- Uber announced Wednesday it has convened a road safety coalition with several advocacy groups to address negative driving trends that have taken hold during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Joining Uber in the coalition are the National Safety Council (NSC), Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and The League of American Bicyclists.
- The coalition will raise awareness about a variety of safety concerns as drivers return to the streets. Those concerns include speeding, seatbelt safety, drinking under the influence, distracted driving and accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists. In an interview, Kristin Smith, Uber's head of road safety policy, said the company has seen these "concerning trends" increase during the pandemic.
- The coalition will push road safety education through the Uber app and other channels, Smith said. The group will also work on a course to enhance bike-friendly driving, and will also partner with the NSC on a workshop focused on equity and diversity.
Cities have seen a precipitous decline in congestion and cars on their streets during the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders, remote work and social distancing orders. But there have been concerns that some of those still traveling have engaged in bad habits such as speeding, and some troubling statistics that go hand-in-hand with some negative trends.
NSC found that motor vehicle fatalities rose 23.5% in April and May despite millions of people working from home and traffic volumes way down compared to the same period last year. Smith said as people start to return to relative normalcy in their everyday lives and get back behind the wheel, road safety should be given just as much importance as safe public health practices.
"Understandably, everyone's attention is on COVID safety," Smith said. "We recognize that road safety may not have been top of mind for people right now. But we want to make sure that as cities open up and as people start traveling again, we don't revert back to more dangerous behavior on the roads and that road safety becomes a core part of the COVID safety that we're all thinking about on a daily basis."
Smith said the coalition's work with The League of American Bicyclists will look to build on that group’s existing program to encourage bike-friendly driving through the app. It will have information on core bike safety issues including safe passing, navigating bike infrastructure and the rights of bicyclists, and adds various safety features to the app, such as warnings to drivers and riders if a drop-off or pick-up is occurring near a bike lane.
And Smith said there will also be a renewed emphasis on diversity and equity through this coalition, in keeping with the current moment as more people across the United States demand racial justice and companies and authorities look to keep up. Smith said that work will include, for example, studying how those in disadvantaged neighborhoods and people of color are disproportionately impacted by traffic collisions and studying the effects of law enforcement. She said it is early days, but there is plenty to be done.
"This is certainly, I hope, just the beginning of this coalition, because I think that with road safety there are a lot of different issues, and it's all really intersectional," Smith said. "[We're] really expanding what we think of when we think of safety and what that looks like."