Homendy: Rising Highway Fatalities ‘Not a Good Story’

A sharp increase in 2020 traffic crash fatalities tallied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration again highlights the “significant health crisis” occurring on U.S. roads, according to Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

Speaking at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2022 Washington Briefing keynote luncheon, Homendy said, “I will never accept any number but zero” when it comes to highway fatalities, “for what other number is acceptable? These are not just numbers: these are family members; these are friends.”

NHTSA noted that 38,824 people lost their lives in traffic crashes nationwide in 2020; the highest number of fatalities since 2007.

Fatal crashes increased by 6.8 percent and the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled increased to 1.34, the agency said, which is a 21 percent increase from 2019.

NTSB’s Homendy. Photo by AASHTO.

During her speech at AASHTO’s 2022 Washington Briefing, NTSB’s Homendy stressed that, “how we think and talk about [roadway] safety informs how we act about safety.”

The reason her focus remains on achieving zero highway fatalities is that the commercial aviation industry achieved a similar goal in 2020. “I know for a fact you can get to zero – I’ve seen it here at the NTSB,” Homendy emphasized.

“Look at aviation. When one death occurs in aviation, everyone comes to the table – pilots, air traffic controllers, suppliers, manufacturers, and survivors,” she said. “We are going to disagree on ways to improve highway safety – but if you listen with your heart, you will find commonality – and that will allow us to find a way forward and get to zero.”

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