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6 ways to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities in 2024

We have several options that may help keep our streets and highways safer for pedestrians, drivers and cops


It is possible to reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths on our roadways with a strategic approach.

I recently interviewed John Leibovitz, founder and CEO of Passage Safety, based in Washington, DC. Passage Safety helps cities examine, enforce, and evolve traffic behavior for safer, better, and more equitable streets.

Leibovitz wrote a whitepaper titled “From ‘Speed Traps’ to ‘Safety Zones’: Innovating a More Effective and Equitable Automated Traffic Enforcement System with Networked Sensors and Behavioral Science.” As we talked, it seemed that we have several options that may help keep our streets and highways safer for pedestrians, drivers and cops. Here are six ideas to think about to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities for 2024 and beyond.

1. For law enforcement officers, traffic-related injuries and fatalities come during traffic stops. It may seem obvious, but sometimes we tend to focus on the crime or violation and it’s in a law officer’s nature to want to pursue and capture a fleeing subject. In preparation, before the next watch, go over the tenets of the Below 100 program. The mission of Below 100 is to reduce police officer line-of-duty deaths to fewer than 100 per year. The five principles of Below 100 are:

  • Wear your seat belt
  • Watch your speed
  • Wear your vest
  • W.I.N.: What’s Important Now?
  • Remember: Complacency kills!

Destination Zero is a similar program run by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Foundation (NLEOMF) that strives to eliminate law enforcement officer traffic-related fatalities.

2. Promote technology in traffic reduction and enforcement. Vehicle limiters for speed, alcohol screening devices mandated for multi-convicted drunk drivers, and devices to stop or track fleeing vehicles may reduce injuries and fatalities to police, bystanders and the offenders themselves.

Breath analyzers have been mandated by the courts to be affixed in the vehicles of drivers with previous DUIs. New technology can test the air inside the vehicle for alcohol levels in the ambient air, while in addition, cameras inside the cabin of the vehicle can monitor the behavior of the driver for signs of being under the influence. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS, is a project between automakers and the government to work on technology that would stop a vehicle from moving if it detects a driver’s blood-alcohol content is above legal levels. The use of intelligent speed assistance technology to reduce traffic deaths is one of several recommendations the NTSB has made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Too many law enforcement officer injuries and deaths occur with the implementation of tire puncturing or spike strip deployments. An officer a year is killed during the deployment of the strips, with at least three killed in 2023. Surely the devices can be set in advance to be remotely deployed, rather than thrown by hand by an officer too close to the fleeing and pursued vehicle.

The Passage Safety idea is a project that aims to saturate areas of high concentrations of traffic collisions with multiple low-cost cameras to document traffic violations, including speeding, stop sign and other violations. The issue of equity is addressed with multiple small amount fines, rather than enormous amounts seen with carpool lane violations, for example. Technology would allow for tracking of violations without the side effects of bias claims.

Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies should support these initiatives and explain to the communities why they are important tools when these issues are discussed at the legislative level.

Examining the evolving landscape of enforcement strategies

3. Partner with local, state and national partners to join forces with strategies and grant support. The Department of Traffic (DOT), National Transportation Safety Bureau, (NTSB) and other sources offer grants, training and assistance.

NHTSA has partnered with the NLEOMF to produce statistics, studies and training to help reduce officer traffic-related injuries and fatalities.

The National Safety Council (NSC) awards grants for traffic safety initiatives nationwide. Past recipients have teamed with community-based organizations, bicycle advocates and transportation groups to help educate and train drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit operators. January 14, 2024, is the deadline for the 2024 Road to Zero Community Traffic Safety Grants.

4. Solicit community partnerships with local communities and community-based organizations. A piece of legislation was signed into law in 2021 to compel auto manufacturers to design safety devices that may prevent impaired drivers from operating a vehicle. The law was championed by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) and requires a new national safety standard for state-of-the-art smart technology in all new cars that would ultimately eliminate impaired driving.

Vision Zero is an organization dedicated to reducing pedestrian fatalities to zero by convening stakeholders from the automobile industry, police, businesses and community people and others. Most large cities have a Vision Zero board that should be part of any city’s strategy to reduce pedestrian deaths. If you are not one of the 450 American communities who received a “Safe Streets and Roads for All” planning grant from the US Department of Transportation, start the application process now.

5. Repeal legislation that hinders enforcement. In 2023, California passed Assembly Bill 2147, also known as the “Freedom to Walk,” Act that essentially legalized jaywalking and ignoring traffic controls for pedestrians. The only possibility of a citation and fine would be as a result of an “immediate threat of an accident or that they would be hit by a car.” Imagine, only being able to issue a citation for jaywalking as the offender is being loaded into an ambulance.

Roll back the ban on pre-text and minor violation traffic stops. As a result of the “defund police” movement of 2020 and beyond, local legislators moved to restrict or even ban traffic stops by police for minor violations of equipment failures, license and registration issues and even minor moving violations. Of course, many minor violation stops of these sorts have led officers to the arrests of wanted suspects, stolen vehicles, and even murderers and terrorists.

6. Focus on chronic offenders and traffic-related crime. Recidivists of driving under the influence account for a high number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities. Approximately 17,000 fatalities each year are attributed to alcohol-related driving. Estimates suggest the majority of all DWI episodes are committed by a small group of chronic offenders. Further analysis of these numbers reveals about 3%-5% of drivers account for about 80% of drunk driving episodes.

A Science Direct scholarly article, funded by the National Institute for Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concluded: “Traffic offenders are a high-risk group for subsequent violations and crashes. Evidence from this review calls for more effective interventions implemented following a traffic violation to prevent recidivism, crashes, and crash-related injuries and deaths.”

There is a need to conduct regular DUI checkpoints in every jurisdiction. With approximately 30 states with decriminalized marijuana laws, the number of impaired drivers has risen as well. Having a well-organized and publicized DUI checkpoint program may affect some drivers’ behaviors. Mark your calendars now for IACP’s three-day conference on Impaired Driving and Traffic Safety (IDTS) to be held in Washington DC from August 16-18, 2024.

In summary, it is possible to reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths on our roadways with a strategic approach, using a combination of several of the ideas presented in this article. We are at a threshold of technology becoming available to address the movement of vehicles and to affect drivers’ behaviors. Still, we need the support of legislators and the community to make evidence-based decisions on the implementation of traffic enforcement to address the behaviors of vehicle drivers and pedestrians to make a real impact.

James Dudley is a 32-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department where he retired as deputy chief of the Patrol Bureau. He has served as the DC of Special Operations and Liaison to the Department of Emergency Management where he served as Event and Incident Commander for a variety of incidents, operations and emergencies. He has a Master’s degree in Criminology and Social Ecology from the University of California at Irvine. He is currently a member of the Criminal Justice faculty at San Francisco State University, consults on organizational assessments for LE agencies and hosts the Policing Matters podcast for Police1.