InTrans / Nov 29, 2022

2022 Traffic and Safety Forum touts Safe System approach

130+ attend annual conference hosted by InTrans, Iowa DOT

Anuj Sharma, InTrans research scientist, leads one of a series of TAS Talks during the 2022 Traffic and Safety Forum

The 2022 Traffic and Safety Forum keynote speaker Mike Dreznes made the case that road traffic injuries and deaths are a “forgotten pandemic” that needs to be addressed with the same fervor as the global response to COVID-19.

Dreznes, a retired senior vice president for the International Road Federation, then offered the 130+ forum attendees his vision of a world with “road safety vaccines.”

After offering up statistics to highlight the “forgotten” part of the pandemic—3,700 deaths per day worldwide for an estimated 1,350,000 killed on highways around the globe this year, not including injuries—Dreznes focused on the roadway preventative treatments that would be akin to a “vaccine.”

He pointed to the Second Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety (2021–2030) and its adoption of the Safe System approach to address potential roadway hazards likely to result in injuries.

Later in the afternoon, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Senior Safety and Geometric Design Engineer Steve Ratke gave a technical presentation on the FHWA’s Safe System approach.

The five pillars of the Safe System approach, per the FHWA, are safe road users, safe vehicles, safe speeds, safe roads, and post-crash care.

For the forum attendees, consisting mostly of traffic engineers, Dreznes focused largely on the “safe roads” aspects, noting that roadway treatments must understand and forgive human error. Thus, he suggested three measures to address a known safety concern that are in order as follows:

  1. Get rid of the hazard where possible
  2. Make it so road users can avoid the hazard
  3. Make the hazard less dangerous

“Do what you can while you can do it, … and if it’s not safe, don’t do it,” Dreznes said.

The Traffic and Safety Forum is an annual fall event organized and hosted by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University. The purpose of the forum is to enable traffic and safety engineering professionals to learn about new and innovative systems and processes, share individual experiences, and collectively address issues of interest.