Strong Highway Safety Partnerships fuel strategic planning workshop Dec. 1

The waiting is the hardest part, indeed. But not quite so intolerable when you can see progress.

Yes, steps remain to be taken on the journey Toward Zero Deaths on Idaho's highways. Yet, the five-year average number of fatalities has dropped from about 237 per year when the last strategic plan was finalized (guiding 2012-2016 efforts), to an average of 197 today, showing that we are moving in the right direction. That shift has come about primarily through strong partnerships, which was a common theme as the next five-year plan was being discussed at the annual strategic highway safety planning workshop Tuesday (Dec. 1) in Boise.

About 100 law-enforcement representatives, ITD and other stakeholders and advocates took part in the meeting to shape the next five-year plan, with groups tackling 11 focus areas under the umbrella of three overarching emphasis areas – high-risk behaviors (aggressive, distracted and impaired driving, plus occupant protection), vulnerable roadway users (motorcycle, bicycle/pedestrian, youthful and mature drivers), and severe crash types (lane departure, intersections and commercial motor vehicle).

"I was here for the last strategic plan, and I'm proud of the progress we have made," said ITD Deputy Director Scott Stokes, who also serves on the department's Executive Safety Committee. "There are still some unanswered questions, but we are moving in the right direction, and over time, a lot of the answers will be made apparent," he added.

Presenters personalized their messages Tuesday, focusing on the impact to families and the goal of getting every Idahoan home safely. A common desire among the groups was to continue strong partnerships by sharing ideas and concerns in a mutual cross-pollinizing effort. Legislative action, from increasing funding for these safety initiatives to removing administrative obstacles and addressing primary safety-belt laws, was another common theme.

ITD Office of Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson emphasized that the plan is a living document, a work in progress. "This meeting is not the end," he said. "We are not leaving this meeting today and saying we're good for the next five years. It will require continued effort on everyone's part, but I'm confident we can get there."

The chief factor in the chart above is not the age of the driver, but rather their inexperience behind the wheel.

Below is a Q & A with Tomlinson:

OOC: What did you hope to get out of the meeting?
: Our goal was to get key leaders in highway safety to come together and talk about strategies that can be used in this five-year plan. This workshop was just the start of a six-month process of engaging safety partners throughout the state in developing the best strategic highway safety plan.

OOC: What did you come away with that will help as you move forward?
: We got great feedback from the focus groups on people that are missing and need to be involved in developing the strategic highway safety plan. Everyone in attendance has a passion for highway safety, and spreading that energy to other safety partners and citizens will be the key to reducing fatalities and serious injuries on Idaho roads.

OOC: Where would you like to see Idaho in safety terms by 2020?
: I would love to see us reach all the five-year average goals that we have set for 2020 in all 11 focus groups. I know these goals are aggressive and require a lot of work, but I know with strong highway safety partnerships we can achieve them. Developing effective strategies will help increase safety, mobility and economic opportunity in Idaho.

Published 12-04-15