New Strategy Seeks to Reduce Deaths on Rural Roads

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters recently announced a new national strategy that will bring new focus, including resources and new technology, to reducing deaths on the nation's rural roads.

"We want to put the brakes on rural road fatalities," Peters said. "This is a challenge that we have the experience, the ability and the resources to address. We can make our rural roads safer, we can do it now and we can do it without reinventing the wheel."

The department's Rural Safety Initiative will help states and communities develop ways to eliminate the risks drivers face on America's rural roads and highlight available solutions and resources. The new endeavor addresses five key goals: safer drivers, better roads, smarter roads, better-trained emergency responders, and improved outreach and partnerships. Peters said approximately $287 million in existing and new funding is available to support the effort.

Peters said she has asked DOT's Deputy Secretary Thomas Barrett to personally lead the comprehensive effort to help state and local leaders get solutions implemented in rural areas faster.

"Smarter, low-cost options are readily available and can be deployed quickly. By partnering with state and local leaders to integrate these safety strategies, we can change the trend and improve safety on our nation's rural roads," Barrett said.

Peters said that of the more than 3 million miles of rural roads in the country, almost 80 percent are owned and operated by local entities, which is why partnering with states and local governments is critical to the initiative. She indicated that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has already offered their support.

"State transportation officials have set a goal of reducing highway fatalities by half over the next two decades. Improving rural highway safety is critical to saving those lives. We are pleased that the U.S. DOT is focusing both attention and resources on this issue and we commend them for this initiative," said Pete Rahn, AASHTO President.

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