Tag Archives: public health problem

Last night, Pres. Obama referred in the past tense to crash fatalities as a public health problem.

Apparently, President Obama is okay with the current state of traffic fatalities. Anyway it sounds as if he thinks that we have already done all we can to reduce crash deaths.

At least that is what it sounds like to me from last night’s PBS News Hour video of President Obama speaking at a Town Hall (June 2, 2016):

“We used to have really bad auto fatality rates. The auto fatality rate has actually dropped precipitously, drastically since I was a kid. Why is that? We decided we had seat belt laws. We decided to have manufacturers put air bags in place. We decided to crack down on drunk driving and texting. We decided to redesign roads so that they were less likely to have a car bank.

“We studied what is causing these fatalities using science and data and evidence. And then we slowly treated it like the public health problem it was. And it got reduced.”

See President Obama talking about this, starting at 1:57 on this video:  https://www.facebook.com/newshour/videos/10154247237078675/

Interesting. This is what I noticed about what he said:

  1. He identified auto fatalities as a public health problem.
  2. He referred to it in the past tense.
  3. He did not acknowledge that there is still a long ways to go and that there are still way too many preventable crash deaths occurring every year.
  4. He did not mention that 33,000 people — like AnnaLeah and Mary, real people, whom someone will miss — are still dying every year and that we should make it a national priority to work on them.
  5. He also did not mention that more than 2 million people are seriously injured in crashes each year.
  6. He did not take that opportunity to say let’s set a national vision zero goal and work on this together.

President Obama, are you aware that over 20,000 people have asked you to set a Vision Zero Goal and to sign a Vision Zero Executive Order. We need a Vision Zero Task Force to address specific traffic safety issues and we need Vision Zero Rulemaking policies and we need a Traffic Safety Ombudsman to over see this ongoing public health problem–in ways that are not now being done.

Could we please sit down and talk about this so we can get on the same page?


p.s. I, for one, daily face the loss of my two daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13). And I know for a fact that more could have been done — but wasn’t — to prevent their deaths.

President Obama

NHTSA livestreaming Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety conference, March 10 & 11

When I found out that NHTSA was holding a Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety conference, I asked if they were going to be livestreaming this important event. The event coordinator said they would be and that she would let me know details when they were available.

Here is that information:

Thank you for your interest in the Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety conference that is taking place Thursday, March 10 and Friday, March 11 in Washington.  The event will run from 8:30 – 4:30 on Thursday and from 8:30 – Noon on Friday.

NHTSA will be streaming this event live  at http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/symposiums/index.html.  The link within that page for the webcast should be live this afternoon.

You may access the agenda by following this link: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/symposiums/march2016/index.html
Please share these links with any of your colleagues who might be interested in watching this event.  Thank you.

I also asked if it would be taped and made available online. Here is the answer: The plan is for them to be recorded and posted after the event.  Our technical team tells me that they should be up Friday afternoon at the latest.

Here is a pdf of the agenda: Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety Conference Agenda

I posted previously on this event/topic: http://annaleahmary.com/2016/02/nhtsa-hosting-discussion-of-the-behavioral-changes-necessary-to-achieve-near-zero-traffic-safety-deaths/

I hope that, in addition to looking at how to change personal driving behaviors, other factors which impact individual driving behaviors will be kept in mind as well.
  1. For example, an obvious one is what leads truck drivers to drive even when they are tired. http://annaleahmary.com/tag/truck-driver-compensation/
  2. Also, technological aids such as alerting drivers to driver fatigue or getting phone manufacturers to build in features that make it simple to turn off when driving, etc.  http://annaleahmary.com/tag/distracted-driving/
  3. And things like addressing the notion that it is okay to drive while under the influence of marijuana. http://annaleahmary.com/2015/02/marijuana-impairs-judgment-reaction-times-awareness/
  4. Or a national awareness campaign to educate people about the dangers of microsleep. http://americansleepandbreathingacademy.com/the-dots-war-on-drowsy-driving/
  5. Or more things like rumble strips along the side of the road.
  6. Or more electronic traffic signs which alert drivers to slowed traffic ahead. http://annaleahmary.com/2016/02/can-electronic-road-signs-save-lives-crash-ahead-7-miles-stay-alert/

 Having studied Health Behavior & Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health (and raised 9 children), I am well aware that simple awareness is not enough to change behavior.

I would also like to see proven safety measures more quickly adopted nationwide: Why on earth don’t we establish National Traffic Safety Standards & require them to be adopted by States?

What would I do if I were the National Traffic Safety Ombudsman?

gertie 2946

Driver Fatigue Needs To Be Recognized As A Public Health Problem

I have tried to get the attention of the Department of Health and Human Services and requested them to address driver fatigue as a public health problem. So far, no one seems to be listening.

Here is a letter which I received from them yesterday in response to my letter to them (the Secretary of HHS) requesting that they address driver fatigue as a public health problem.
Letter from DHHS related to driver fatigue 001

They determined that they are not the best agency to address my concern and indicated that they are sending my letter to the Department of Labor. That is because, I suppose, I mentioned in the letter that I think the Department of Labor ought to be involved as well. Why? Because how truck drivers get paid and scheduled for their work are also factors in truck driver fatigue.

In other words, I think that driver fatigue will not be fully eliminated until we work together to address this complex public health problem that impairs drivers in much the same way as drunk driving. That is why I have called for a federal task force to work in a more coordinated fashion toward better protection for travelers on our roads.

Canada, at least, seems to be getting the idea and passing relevant legislation to take driver fatigue more seriously:


“…Driving while fatigued is comparable to driving drunk, only there is not the same social stigma attached. Like alcohol, fatigue affects our ability to drive by slowing reaction time, decreasing awareness and impairing judgment. Driving while sleep impaired is a significant issue, and is no longer tolerated. Legislation {in Canada} is beginning to change by handling collisions cause by a fatigued driver as seriously as alcohol-impaired crashes.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association is supporting a Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. I would like to see them do the same for driver fatigue. I realize that it is a more complex issue, but does that mean we should just ignore it and pretend it does not exist?


Here is an excerpt from their website:

“Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving


GHSA has joined MADD and others to support the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. [http://ghsa.org/html/issues/impaireddriving/cedd.html] The campaign has four components: technology, tougher enforcement, stronger laws, and grassroots mobilization. The goal is to ‘completely eliminate drunk driving…making it the public health equivalent of polio.’

GHSA Policy

Excerpted from GHSA’s Highway Safety Policies & Priorities http://ghsa.org/html/publications/pdf/13-14PP.pdf [115 KB, 27 pgs.]

E. Impaired Driving

Impaired driving is a serious problem threatening the safety of our nation’s highways. There are, however, methods of combating this crisis, particularly in the areas of law enforcement, legislation, training programs and evaluation and treatment for offenders.”

“Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a major public health problem.” http://www.attcnetwork.org/explore/priorityareas/science/tools/asmeDetails.asp?ID=684

DWF = Driving While Fatigued

It is time that we recognize it for what it is: a Public Health Problem.