DOT announces new strategy to improve safety on rural roads

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The Department of Transportation on Friday, Feb. 29, 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,” Transportation Secretary Mary 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.”

DOT says its 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.

About $287 million in existing and new funding is available to support the effort, said Peters, who has asked DOT Deputy Secretary Adm. Thomas Barrett to lead the 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,” Barrett said. “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.”

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. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials already has offered its support, she said.

“State transportation officials have set a goal of reducing highway fatalities by half over the next two decades,” said Pete Rahn, AASHTO president. “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.”

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