We Can Speed Toward Safety Today

We don't have to wait for the technology of tomorrow.

Alex Epstein is the Senior Director for Digital Strategy and Content, Advocacy at the National Safety Council.

Our roadways remain dangerous. Today and every day this year more than 100 people will die on America's roads. And the trend is, unfortunately, upward. While the fully automated, self-driving car may indeed eventually be coming to the rescue, tens of thousands of people will die before it arrives.

The fully automated car is frequently in the news. But read the reports closely and you will see our nation is still a long way away from having cars that drive you safely and independently in any geographic area, through any weather conditions, ​while you check email or grab a nap.

Knowing that, we need to look at what can be done today to stop this carnage. At a recent meeting in Washington D.C., representatives of the National Safety Council and the National Transportation Safety Board sat down with experts from various organizations to discuss safety and advancing automotive technology. One of the major takeaways was there are many vehicle safety features – like automatic emergency braking or lane departure warning – that can save lives and are available now, but they are only slowly making their way into the vehicle fleet.

There is little question that technology has the capacity to make our roadways safer in the years and decades to come. When we see preventable deaths eliminated, technology will surely have played a huge part. But we don't need the advancements of tomorrow to be safer today. Drivers have the power right now to prevent nearly all crashes. We know that driving responsibly – including driving the safe speed for conditions and making sure we are not tired, distracted or impaired when we get behind the wheel – can prevent crashes and save thousands of lives every year. When crashes do happen, they can be survivable. Lives can be saved by simply having everyone buckle up, every time.

This is one reason the Council is so happy to be working with other agencies as part of the Road to Zero Coalition. This group is working to use proven strategies to reduce fatalities on our streets and highways, approaches that are effective and can be structured to suit any driver in any community. In addition, we have the MyCarDoesWhat campaign, established to help drivers better understand and be better served by the assistive safety features already installed in their vehicles.

Roadway fatalities can be stopped today. By using the wisdom and tools we already have, we can help drivers live long enough to become, someday, passengers in their own cars.

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