Organisation of road safety
The United States uses a “federalism” approach that divides the powers of government between the national (federal) government and state and local governments. Under federalism, each level of
government has sovereignty in some areas and shares powers in others. At the national level, Congress passes the laws and assigns the funding that provides the overall structure for USDOT to
carry out its safety mission.
However, most traffic safety laws and policies are enacted and developed at the State level. For example, each of the 50 States in the U.S. has the authority to set its own speed limit, distracted driving, or seatbelt use law.
Congress can influence the States by providing incentive grants if they enact certain laws that have been proven effective or penalties if they do not. It can also use performance results as eligibility
criteria for grants in some cases.
USDOT implements the grant programmes and provides guidance to the States on developing effective strategies that address their particular traffic safety challenges.
Within USDOT, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the lead role in reducing traffic crashes and fatalities.
In FY 2010, the Department of Transportation designated reducing roadway fatalities as one of its high-priority performance goals. Three agencies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), are working together to address multiple dimensions of roadway safety.
Road safety strategy for 2011-2020
The number one priority of the Department of Transportation (USDOT) remains safety.
To align the programme and policy actions needed to meet key challenges most effectively, USDOT has established four fatality sub measures – on passenger vehicles, non-occupants, motorcycle riders,
and large-truck- bus-related fatalities – which represent the breadth of all highway users. The purposes of this approach are to more closely examine the fatality rates of the different segments of
highway users, focus the energy and resources involved and develop new strategies to combat sub measure trends.
While the USDOT has developed sub measures for programmatic effectiveness, the overall fatality rate goal continues to be primary measure. This was modified in 2009 to take into account the recent
declines in the frequency of fatal motor vehicle crashes and to set more ambitious targets. The overall fatality rate goal for 2012 had a target of 1.05.
With respect to measurement of the performance of the Department’s Safety Priority, the targets for the USDOT include, in addition to an overall fatality rate measure, four sub measures to better identify trends within each group. Each measure is a rate that combines the number of fatalities and an exposure measure for that group:
• non-occupant fatality rates
• passenger vehicle fatality rate (fatalities / veh-miles traveled)
• large truck fatality rate (fatalities / veh-miles traveled)
• motorcycle fatality rate (fatalities / number of registered vehicles)
The fatality rates are forecasted through statistical methods for a number of years into the future in order to guide a plan of action for safety countermeasures. These forecasted rates use historical data
combined with an evaluation of the existing countermeasures, trend in data, and other societal factors that may affect the fatality rates in the future.
Each year, the USDOT calculates the actual fatality rates for the overall target and each sub measure.
This is compared to the target set in previous years to determine whether the Department met its goal.
USDOT programmes are then reviewed in concert with the economic conditions, the environment, and other factors to better understand the rates and the status of road safety.
The DOT currently has performance targets set through 2014 for the overall fatality rate and NHTSA and FMCSA have performance targets for each of the four sub measures. For year 2014, DOT’s
overall motor vehicle crash fatality rate target is 1.02 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles travelled.
The sub measure targets for 2014 are 0.16 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles travelled for the non-occupant fatality rate, 63 fatalities per 100 000 registrations for the motorcyclist fatality rate,
0.82 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles travelled for the passenger vehicle fatality rate, and the large truck and bus fatality rate for 2014 is 0.114 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles travelled.
Monitoring With the recent increase in the number of motor vehicle crash fatalities, the fatality rate for 2012 was 1.14 and the target was not reached.