What COVID-19 Response Can Teach Us About Roadway Safety

Amid many drastic changes to daily life, road safety remains a critical focal point for safety.

May 05, 2020

Communities across the U.S. are facing uncertainties and grappling with how to address the needs of individuals while combating the historic COVID-19 pandemic. People are adapting rapidly, changing the way we work and educate, staying closer to home than usual and discovering strength by finding new ways to support neighbors. We are facing an unprecedented challenge, and it is heartening to see individuals and organizations rising to meet it.

Transportation – and our way of thinking about transportation systems and roadway fatalities – have been impacted by coronavirus, too. For years, roadway fatalities, a public health crisis in their own right, have been the primary focus of transportation officials and advocates as they work to find and implement life-saving strategies. Now more than ever, we must make our streets safer so our first responders and healthcare workers can remain focused on treating and containing the virus.

The nearly 40,000 lives lost on the roads each year never strike the same kind of urgency this global pandemic has created, except among those working in transportation safety and planning, including the Road to Zero Coalition and National Safety Council. For us, zero is the only acceptable number. As we look at how COVID-19 is impacting transportation safety, we have an opportunity to make changes that will yield long-term success and help us rethink our transportation systems.

People are acting quickly, decisively and collectively around issues of safety. Roadway safety can and should be a part of this. Currently, fewer people are driving, and many are using alternative forms of transportation they might not have previously considered. Driving safely has become a form of civic responsibility; no one wants to overburden our healthcare system by redirecting resources to preventable crashes.

For the Road to Zero Coalition, the actions and discussions taking place at the local, state and national levels demonstrate that we can change the way people use and think about transportation to create systemic changes and reduce fatalities and injuries. It expands our way of thinking, bringing a multi-modal approach to transportation and emphasizing the need to have goods and services within close distance to where people live. It challenges how we think about our roadways and whether they can be a destination as well as a route. It brings transportation into the discussions of public health, environment, access and equity. In time, we can realize our goal of zero roadway deaths if we have the will to make necessary changes.

Over the next several months, the Road to Zero Coalition will release a series of posts, webinars and resources to help illustrate how transportation and roadway safety is being transformed through COVID-19 and how the Road to Zero strategy can inform conversations both today and tomorrow. We will be looking at our existing Road to Zero strategy to not only make recommendations for reducing roadway fatalities in the time of COVID-19, but improving transportation safety in the post-pandemic world.

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