The cities of Boston
Massachusetts and Washington DC recently played host to a group of fourteen
road safety professionals from Ireland and Northern Ireland who came to the
United States to take part in a ten-day study visit examining issues such as road
engineering, operator education and behavior, the establishment and enforcement
of penalties, and the establishment of continuity in regulation (across
different jurisdictions). The group included relevant leaders from law
enforcement, roads authorities, safety authorities, and civic and community
bodies on the island. The visit was designed and delivered by the Irish
Institute at Boston College and
funded through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and
Cultural Affairs. The Irish Institute’s mission is to support the peace and
reconciliation process on the island through the provision of educational
seminars and programs for public officials, business leaders, and educators.
This is the tenth year in which their programs have received funding from the
segment of the program began with two academic seminars. Professor Michael
Knodler of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Massachusetts spent an afternoon with
the group in which he outlined “Current research and debates within the field
of highway safety studies” here in the United States.
Professor Dennis Hale of Boston College’s
Political Science department subsequently gave the visitors an overview of
“Massachusetts Government Structure, Legislative Process, and Public
Administration” in which participants got a clear picture of the intersection
between state and federal authority in questions of regulatory legislation and
public administration. The group next engaged in a roundtable discussion with
Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky and her colleagues at the Massachusetts
Highway Department. The visitors then enjoyed an exceptionally
informative morning at Massachusetts State Police headquarters where
they interacted with key personnel from the traffic and road safety division
and where they got a demonstration of a vehicle rollover simulator used to
educate high school students about the necessity of seat belt usage. They
heard firsthand about the latest in accident investigation practice from a
specialist within the Collision Analysis & Reconstruction unit
before the visit concluded with a tour of the force’s state-of-the-art Breath
Alcohol Testing (BAT) Mobile.
The participants got a unique insight into the complex traffic and accident
monitoring system at the Massachusetts Turnpike Operations Control Center,
the facility charged with ensuring the safety of the tunnel and highway system
running through and underneath the city of Boston.
Several members of the group spent an afternoon at the District 14
headquarters of the Boston Police Department where they talked
informally with the front-line officers who are charged with enforcing traffic
legislation. The next stop was a very informative meeting at the Massachusetts
Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) office of the Silver Line, Boston’s
brand new rapid transit bus system. Participants ended their stay in Boston
with a meeting at the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles, where they heard
about the drafting of the State’s tough new Junior Operators Law and about
Melanie’s Law, a recent piece of legislation that has provided for enhanced
penalties against OUI offenders.
The second week of the
program brought the participants to Washington, DCMs.
Annette Sandberg, a noted transportation safety expert and former
Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The group later met with Ms. Judith Stone, President of the Advocates
for Highway and Auto Safety, with whom they discussed the role advocacy
groups can play in pushing forward vehicle and highway safety
legislation. All of the participants had the opportunity to go on a
night-time “ride-along” with the officers of the Montgomery County Police
department in Bethesda Maryland. They spent
a tremendously rich morning at the U.S. Department of Transportation
where they benefited from presentations by the leading engineers and
administrators with NHTSA, the Federal Highway Administration,
and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Mr. Peter
Kissinger, President of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Next, the visitors
were warmly welcomed to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) by
board Chair, Mr. Mark Rosenker. They subsequently had an exceptionally
interesting session with Mr. Bruce Magladry and Ms. Barbara Czech of the
board’s Office of Highway Safety. The participants capped off their week in the
DC area with a visit to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center.
While there they saw firsthand the vast improvement in auto safety that
have come with airbags, vehicle stability systems, and other innovations.
A live crash test of a new vehicle was the highlight of the visit. where they were
briefed on the federal public administration of highway safety by
personally took the group through some of the organization’s many educational
initiatives and public awareness campaigns.