raffic safety is an immense challenge in California, where 4,000 are killed and 300,000 injured on roadways each year. But California's safety belt usage ranks near the top in the United States, hitting a high of 92.5 percent in 2005 (up from 90.4 percent in 2004, and significantly higher than the 82 percent national average). Alcohol-related fatalities have dropped dramatically (to slightly above 1,600) from a peak of 2,961 in 1987, and the proportion of speed-related collisions has also declined.
California's Traffic Safety Philosophy
California achieved traffic safety progress, despite considerable population and travel growth, by forging partnerships with businesses, insurance and health care providers, community organizations, and government agencies at the local, regional, state, national, and international level.
Underlying California's safety philosophy is a collaborative, holistic, and integrated approach in which all stakeholders contribute resources by sponsoring, financing, and implementing required interventions. Local involvement, broadly representative, is the primary source of local planning, prioritization, and coordination.
Regional and state involvement focuses on communication, policy, programming, resources, and priorities. Nationally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers policy guidance and funding. At the international level, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) provides a forum for the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the state's lead traffic safety agency, to share its traffic safety experiences and learn from its counterparts worldwide. The IACP National Law Enforcement Challenge also serves as a model for the CHP's California Law Enforcement Challenge Program, which, with support from NHTSA and California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), recognizes the frontline role of local law enforcement in traffic safety.
Traffic Corridor Safety
Interagency collaboration is the key to the CHP Traffic Corridor Safety Program, which focuses on traffic corridors that need enhanced enforcement and increased public awareness. This multidisciplinary program spans agencies and jurisdictions and employs a coalition of safety organizations in interagency task forces.
Partners include state and local law enforcement and transportation departments, emergency and health care service providers, and public and private safety. The program, financed through OTS's innovative grant funds with federal support from NHTSA, was subsequently expanded to cover DUI, pedestrian, and truck safety corridors. Other states have adopted the traffic corridor safety concept and now have similar corridor programs in place.
Older Driver Task Force
Statewide, the CHP chairs the multiagency Older Californian Traffic Safety Task Force, a partnership effort of some 50 stakeholders. Key participants include state and local law enforcement, transportation, and aging agencies and community organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, American Society of Aging, California State Automobile Association, Association of Retired Persons, and others. Community partnerships have helped the CHP better understand the public's priorities and needs, promoting more effective service delivery, increasing community support, and serving as advocates for road safety.
Maximum Enforcement at Holidays
More recently, the CHP partnered with sister state departments, including transportation, motor vehicles, alcoholic beverage control, and OTS, and some 125 local law enforcement agencies statewide for Operation Star (Statewide Traffic Action Response), combining resources to crackdown on unsafe drivers during holiday periods. Stepped-up enforcement efforts during the holidays paid off handsomely, with traffic fatalities during the 2005 Labor Day weekend dropping by more than one-third from 2004.
The CHP is also a founding member of the California Statewide Coalition on Traffic Safety, an alliance of federal and state public and private traffic safety organizations.
Nationally, the CHP has joined forces with neighboring allied agencies from Nevada, Arizona and Oregon in Combined Accident Reduction Effort (Care) enforcement, focusing on DUI, speeding, and safety belt use during the Fourth of July weekend in an effort to reduce alcohol-related injuries and fatalities.
The challenge of achieving traffic safety goals requires more than just the traditional four Es of highway safety. In addition to education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical services, collaboration is also vitally important. No single agency working alone can solve all traffic safety problems. ■