Including Support of Lower State BAC Limits, Equity, Safe System Approach
Association members also reelect Barbara Rooney, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, as Chair
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amid a recent surge in traffic deaths and dangerous driving behaviors, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has updated the Policies and Priorities that guide the organization’s work to prevent traffic crashes, injuries and deaths on U.S. roads. The changes reflect GHSA’s support for lower state Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limits for impaired drivers, commitment to advancing equity in every aspect of traffic safety and dedication to the holistic Safe System approach. GHSA members – leaders of the U.S. state and territorial highway safety offices tasked with addressing behavioral safety issues – unanimously approved the document at the organization’s 2023 Annual Meeting last month in New York City.
Specifically, GHSA’s Policies and Priorities express the association’s support for state legislation lowering the per se BAC limit from .08 to .05. Only one state – Utah – currently has a .05 BAC limit. A 2022 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that after Utah enacted a lower BAC limit, traffic deaths decreased and more drivers said they arranged for safe rides home. Meanwhile, researchers did not find any negative economic effects of the lower BAC limit in Utah. Impaired driving deaths in the U.S. have surged 31% in just two years, from 10,196 in 2019 to 13,384 in 2021.
The Policies and Priorities also reaffirm GHSA’s focus on equity as a guiding principle in all the association’s work. People of color continue to be overrepresented in traffic crash fatalities; GHSA is firmly dedicated to advancing reforms that help achieve racial justice and equity for all road users. In 2021, GHSA issued separate reports that analyzed crash fatality data by race and ethnicity and made independent recommendations on how to advance equity. In early 2023, GHSA formed a new Equity and Engagement Committee to address key barriers to advancing equity in highway safety programs and promote greater outreach and engagement in underserved communities.
The updated Policies and Priorities cement the association’s support of the holistic Safe System approach to traffic safety, which emphasizes safer street designs, safer vehicles, safer speeds, safer people and more investment in post-crash care to reduce deaths and serious injuries. The Safe System approach, which is a shift from conventional road safety thinking, aims to create a multi-layered safety net, so that if one countermeasure fails, another will help prevent a crash or, in the event of a crash, lessen the likelihood of serious injury or death and reaffirms the importance of professional and equitable traffic law enforcement as part of the system. GHSA issued a report in 2021 on the role of behavioral safety in the Safe System approach and identified ways State Highway Safety Offices can support this new approach to traffic safety.
California’s Barbara Rooney Reelected
At the Annual Meeting, GHSA members also reelected Barbara Rooney, Governor’s Representative and Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety (CA OTS), to a second, one-year term as Chair of the GHSA Executive Board. She will continue to lead GHSA’s efforts to work toward zero deaths on America’s roadways through proven and effective countermeasures that address unsafe driving – speeding, not buckling up, and impaired and distracted driving. Traffic deaths have surged since 2020 amid an uptick in dangerous driving behaviors that began at the start of the COVID pandemic and haven’t abated.
“We are losing too many of our family members, friends and neighbors to preventable traffic violence,” Rooney said. “We must change the safety culture in this country so that everyone on the road prioritizes safety for themselves and those around them. A comprehensive strategy rooted in the Safe System approach, as well as greater collaboration between partners and communities, can help reverse this national safety crisis and save lives.”
Rooney was elected GHSA Vice Chair in 2020 and 2021 and was elected Chair in 2022. She previously served as Chair of the association’s Federal Relations and Workforce Development Committees. Appointed to lead CA OTS by California Governor Gavin Newsom in August 2019, Rooney manages approximately $100 million in federal traffic safety grant funds that are disseminated across the state.
Also elected to serve a one-year term on the GHSA Executive Board are:
Vice Chair Michael Hanson, Governor’s Representative and Director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety
Treasurer Thomas Glass, Chief, Highway Safety Section, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Secretary Amy Davey, Administrator of the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or follow us on Facebook and X/Twitter.