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NHTSA has set as a national goal, the reduction of highway fatalities to no more than 1.0 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 2008, with intermediate goals of reducing alcohol-related fatalities to no more than .53 per 100 million VMT by 2005, and to increasing safety belt use to 85 percent by the same year.   NHTSA, in partnership with state and local criminal justice systems and advocacy groups, has made significant progress in meeting these traffic safety goals during the last decade.  Data recently released from the administration show that the fatality rate per 100 million VMT dropped from 1.75 in 1992 to 1.51 in 2002, and safety belt use increased significantly from 45 percent to 75 percent during the same period.  The number of alcohol-related fatalities dropped over the decade from 47 percent of all traffic fatalities in 1992 to 41 percent in 2002.1  

Despite this progress, traffic safety today remains a challenge.  In 2002, approximately 42,800 people died in traffic crashes—an average of 117 persons killed each day—and approximately 2.9 million people were injured.  Alcohol-related fatal crashes cost 17,419 people their lives that year, and speeding-related crashes killed 13,713 persons.2 

To address some of these safety concerns, NHTSA and NCJA convened a meeting of criminal justice association leaders on September 29 and 30, 2003, in Washington, D.C.  The two-day Criminal Justice Associations Leadership Meeting, Traffic Safety Today, drew approximately 70 individuals representing organizations in law enforcement, prosecution, and the courts.  This meeting served as a follow-up to the Criminal Justice Summit on Impaired Driving held November 22-23, 2002 in Washington, DC, by NHTSA and the NCJA.  

Meeting Design

Traffic Safety Today was designed to bring these leaders to the table to discuss collaboratively and openly issues critical to traffic safety, with a view to gaining commitments and recommended actions from participants on strategies to improve the criminal justice system's handling of traffic safety cases. 

Plenary sessions were held on four key topics:

  • Criminal Justice Summit on Impaired Driving: What's Happened and What's Next?
  • Culture Change: Transforming Speed Management.
  • Performance Measures.
  • Transforming Traffic Safety to a High Priority. 

NHTSA also solicited feedback on the administration's three-pronged strategy to combat impaired driving:

  • Maintain high visibility enforcement.
  • Expand DWI courts and train special prosecutors; and
  • Improve alcohol screening and intervention, where appropriate, for DWI offenders.

The leaders met with their professional counterparts to review the issues raised during the plenary discussions on the four topic areas, and identify and prioritize possible actions for either the represented national organizations or individuals at the state and local levels.  The small groups identified actions to be taken, key stakeholders, including those not present at the meeting, and the resources needed to bring about change.

Multidisciplinary breakout groups then reviewed the priority issues and strategies developed by the small groups by profession and identified common areas of interest.  They developed multidisciplinary strategies that will help the justice system as a whole improve traffic safety.  The participants reported to NHTSA Administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge, M.D. the results of their discussions.