Getting to Zero

By Don Karol

Eliminating deaths on our highways is a winnable battle. Just ask the thousands of transportation safety advocates who work tirelessly to achieve the goal of zero deaths on our highways. This week more than 450 medical professionals, law enforcement personnel, state and local officials, and more met in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the Governors Highway Safety Association’s (GHSA) annual meeting.

The meeting included presentations and lively discussions on ways to reduce the nearly 34,000 deaths each year on our nation’s highways. Many focused on motorcycle safety, teen driving, occupant protection, aging drivers, and drunk driving. These are issues the NTSB has been focusing on for years, many of which are on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List.

A common theme throughout the meeting was the need for all of us to change the way we approach driving. When behind the wheel, driving should be the focus. All of the distractions we have available today in our cars, buses, and trucks should not divert our attention. Driving can be enjoyable – not because of the many gadgets now available in vehicles – but because we are able to arrive at our intended destination safely without harming others.

The NTSB welcomes the partnerships that it has forged with groups like GHSA. We have seen accidents firsthand and know full well the alarming rate in which highway deaths occur. We also understand the audacious task of working to dramatically improve the safety on our roadways. It is up to the highway community – and everyone who drives – to change the driving culture. And for parents, it is no longer as simple as teaching our children how to drive. They also need to fully understand the responsibility for themselves and others that goes with them when they climb behind the wheel.

One strong message from the meeting is that getting to zero deaths on our nation’s roadways means creating a culture that embraces safe driving behavior as the norm. The NTSB couldn’t agree more and is working to achieve that goal.

Don Karol is Director of the Office of Highway Safety.

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