Thursday, November 3, 2016 | Washington, D.C.
Good morning. I am happy to see you all here today and I want to welcome those watching via webcast to discuss the safety of older road users.
The safety of older road users is a special part of our work at NHTSA, and we are very lucky to have such a thoughtful and productive constituency devoted to this critical issue. When we think about vulnerable road users, we tend to think first of children, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. But in some respects there is no more vulnerable population than older road users.
Our studies show that a 75-year old vehicle occupant faces more than five times the risk of dying as a 21-year-old in the same severity crash. This special vulnerability deserves special attention and it is why we are so appreciative of all the work done by people like you to identify risks and develop countermeasures for older road users. Thanks to you, we have a wide range of effective tools available and our objective today is to identify a path to bring those tools into more widespread use.
One important difference between our work with older road users and other vulnerable populations is the focus on mobility. I don’t need to tell you how important mobility is for the quality of life for older people – or how it changes the way we look at solutions. But I do want to tell you about a couple recent initiatives that could result in great improvements in both safety and mobility.
First I want to mention the new Federal Automated Vehicles Policy released just over a month ago. Automated vehicles offer tremendous potential for everyone, but especially for people whose mobility may be affected by their inability to drive safely. This new policy is a proactive approach to safety assurance and actively facilitates innovation. Self-driving cars will benefit everyone, and especially older road users and we need their safe introduction as soon as possible.
I also want to mention the Road to Zero. Several weeks ago, we launched a new initiative that will set a course for the goal that many of us have been working on for our entire career – zero traffic deaths. We are at a point in history where this dream is becoming real, something we can see in a 30-year time frame. We formed a new Road to Zero Coalition that will design a future scenario that will describe how emerging technology, together with improvements in roadway design and traffic behaviors, can eliminate traffic fatalities within 30 years.
Think about that. Many of us have worked on this mission for our entire career, yet last year we had 35,092 deaths, up more than 7 percent from the prior year. The next generation, our traffic safety successors, can be the ones to see this problem eliminated during their career.
That is our long term goal, but the Coalition will also focus on the near term. NHTSA is working with the National Safety Council to make $1 million available for innovative safety work for each of the next three years. Many of you were at the Road to Zero kick-off meeting last month. I urge you to join the Coalition and take part in both the near and long term challenge.
I am looking forward to the discussion today on older driver demographics, research, and the current range of safety and mobility interventions, and how all of us, government officials, researchers, health care professionals, law enforcement, and others, can work together to improve the safety of older road users. I am especially looking forward to the question and answer periods, for those interactions push the boundaries and help us understand how our work fits together. So I encourage all of you to listen carefully and ask questions of the presenters.
I appreciate all of you attending and I look forward to a full day of thoughtful, interesting and provocative discussion about what we can do to enhance the safety of older road users.