Toward Zero Deaths

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A National Strategy on Highway Safety

With over 35,000 fatalities occurring on the Nation’s highways each year, roadway safety remains one of the most challenging issues facing America. Although many highway safety stakeholder organizations have stepped forward to address these needs, there is no singular strategy that unites these common efforts. The dialogue on the need to create a national strategic highway safety plan was explored at a workshop in Savannah, Georgia, on September 2–3, 2009. There was strong agreement among the participants that even one death is unacceptable and therefore, we must aspire to move toward zero deaths. Although many details need to be addressed, with this input from over 70 workshop participants and further discussions with the Steering Committee following the workshop, the name of this effort became Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety.

What Is the Purpose of This Strategy?

Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety will be a data-driven effort focusing on identifying and creating opportunities for changing American culture as it relates to highway safety. The effort will also focus on developing strong leadership and champions in the organizations that can directly impact highway safety through engineering, enforcement, education, emergency medical service (EMS), policy, public health, communications, and other efforts. The national strategy will be utilized as a guide and framework by safety stakeholder organizations to enhance current national, state and local safety planning and implementation efforts. The intent is to develop a mechanism for bringing together a wider range of highway safety stakeholders to work toward institutional and cultural changes.

One of the most significant needs is to change Americans’ attitudes toward highway safety. There are already programs and technologies that can result in substantial reductions in fatalities; however, those benefits will not be realized as long as the public and elected officials are not willing to pass laws or take the actions needed to implement them.

This is why the national strategy will have two tiers: Cultural Change and Building the Foundation of Safety. We need to bring about cultural changes and strengthen leadership while improving the effectiveness of current activities.

What Are the Next Steps?

A draft outline for the national strategy was developed from white papers, webinars, and other stakeholder input. This was modified based on input received during the stakeholder workshop in August 2010 (information is available on The next phase is the full development of the national strategy framework through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 17-51 [link to NCHRP 17-51: ], including prioritized potential strategies and research needs, as well as marketing and communication plans. Once developed, the National Strategy will be a tool that stakeholders can use to formulate their safety plans at the national, state, or local level.


Program Contact

Robert Ritter