NTSB chief: focus on road safety must shift to entire system

The new chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board wants to change the way governments and businesses look at highway safety to consider the whole system rather than individual driver behavior

DETROIT -- The new chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board wants governments and businesses to change the way they look at highway safety, considering the whole system rather than individual driver behavior.

Homendy used speeding as an example of the “Safe System Approach” to road safety. Rather than focusing solely on drivers, she questioned whether the whole system failed. She asked whether road designs encourage high speeds, or whether “ill-conceived” federal guidance has led to increasing speed limits in states. She also asked about states that take away the ability of local authorities to set lower speed limits and “manufacturers who design vehicles that can exceed 100 miles per hour or that have no speed limiters.”

Speeding-related crashes rose 11% last year, she said, with troopers in her home state of Virginia posting images on social media of tickets to speeding drivers, one for going 115 mph in an area with a 55 mph speed limit.

She told the group of state and territorial highway safety officials that speed limits and laws against impaired driving still have to be enforced. But she said enforcement alone can't make the roads safer.

The NTSB investigates road crashes and other transportation incidents, but it has no regulatory authority. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates vehicles, while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates trucking companies. The Federal Highway Administration is responsible for roadways.

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