Highway Officials Look for International Solutions

Highway safety experts from Canada, Australia, and The Netherlands are speaking at next week's Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting in Portland, Ore., as the group's members look for international solutions to U.S. problems. The state officials in attendance also will hear from Nicole Nason, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who is Monday's scheduled keynote speaker.

"The international focus of the conference is particularly timely given that the United States' standing in global road safety has been slipping," GHSA's online program says. "While the U.S. has made much progress, overall the news is not good -- the country now ranks 42nd among the 48 countries measured by fatalities per capita according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and the International Transport Forum. In what is considered by many experts to be a more precise measure, fatalities per distance driven, the U.S. was number one in 1970, with the lowest death rate among industrialized countries. However, the U.S. now ranks 11th."

The event will take place Sept. 23-26 at the Portland Hilton Hotel. The meeting's theme is "Looking Beyond Our Borders," with a focus on strategies and programs implemented in other countries that have been particularly effective at reducing traffic crashes and fatalities and could be implemented here. Tuesday's general session features Fred Wegman, managing director for a road safety research organization in The Netherlands, and Ian Johnston, a professor at the Monash University Accident Research Center in Australia. Wegman and Johnston will discuss their countries' approaches on speeding, drunk driving, safety belt use, and safe roadway design. Wednesday's closing luncheon features Brian Jonah, director of Road Safety Programs with Transport Canada, who will discuss Canada's successful seat belt and drunk driving programs.

Workshop topics at the meeting include Teens and Distractions: A Dangerous Combination; Emerging Drunk Driving Technologies; Buckling Up Tweens and Teens; Impaired Motorcycling: The Next Big Issue; and Changing the Culture of Speed.

The event's sponsors include Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, AAA, State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Farmers Insurance, and Johnson & Johnson. The conference program is available at www.ghsa.org.

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