Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Safety: Worthy of Investment

James Dean. Princess Diana. “60 Minutes” correspondent Bob Simon.

What do these celebrities have in common? They all died in car crashes.

I have no doubt you can name many more people who fall into that category. We all can. Friends, colleagues, neighbors, family.

We have been talking about the need to maintain and improve our transportation system and the needed increase in transportation funding to do that. We’ve talked about the economy. We’ve talked about growth. But truthfully, there is nothing more important than safety when we talk about transportation. There are an average of 30,000 traffic fatalities in the US each year and an average of 200 per year in Idaho. One death is too many, much less 30,000!

What can we do?

No one “fix” will solve all transportation safety issues. It takes a combination of infrastructure improvements, enforcement of safety laws, improved vehicle safety, and most of all, personal action.

Improvements to our transportation system don’t have to be big. Often, the improvements with the most “bang for the buck” – the most lives saved for the investment – are simple: better signage, rumble strips, speed limits.

Coupled with these is enforcement. Unfortunately, getting to one’s destination safely often isn’t enough to convince people to drive the speed limit, not run stop signs, and not drink, or text, and drive. We need enforcement of our traffic safety laws.

Improvements in both of these categories – infrastructure and enforcement – cost money. Will an increase in transportation funding help us to improve our infrastructure and save lives? Yes. Is the investment worth it? I think so.

However, as I said, those aren’t the only pieces to the puzzle. Auto manufacturers are working to make our vehicles safer all the time – think of air bags, backup cameras, and cars that alert you to a potential accident. When my parents were growing up, cars didn’t even come with seatbelts…we’ve come a long way since those days.

But, all the improvements and safety measures in the world can’t protect us from ourselves.

We are still human, and despite all the hype over autonomous cars, right now, we are the ones behind the wheel. There are actions we can all take, that cost nothing, that make our roads safer: 
  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Buckle your kids into their car seats.
  • Don’t drink and drive, or text and drive.
  • Wear a helmet if you’re on your bicycle or motorcycle.
  • Obey traffic safety laws.
  • Watch for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Regardless of whether you agree with me on transportation funding, the economy, taxes, or anything else, I hope you’ll agree with me on this: be safe, for yourself and those who care about you.

Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.