Speeches and Presentations

Remarks at Global NCAP Annual Meeting

Dr. Mark R. Rosekind , NHTSA Administrator

Thursday, October 27, 2016 | Ruckersville, Va

Thank you Adrian [Lund, President, IIHS].

Good morning everyone, and welcome to the United States.

It’s good to see many familiar faces from the last time we met together in Brasilia. Since that point, it has been an incredibly busy year in roadway safety. Here in the United States, I would note just a few of our developments:

We launched NCAP Tomorrow, starting a process to reshape our Five Star Ratings Program for the 21st century.

We joined with the international auto industry to sign the Proactive Safety Principles, putting safety first at the table.

We unveiled the United States Federal Automated Vehicle Policy, to accelerate the safe development and deployment of automated vehicles to our roads.

And just last month, we launched the Road to Zero coalition, bringing together industry and advocates and government in our nation’s first truly comprehensive commitment to reach zero traffic fatalities within 30 years.

While we have made great successes, unfortunately over the last year our work has only become more urgent.

Last year I reported to you that traffic fatalities seemed to be on the rise in the United States. In 2015 we lost 35,092 lives on our roadways. That was a 7.2 percent increase over the year before, and marked the single greatest percentage increase in 50 years.

And our early numbers show that this tragic and dangerous trend is continuing. Our early estimate shows that traffic fatalities in the first half of this year spiked by more than 10 percent.

This is an immediate crisis that demands immediate action. It’s also a long-term problem that compels us to find enduring solutions.

And it is not a problem that we bear alone. Today NHTSA is publishing a new study that analyzes fatality rates across high-income countries. Our study, which will be available at crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov, looks at fatality rates by vehicle miles travelled across the globe. We found that there is, quote, “an apparent global similarity in traffic safety among jurisdictions with comparable economic, demographic, environmental and population density characteristics.”

In short, we are all in this together. Traffic fatalities don’t care about political boundaries. Problems like speeding, impaired driving, and seatbelt use transcend our borders.

And none of us can solve these problems on our own. I know the people in this room don’t need to be convinced, because the people in this room know that by the time the day is over, we will have lost another 3,400 people on roadways across this planet.

Today I want to share a few words with you about our approach in the United States. We refer to it as the three lanes on the road to zero.

Our first lane has to deal with behavioral change. We know that 94 percent of crashes on our roads can be tied back to a human choice or error. That’s somebody speeding through a school zone, failing to buckle up, or making the reckless decision to drink and take the wheel.

We have worked enormously hard over the last 50 years to cut down on those behaviors, using an effective formula of strong laws, high-visibility enforcement, and education. Those efforts have brought seatbelt use to all-time highs, and have saved countless lives. But we know that those efforts alone are not enough.

After all, it was Einstein who told us what you are if you keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

So we know we need to do more of what works, but we also need innovative solutions. That’s the motivation behind the Road to Zero coalition we launched last month. Together with the National Safety Council, we’re using new money and new partnerships to aggressively deploy short-term strategies to go after rising fatalities, while building out a long-term plan to get to zero.

Our second lane is about advanced automated and connected vehicle technologies. We see amazing potential in these technologies to totally transform, even revolutionize, roadway safety. After all, with 94 percent of crashes tied back to humans, we can continue working to change the human, or we can find ways for technology to help the human driver, or replace them all together.

These technologies hold enormous promise for providing mobility to millions of Americans without easy access to personal transportation—that includes the elderly and people with disabilities. Automated technologies can help cities increase capacity without pouring a single new truck load of concrete. These vehicles could save energy and cut air pollution, as well.

But at NHTSA in particular, our primary focus is always on how we can save more lives and reduce crashes on our roadways. Last month we released our Federal Automated Vehicles Policy which lays the path for the expedited development, testing and deployment of automated vehicles.

We are also hard at work on connected technologies like vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, which similarly promise huge advances in decreasing crashes.

Our third and final lane is about proactive vehicle safety. And that is the topic that we are all gathered here today to discuss.

At NHTSA, for 50 years our approach to vehicle safety has been largely reactive. We prescribe safety standards, and then wait for problems to happen. Those problems too often come with injury counts or fatalities.

We are striking out on a new path, built on proactivity. This started with the launch of our new NCAP Tomorrow program last December. The program will specifically reward manufacturers for looking for ways to build in new proactive safety measures. For the first time, our program will rate based not just on how vehicles perform in a crash, but in how well they can prevent crashes in the first place.

In January, we joined with Secretary Foxx and the leaders of 18 global automakers to sign the Proactive Safety Principles, a landmark document which commits the industry to working with us to address vehicle safety concerns in an upfront and transparent manner.

Our approach has already borne early successes.

In March, with the assistance of IIHS and other partners, we announced a voluntary agreement with automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard on virtually all new passenger vehicles by 2022. This was done without a regulation, bringing this vital safety feature to the road years faster than if we had gone through the rulemaking process.

Industry is also working on its own to implement proactive safety. They’re already working together on improving the recall and remedy process, and they entered into an information sharing agreement to fight against cyber attacks.

Our new Federal Automated Vehicles Policy is an embodiment of our proactive approach .For the first time, we’ll be working with automakers, developers and testers at the front end, ensuring through our 15-Point Safety Assessment that safety is made supreme throughout the development process.

Our work on proactive safety is a new approach, and it’s going to take some adjustment for everyone involved. But I am confident that it will help us all — industry and government together — improve vehicle safety and ultimately save lives on our roadways.

But let me be clear: We do not think we have the monopoly on good ideas, and we will be out searching for innovative new strategies wherever we can find them.

The people in this room have had enormous successes advancing lifesaving measures in nations around the world. We really are in this together. If what we have done in the United States can help you, then we want to help you. And if you have success in your nation, we want to hear about it.

I started off today with some alarming numbers about the rising fatalities we’re facing in the United States, and around the world. I would like to finish with one additional number.

613,501. That is that number of lives that have been saved by vehicle technologies over the last 50 years.

Those technologies — like seat belts and air bags — may have once been controversial, but are now considered indispensable safety tools.

The work that we do in our NCAP programs, and in all of the other work we do to enhance vehicle safety, saves lives.

Thank you for your continued commitment, and we look forward to continue to be your steadfast partners in our shared mission.