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Top US Highway Safety Officials Vow to Reverse Spike in Traffic Deaths at usRAP Event Hosted by FHWA

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Amid a disturbing national surge in traffic fatalities, top officials from the Federal Highway Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board today reiterated their commitment to roadway safety at an event highlighting the United States Road Assessment Program (usRAP), an innovative tool to aid in the march toward zero highway deaths.

“Roadway safety is the top priority of the Federal Highway Administration,” Deputy FHWA Administrator David Kim said, speaking at Department of Transportation headquarters. “We have made great progress in so many ways, but the bottom line is that in 2015 there were 35,092 highway fatalities, which represents a 7.2 percent increase in deaths from 2014. Any roadway fatality is too many, which is why our ‘Toward Zero Deaths’ initiative must continue.”

Toward Zero Deaths, known as TZD, is a national strategy for eliminating the burden of road trauma from all communities across the country. To assist in this effort, usRAP provides a proactive way for highway agencies to assess the safety of their road networks and make data-driven decisions about how best to address hazards. The program was started in 2004 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and is now sponsored by the Roadway Safety Foundation (RSF), a non-profit organization in Washington, DC.

Unlike traditional safety management tools that depend on crash data, usRAP uses photo- or videologs of road segments to identify risks based on their design features. This way, risks can be mitigated long before a death or injury takes place, and the data can be collected by tools as freely available and user friendly as Google Streetview™ or similar offerings. The resulting analysis provides a star rating of safety on a familiar 1-5 scale, and a detailed plan that guides engineers to the trouble spots where they will see the greatest safety returns for their investments.

“usRAP is part of a global body of road assessment programs that hold tremendous public health and injury prevention potential,” said NTSB Vice Chairman Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr. “By emphasizing ‘upstream’ improvements to the built environment, it is a program that focuses on prevention and offers practical solutions to protect all of us as road users, whether we’re traveling by foot, bike, motorcycle, car, or bus.”

Kim added that FHWA’s commitment to roadway safety is “why we support the use of the U.S. Road Assessment Program and have a cooperative agreement in place to provide funds for the Roadway Safety Foundation so that we can help communities improve safety at the local level.”

As part of RSF’s relaunch of usRAP, the organization is working with FHWA to support the development of local road safety plans using the program in two counties: Barron County, WI and Palm Beach County, FL. Though numerous successful state- and county-level usRAP projects have been completed previously, this marks the first time the work has directly involved the U.S. Department of Transportation, and underscores FHWA’s recognition of usRAP as part of its Every Day Counts initiative to speed the implementation of proven technologies and crash countermeasures nationwide.

“We are extremely grateful for FHWA’s continued partnership,” said RSF Executive Director Greg Cohen. “Their Every Day Counts initiative is helping to save lives each and every day on the nation’s roads by eliminating barriers to the adoption of successful tools and methods. RSF is proud to support usRAP and offer the free use of its protocols to any highway authority in the country.”

Highlighting the broad applicability and importance of usRAP, other speakers included Rob McInerney, CEO of the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), and Scott Jones, Safety Programs Engineer with the Utah Department of Transportation. Utah was the first state-level partner of usRAP and has successfully incorporated the program into its safety planning and analysis activities. Founded in 2005, iRAP is a United Kingdom-based charity that coordinates road assessment programs active in over 70 countries, and has as its central vision “a world free of high risk roads.”

The Roadway Safety Foundation is a 501(c) (3) charitable and educational organization. Our mission is to reduce the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and fatalities through improvements to roadway systems and their environment.

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See AASHTO's Transportation TV coverage of the event here.