The U.S. Department of Transportation has unveiled its National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) aimed at curbing the sudden rise in roadway deaths over the past two years. The proposal calls for more mandatory collision avoidance technology on new vehicles; lowering speed limits on dangerous roads; implementing variable speed limits during bad weather; adding speed cameras, safer designs for new roads and intersections; safer redesigns of existing roads and intersections; better tracking of autonomous vehicle crashes; and better record keeping on chronically bad drivers.
The proposal is designed to be holistic, covering drivers, vehicles, infrastructure, and enforcement, though it lacks many specific details which will presumably be ironed out later by responsible agencies. As the Department of Transportation (DOT) is limited in what it can mandate, many of the proposals will update federal guidelines, which states can choose to adopt, and provide strings-attached grant money to encourage such adoption. Where the feds can mandate, though, they will, particularly when it comes to vehicle regulations.
The DOT’s action was spurred by a sudden rise in deaths on the road in the past two years. Prior to the pandemic, roadway deaths had been steadily dropping for decades, though the rate at which they dropped had slowed significantly in the past ten years. The DOT notes deaths are up especially among pedestrians and cyclists, and the majority of those deaths are Black, Latin, and native peoples, all of whom have corresponding lower rates of vehicle ownership.