achieve a roadway system with no crashes. Proclamations are one thing, but extensive programs are difficult to achieve in practice. A comprehensive approach to zero fatalities proactively utilizes education, engineering, and enforcement strategies.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 94 percent of major crashes are caused by human error. How do we reduce this number? Step one is education and making sure drivers understand the impact of their choices, particularly dangerous driving. The NHTSA’s recent study tells us that nearly one-third of all fatalities are speed-related. Further, a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study tells us a pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling 40 miles per hour versus 20 miles per hour is four times more likely to die. The safety benefit should be compelling enough, but how do we fund the public outreach and education?
Step two is traffic engineering, from evaluating the state of our roadways to examining the environment in which drivers operate. Engineering plays an important role in curbing known areas of human error. For example, in recent years, traffic engineers have made improvements to road design to assist distracted drivers. This includes speed-calming measures such as trees, higher density building, and compelling signage. Additionally separating road use has produced safety improvements with dedicated bus and bicycle lanes. Lastly, implementing lower speed limits in urban areas and improving highway infrastructure are key components to the three pillars of traffic safety.
The final component to traffic safety is enforcement. Whether it’s the targeted traditional law enforcement techniques or automated technologies such as photo enforcement, each have their purpose in a balanced approach. By implementing technology solutions that support law enforcement efforts, agencies can incentivize safer driving practices while freeing up time and resources to be invested in other egregious crimes or broader safety programs.
Enforcement typically plays the important role as the mechanism that enables governors to support the other pillars of Vision Zero. With the funds from enforcement, a state agency or municipality may choose to fund a study on the impact of speeding to be shared at the next town hall, or they may choose to fund local crisis or mental health services. Other municipalities may set aside funds to improve road design, separate grade-crossings, or widen sidewalks.
In addition, modern automated enforcement systems collect nuanced data that transportation officials can use to better understand why crashes occur. The technology can shed light on what happens in the leading seconds before an infraction or crash. This information can be used for grant applications to fund safety improvements. For example, the administration can glean that an intersection they had previously considered well-designed is a site of frequent, “near-misses,” which often get lost in the traditional traffic analysis.
Enforcement technology can serve as the backbone supporting the engineering and education required in a far-reaching traffic safety initiative toward zero roadway fatalities. We look forward to continued partnership with the Governors Highway Safety Association to help assist states and communities in reaching their roadway safety goals.