By Steven Buckley
Between 2005 and 2009, Kansas averaged 417 fatalities. That’s 2,083 dead people.
Who’s to blame? The road? The vehicle? The driver? The environment? Sometimes. It’s all very complicated and sometimes quite contentious. What’s not contentious, however, is that everybody wants to get from home to somewhere to back home safely.
To this end, highway departments have worked to make the traveled-way as safe and forgiving as possible, vehicle manufacturers have worked to make vehicles safer, the EMS (emergency medical services) community has worked to reduce response times, and cultural forces have made seat belts cool and drunk driving not. Fatality rates continue to fall almost every year. We've come a long way. But as of August 18, in 2011, 202 people in Kansas left home for the last time.
So how do we turn 417 a year to 400 to 365 to 208 to zero? How do we balance finite resources and successfully target our investments in traffic and highway safety? It starts with a plan.
In Kansas, that plan is our Strategic Highway Safety Plan, or SHSP. An SHSP is a coordinated and informed approach to reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. There are three keys to this statement: 1) It’s coordinated--multi-agency and multi-disciplinary 2) it applies to all public roads--state, city, county, township, and 3) this plan is not about reducing fender benders--it’s about reducing fatal and serious injury crashes. An SHSP is based on the 4Es of traffic safety: engineering, education, enforcement, and EMS. And finally, an SHSP is data-driven. Investments in safety should be based on real data meeting real needs.
In Kansas, we have created our SHSP to be a living document. The reality of change demands flexibility, and we want to be ready with strategies and resources. The SHSP is led by a multi-agency Executive Safety Council whose purpose is to champion transportation safety on all public roads in Kansas by developing and maintaining a SHSP that drives safety-related programs. Reporting to the ESC are Emphasis Area Teams whose purpose is to develop action plans for implementation of the SHSP. Support Teams for data, education, and local roads have also been created to assist the emphasis area teams.
Want more information? Or better yet, want to get involved? Visit our website at http://www.ksdot.org/burTrafficSaf/reports/kshs.asp.
Steven Buckley is KDOT’s State Highway Safety Engineer