Wekiva Parkway under construction in Central Florida. Photo: Mary Brooks.

By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

ARTBA is calling for a shift in how the nation approaches roadway safety. The association April 9 submitted its views to a U.S. House Highways and Transit subcommittee hearing.

Rather than the usual federal focus on reducing the number of crashes by improving motorists’ behavior, ARTBA believes the premise must be turned around to accept the fact that some drivers will inevitably make mistakes. On all major routes—and others to the extent practicable—the U.S. roadway system must anticipate user error and be designed, constructed, equipped and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent worker, pedestrian, cyclist or other driver, ARTBA’s written testimony says.

“We have the technology and ‘know how’ to build our roadway system to anticipate user error,” ARTBA’s testimony says. “It can be designed, constructed, equipped, and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent victim.”

More than 37,000 people were killed in 2017 U.S. traffic crashes, including roadway workers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Work zone fatalities increased to 799 in 2017 from 586 in 2010. (2018 data is not available.)

ARTBA’s testimony emphasizes highway work zone safety. It reminds Congress that through federal rulemaking after the SAFETEA-LU surface transportation law and further provisions in both the MAP-21 and FAST Act laws, lawmakers and previous administrations have expressed the intent to use increased positive separation between workers and motorists on construction projects.

“The law has not been fully implemented and positive separation is still not used as regularly as Congress intended,” ARTBA’s testimony says. “New products and technologies are available that make the practice more practical and cost-effective.”

ARTBA has previously called for the repeal of a century-old federal procurement rule that has become a major regulatory roadblock to new technologies that promise to help advance safety and alleviate traffic congestion.

ARTBA’s testimony also notes that sound investment in safe transportation infrastructure is a bi-partisan priority. The association is urging Congress and the administration to pass a permanent, sustainable revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund, either as part of broad infrastructure legislation or next year’s scheduled reauthorization of the FAST Act.