Exploring Best Practices for Equity in Transportation

A commitment to roadway safety can take many forms.

February 24, 2021

For coalitions like Road to Zero, “commitment” looks like zero traffic fatalities by 2050. For planners, engineers and practitioners, roadway safety commitment means making on-the-ground changes to the built environment. For individual advocates, committing to roadway safety may mean sharing the story of a devastating instance when traffic safety became personal.

No matter the form, the intent is to save lives, improve accessibility and create a transportation system that works for all.

Unfortunately, that “for all” has sometimes been a stumbling block in our efforts. We know that disparities exist within roadway safety, and we have written about them and explored them in the past year at NSC and in the Road to Zero Coalition. We know that for far too many years, roadway safety has failed our Black, Indigenous and people of color community members, limiting their mobility and creating devastating results. This is evidenced in their higher rates of fatalities on our roads, oft-reported examples of unfair enforcement of traffic safety laws, and an overall barrier to accessing jobs, schools, parks, healthy food and much more.

Recently, NSC took the next step in its efforts to address these disparities and do its part to make roadway safety more equitable. The new Equity in Transportation: Best Practices Framework is not only a guiding document for NSC and its programs, but also a promise that we can and will do better as we work to improve mobility for all individuals and communities. The framework challenges us to rethink our programming, communications and partnerships, and acknowledges the traffic legacies that we must work to overcome. It is a public statement of our commitment and one that we hope others will join us in making.

The framework uses the 3 E’s of transportation safety (engineering, education and enforcement) to explore how equity can be better incorporated in each, as well as proposing that equity stand on its own as the fourth “E”. Recommendations call out the need for improved and genuine community engagement, assessing possible negative impacts of laws and regulations on individuals and communities, and being intentional about who is at the table (and where that table is) when working on our shared issues. NSC works in a variety of ways to improve roadway safety through its programming, advocacy efforts, and communicating to members and chapters. These recommendations, while not exhaustive, are meant to be a guidepost for our efforts and a way of thinking about mobility going forward.

This framework is not the end of our efforts. We will continue to learn, engage and explore topics related to equity and mobility at large, just as our president and CEO, Lorraine Martin, did during a recent Congressional hearing on Examining Equity in Transportation Safety Enforcement. This work, like the mission of eliminating traffic fatalities, is a process. But our mission, and the mission of our roadway safety partners, can never be achieved without also addressing inequity.

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With a century-long legacy, the National Safety Council is a global center for safety expertise. Let's work together to align resources. We look forward to learning about ways we can join efforts to expand safety everywhere!

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