Safety: A Community Effort

At one time, the term “professional” was applied to individuals with certain traditional careers, such as those who practiced law, medicine, or engineering. Lawyers, doctors, and engineers were all seen as playing an important role in society. The lawyer was there to protect legal rights. People had a right to representation by legal counsel and the right to a fair trial. Likewise, the role of the doctor was to protect public health. In ancient Greece, a new doctor would recite the Hippocratic Oath and basically swear to the healing gods to uphold high ethical standards when dealing with patients. Today, the oath has been modified to describe protection of client confidentiality and working in the patient’s interest to do no harm. But what about the engineer? What was their role in society and their so-called noble purpose? The primary role of the engineer was and still remains the protection of public safety. It is embodied in the engineering code of ethics, and the role truly defines this purpose.

Which brings me to ITE. The world has evolved and we have developed a broader definition of professionals. Our organization embraces this fact. We are branded “A Community of Transportation Professionals” to better reflect our members as planners, engineers, technologists, academics, researchers, and others, with a common goal of making the world safer through our transportation work. This work is, in the broadest sense, about the protection of public safety and—with a diverse ITE membership—is being addressed through a range of skills and backgrounds. There are more than 40,000 traffic deaths across the United States and Canada annually. Around the globe, the World Health Organization reports one traffic fatality occurs every 30 seconds. These are shocking statistics. We must do better, and our members have a key role to play in reducing these numbers.

It is up to all of us to take up the challenge to improve the world in which we live. It may be done through the development of safer systems in autonomous vehicles, delving into the impact of safety modification factors, or advocating for seatbelt laws. You may also want to visit the Speed Management for Safety resource hub accessible on ITE’s website. ITE also has a new Road Safety Professional (RSP) Level 1 certification course for you to demonstrate that you are current with the latest safety practices. Our first group of RSP1 graduates have now been granted their certification and a more advanced Level 2 program has been announced. I would encourage you to put safety at the center of all of your work, and before you finish the recommendations on your next report or briefing, ask yourself, “What else can be done to protect the public?”

This edition of ITE Journal is focused on the topics of Vision Zero and Safety Through Speed Management. Inside, you’ll find features on these themes from industry partners like the Governors Highway Safety Association, Road to Zero Coalition, ITE Canadian District, the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina, and state and local DOTs. We will continue the quest to move people more safely, develop and produce safer systems, and promote safe speed limits on our city streets in the future. I hope that you enjoy reading this edition of ITE Journal and learn at least one new thing from the various articles that will help you in your work. The ties between safety, health, and the law are intermixed, but it will take a serious effort from all of us to reduce fatalities and serious crashes.

This blog post is from the President's Message in the April 2019 issue of the ITE Journal.