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If Not Us, Then Who?

As part of Jacobs’ transportation safety campaign, Global Technology Leader for Performance Management & Policy Mara Campbell weighs in on how to take a stand against roadway-related fatalities.

The World Health Organization estimates that every day, 3,400 people die in roadway-related incidents. As part of Jacobs’ transportation safety campaign, Global Technology Leader for Performance Management & Policy Mara Campbell weighs in on how to take a stand against these fatalities, whether you’re a driver, pedestrian, bicyclist or passenger.

Recently, I was reading estimates by the World Health Organization that suggest on a yearly basis, road crashes kill 1.35 million people, nearly 3,400 road fatalities per day—and injure up to 50 million people. Our world faces a global road safety crisis that hasn’t yet been fully recognized and, in my opinion, will continue to grow unless appropriate action is taken. We all must feel the sting of senseless road fatalities and put ourselves in the position of doing something – if not us, then who?

As someone who spent decades working in state government – specifically in the field of transportation policy - I firmly believe there are opportunities to take a stand against roadway-related fatalities. I frame these opportunities in five categories on how we can make our tomorrow roads safer – as a driver, pedestrian, bicyclist or passenger. 

  1. Embrace technology. Technology is making vehicles safer – it’s that simple! The fallibility of humans is behind almost every road accident. Apart from convenience, cost and environmental efficiency, the most important impetus behind the autonomous vehicle revolution is the technology’s ability to avoid collisions altogether. Systems such as auto-emergency braking, lane departure warning and collision avoidance alarms are already being implemented. Our role as leaders within the transportation industry is to find ways to work with other industry partners such as the automotive industry and help advance and encourage technology that can mold a future of ZERO crashes on our infrastructure. Roads are safer today because of technologies such as seat belts, but the future holds many more ways that technology can save and improve lives on the road. 
  2. Ensure safety legislation. Safety legislation should be a given, but unfortunately there are states who still don’t have road safety legislation in place. Comprehensive road safety legislation—which incorporates evidence-based measures and strict and appropriate penalties, backed by consistent, sustained enforcement and public education—has been proven to reduce road traffic injuries and fatalities. Knowing this, we should be working tirelessly on educating lawmakers on all aspects that influence road safety, such as distracted driving, impaired driving and pedestrian and bicyclist safety.   
  3. Make safety first. Despite the dedicated work of our engineers and planning professionals, there just isn’t enough funding to build and maintain a safe transportation infrastructure.  Today, the tools to significantly reduce road traffic crashes are well knowns–sustained advocacy, political will and dedicated resources. Governments at all levels must take ownership in their primary responsibility to ensure roads are safe. And, it’s not just Government, but the private sector needs to understand their role in this and must invest more in road safety and advocate for greater resources for safety. 
  4. Do your part. Driving is part of the American culture–for many of us it was our “right of passage” when we turn 16. In 2020, it’s projected that road crashes will be the seventh leading cause of death in the world! It doesn’t take much to do your part. Here are six steps each of us can take to make our roads safer:
    1. Put your cell phone down when driving.
    2. Be aware of your surroundings.
    3. Do not let yourself be distracted.
    4. Buckle up and be SURE to buckle up your children.
    5. Do not get behind the wheel of a car impaired.
    6. Respect and obey the posted speed limit.
  5. Become passionate. Nearly all of us know of someone who has been tragically lost in a road fatality. I’m personally passionate about driver and road safety—I look forward to the day that we can all drive and ride safely regardless of where we are or where we are going. Take a safety pledge, make the commitment and help accelerate awareness so everyone arrives to their destination safely.

While road safety is everyone’s responsibility, as transportation professional I feel more responsibility.  It’s time we link arms and join our engineering, education and enforcement strengths to make a difference in roadway accidents. If not us, then who? 

After retiring from the Missouri DOT with nearly 25 years of hands-on DOT experience, Mara Campbell leads Jacobs’ efforts to deliver performance and asset management frameworks and systems. As a leader in transportation performance and asset management with expertise in improving organizational performance, she brings over two decades of experience as a change agent in the development, integration, documentation and implementation of complex systems. In addition to Mara’s change management skills, she implemented the first performance management framework at Missouri DOT, creating organizational awareness and opportunities for improvement.

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