By Brad Sant, senior vice president of safety and education, ARTBA

Rising traffic fatalities and the challenges of driverless cars were the focus of a July 18 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Nearly 35,100 people died on U.S. roadways in 2015, a 7.2 percent spike in traffic fatalities from the previous year, and the largest single year percent increase in 50 years, according to testimony at the hearing. Officials said preliminary numbers appear to show that roadway fatalities increased further in 2016.

“In addition to the tragic impact on human life, the economic and societal consequences of motor vehicle crashes reach over $800 billion annually, further demonstrating the importance of investing in highway safety and achieving a better safety record on U.S. highways,” the heads of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said in joint statement to the subcommittee.

Automated driving systems are capable of addressing the critical cause of over 90 percent of serious crashes: human choices and errors, the agency chiefs said.

The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HISP) is the “cornerstone” of FHWA’s efforts to eliminate fatalities and injuries. Components of program include the State Strategic Highway Safety Plans and the Model Inventory of Roadway Elements.

Other federal government infrastructure safety efforts, include:

  • Railway-Highway Crossings Program
  • Local and Rural Road Safety Program
  • Safety Performance Management Standards
  • Every Day Counts Initiatives, and
  • Highway, Bridge and Tunnel Inspection Programs

ARTBA has partnered with FHWA to advance transportation technology and innovation, including the matter of “proprietary products.” The association believes that many agency regulations initially intended to ensure competition have evolved to become an impediment to innovations that could lead to longer lasting, less costly infrastructure and safety improvements.

Watch a video of the hearing, “FAST Act Implementation: Improving the Safety of the Nation’s Roads.”