Improving Highway Safety Across New York State
By Anthony D'Agostino, Law Enforcement Liaison, Governor's Traffic Safety Committee
In 2014, New York State had 616 homicides and 72,338 people were victims of violent crimes. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is often only able to react to these incidents after the fact. What many people don't realize is that there is something else going on in your communities that kills and injures even more people: Car crashes. Fortunately we (elected officials, policy makers, government employees, NGO's, and our private sector partners) can have a quick and positive influence on saving lives and reducing injuries due to car crashes. In NYS in 2014, 1,026 people were killed and 160,497 people were injured in automobile crashes. These totals far exceed the crime victim totals and, as such, deserve our attention and action. We have the ability to reduce these numbers through enforcement, education, and engineering.
The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) is a branch of the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that awards federal highway safety grant funds to local, state and not-for-profit agencies for projects to improve highway safety and reduce deaths and serious injuries due to motor vehicle crashes. The GTSC coordinates traffic safety activities in the state. Through the website www.safeny.ny.gov, the GTSC seeks to share timely, accurate and useful news, as well as provide information and other resources about traffic safety and the state's highway safety grant program.
In 1966, an act of Congress created the National Highway Safety Program. It provides that "each State shall have a highway safety program...designed to reduce traffic accidents and deaths, injuries and property damage resulting there from." A chain of responsibility for implementing highway safety programs was established. At the national level the program is administered by two agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation: the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). These agencies develop overall policy, conduct national research and monitor state programs.
In New York, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee coordinates statewide traffic safety activities. The Committee promotes and supports the state's highway safety program to provide for the safe transportation of people and goods on New York's roadways. The staff of the GTSC manage the NYS highway safety program by reviewing and monitoring grant programs, coordinating special programs such as the Child Passenger Safety or the Drug Recognition Expert officer programs, and by providing guidance and oversight to state and local agencies. By statute, the Committee is comprised of the heads of the twelve state agencies with missions related to transportation and highway safety and is chaired by the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Committee acts as the state's official liaison with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The GTSC realizes that local involvement and participation are vital to the success of New York's highway safety plan. To that end, two grants are awarded to allow a county and a municipal Law Enforcement Liaison (LEL) to work directly on the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee in their Albany headquarters. The New York State Sheriffs' Association and the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police are the recipients of these annual grants. The LELs work directly with GTSC program representatives and administrators to make NYS roadways safer.
Another mechanism for local involvement in this statewide program is the coordination of the GTSC with local Traffic Safety Boards (TSB) which are described in the NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law Art. 43 Sections 1672-1677. Normally comprised of persons with a professional interest in traffic safety, these community boards coordinate local programs and approve grant applications from their jurisdiction before they submit applications to the GTSC. By regulation, the GTSC requires all municipal and not-for-profit local agency applications to have the approval of the county Traffic Safety Board. All of the current Traffic Safety Boards in NYS are organized at the county level.
By awarding grant funds to local entities based partially on the recommendations of the local TSBs, highway safety efforts can be customized to deal with the local problems that are contributing to crashes. The GTSC also takes a statewide approach to traffic safety by delivering training, promoting crash reduction and safe driving initiatives, and using data to identify trends and commonalities in crashes throughout NYS. The best way to learn more about the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee is to visit the website www. safeny.ny.gov.