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Buttigieg pledges help as car fatalities keep spiking higher

Thursday, January 27, 2022 | Hope Yen, Associated Press


Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, on Nov. 8, 2021. Buttigieg is vowing help to stem a rising U.S. epidemic of car fatalities with a broad-based government strategy aimed at limiting the speed of cars, redesigning roads to better protect bicyclists and pedestrians and boosting car safety features such as automatic emergency braking. Buttigieg indicated to The Associated Press that new federal data being released next week will show another spike in traffic fatalities through the third quarter of 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is pledging to tackle rising traffic fatalities through a national strategy aimed at reducing speed, redesigning roads and enhancing car safety features such as automatic emergency braking.

Buttigieg told The Associated Press that new federal data being released next week will show another increase in traffic fatalities through the third quarter of 2021. Those numbers are expected to point to a sizable increase in deaths compared with the same period in 2020, adding to a half-year traffic death total of 20,160 that already was the highest half-year figure since 2006.

“It doesn’t look good, and I continue to be extremely concerned about the trend,” Buttigieg said in an interview.

“Somehow it has become over the years and decades as normal, sort of the cost of doing business," he said. “Even through a pandemic that led to considerably less driving, we continue to see more danger on our roads."

Buttigieg said his department is embracing a new “safe system” approach urged by auto safety advocates to bolster initiatives, underway in several cities, that seek to eliminate fatalities by taking into account more than just driver behavior.

Over the next two years, he said, his department will provide guidance as well as $5 billion in grants to states to spur lower speed limits and embrace safer road design such as dedicated bike and bus lanes, better lighting and crosswalks. When roads become safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, that opens up transit options overall and can lead to fewer dangerous cars on the road, he said.

Money for the grants is included in President Joe Biden's infrastructure law, which has an additional $4 billion in funding through the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

Citing his experience as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg said he envisions cities and states taking interim steps with federal support. He pointed to Hoboken, New Jersey, which has reduced deaths by committing to a goal of achieving zero deaths and making roadway improvements such as curb extensions and retimed traffic signals to give pedestrians a head start in crosswalks.


“Today we commit that our goal is this: zero. Our goal is zero deaths” from traffic, he said Thursday in announcing the national road safety strategy.

“The decision to commit to that goal in a serious way at a national level changes the way cities and towns design roads, changes the way companies build cars, changes the way people drive.”

The strategy recommends pilot programs to study and promote greater use of speed cameras, which the department says could provide more equitable enforcement than police traffic stops. Automakers will be prodded to adopt more crash avoidance features and publish detailed information about them for consumers on window stickers for new car sales.

It pledges a shift in approach on the state and local level in part with planned updates to the federal manual that sets the requirements for U.S. street markings and design. Among the possibilities is rethinking how speed limits are set. Currently, many cities set limits at whatever 85% of drivers are traveling, essentially letting drivers make the decision.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a part of the Transportation Department, also plans to move forward on rule-making to require automatic emergency braking in all new passenger vehicles, set new standards on car safety performance by emphasizing features such as lane keeping assistance and require crash avoidance information on new car window stickers.

The NHTSA has struggled with a growing backlog of safety rules ordered by Congress that are years overdue, while the new infrastructure law added new requirements, such as a federal mandate to automakers to install anti-drunken driving technology. No firm deadlines were specified for finalizing the rules, which the NHTSA must write up and can take years.

Traffic deaths began to spike in 2019, and the NHTSA blamed speeding and other reckless driving behavior for the increases during the coronavirus pandemic. Before then, the number of fatalities had fallen for three straight years.

Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, called the department's strategy a step in the right direction, citing the importance of “swift implementation of identified solutions which have been proven to prevent crashes and save lives," such as issuing minimum performance standards for automatic emergency braking.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and a strong advocate for the broader “safe systems” approach, also has praised the department's initial steps but stressed the importance of a sustained effort to get full cooperation from states, communities and automakers.

Last week, Homendy criticized the NHTSA for moving too slowly in removing from its website statistics that suggested that 94% of serious crashes are solely due to driver error; in fact, the agency's own research describes it as one of several key contributing factors. The NHTSA has since removed the language.

“This is achievable. We may not get to zero crashes, but we could get to zero fatalities and we could drive down serious injuries considerably," Homendy told the AP last week. "Their biggest hurdle is, can you get the same commitments from the state departments of transportation, and is the will there with NHTSA? It's really going to take a big effort.”

___

Associated Press writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.


7 Mid-Cap Stocks to Buy For When the Fed Gets Serious

How should you be investing in 2022? It's a near certainty that the Fed will continue to pursue a more hawkish monetary policy for the rest of 2022. And right now the market is expecting interest rate increases to start in March 2022.

The thought that the Fed will take aggressive measures to combat inflation is still weighing on growth-minded investors? After all, stocks still look like the place to be.

If you're an investor looking to maximize your growth this year, you should first make sure you have a base of blue-chip stocks. These stocks can deliver solid returns no matter how the broader market goes. However, after that, you should still have your eyes on growth. And mid-cap stocks may be just the place to look.

Mid-cap stocks are defined by companies with a market capitalization between $2 billion and $10 billion. These companies are still in the growth phase so they're putting their profits to work in growing their business.

The recent market sell-off has put many of these stocks at attractive points. And while many of them still don't qualify as oversold by technical measures, they are offering significant upside at their current price points.

At some point the Fed is likely to get serious about whipping inflation. When it does, investors will become even more selective than they already are. By investing in these mid-cap stocks, you can stay one step ahead of whatever comes next.



View the "7 Mid-Cap Stocks to Buy For When the Fed Gets Serious".


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