NHTSA wants drivers to slow down – and new tech could help apply the brakes
As deaths on US highways rise rapidly, federal safety regulators want to convince US motorists to slow down – but even with a police crackdown on speeding showing little impact, authorities may have to turn to Europe for advice on new anti-speeding technologies.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to launch a new campaign to encourage drivers to voluntarily slow downthe effort was aimed at positioning speeding “as undesirable” and “seen as negatively as other types of bad” driving behavior, new NHTSA administrator Steven Cliff told Reuters.
Along with distracted driving and drunk driving, an increase in speeding since the COVID pandemic has been directly linked to rising road fatalities. Preliminary data show that road deaths rose 10.5% last year, to 42,915 – the highest number since 2005. Speeding was responsible for 11,258 of those deaths, a 17% year-on-year increase.
In recent years, authorities across the country have reported a significant increase in the number of motorists exceeding the speed limit, as well as the speeds at which they drive.
In California, the number of tickets issued last year for exceeding 100 miles per hour nearly doubled to around 30,000, according to state data.
Initially, the spike in speeding was linked to a sharp drop in traffic when the pandemic hit and states across the country enacted lockdowns. But, even though traffic levels have started to return to pre-COVID levels, motorists have not slowed down. And the results are deadly. A study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found:
- 6.4% of male drivers involved in all traffic crashes were speeding;
- 15.2% of motorcyclists involved in fatal accidents were speeding;
- 11.2% of drivers in the 15-20 age group involved in crashes were speeding; and
- 15.1% of all drivers who were drinking at the time of their crash were also speeding.
In Michigan, where speeding-related highway deaths rose 8% last year to 200, state, county and local police improved law enforcement as part of the “Great Lakes, High Stakes” campaign.
“We hope this increased enforcement over the next few weeks will help change these dangerous driving behaviors and save lives,” said Alicia Sledge, acting director of the Office for Highway Safety Planning.
NHTSA’s new campaign emphasizes social acceptance in an effort to get drivers to slow down, administrator Cliff explained.
Whether this is more effective than recent enforcement efforts is far from certain.
Turn to technology
Beyond that, security experts are looking for help from the auto industry. Several manufacturers have introduced features that allow parents to set limits on how fast their teenage drivers can go. But new European standards that come into force this month could also put the brakes on lead-footed adults.
The Intelligent Speed Assistance system determines the local speed limit, either by navigation data or by sign recognition technology. When a motorist exceeds the limit, the ISA can issue a warning in a number of ways, whether it’s a visual or acoustic alert, or haptic feedback, such as a vibrating steering wheel. The technology could also be used to automatically slow a vehicle, if a manufacturer chooses to take that approach.
At least for now, motorists will be able to override the system, although that may change later.
The technology will be mandatory on new vehicles launched after July 6, 2022. All vehicles must be equipped with ISA from July 2023.