During the 2015 Traffic Safety Conference, the Texas Division Administrator for the Federal Highway Administration revealed that his passion for pedestrian safety stems from the death of his sister in 1990.
Al Alonzi was a speaker during the opening session of the 7th annual conference, sponsored and hosted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) June 8-10 in Corpus Christi.
“February, 24, 1990. That was the day I lost my older sister, Marilyn. She was a pedestrian, hit by a car and killed,” Alonzi told the nearly 300 people attending the conference. “Here we are 25 years later. I still get choked up about it.”
Alonzi said there has been “a steady increase in fatalities” among pedestrians and bicyclists over the last several years. He urged the crowd of researchers, safety professionals, law enforcement personnel and others to rededicate their focus and commitment to improve transportation safety. Including pedestrians and bicyclists, nearly 3,500 people die on Texas roadways each year.
Alonzi said fewer fatalities would occur if driver behaviors change — especially when it comes to driver distraction. “I look forward to the day Texas joins other states that have banned texting behind the wheel,” he said.
The Transportation Safety Conference is designed to bring together the expertise and disciplines of various safety professionals to share ideas, discuss current research efforts and examine those efforts that have worked to make transportation safer. This year’s conference included 55 speakers from twenty organizations. The breakout sessions addressed numerous issues, including technology and its role in transportation safety, driver behaviors, truck and motorcycle safety, impaired driving, protection for vulnerable users (e.g., older drivers, pedestrians and children) and current efforts to link crash and trauma data to improve safety.
“This is where great minds and a passion for safety come to share ideas and experiences, all for the goal of making Texans safer,” said Bill Stockton, opening session moderator and TTI associate executive director, as he welcomed those to the conference. “Our goal should be to leave here with fresh ideas and better able to accomplish our individual missions.”
Stockton said the range of subjects at this year’s conference is broader than ever because the expertise and disciplines of the participants are broader than ever.
“We must all work together collaboratively and cooperatively to create the most positive outcome; the day that we don’t have any serious injuries or fatalities on our transportation network,” stated John Barton, deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, during the opening session. “The work that you do is literally saving thousands of lives each and every year. All of Texas owes you a great debt of gratitude.”
Also speaking at the conference, Chief Luis Gonzalez of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) described how he is working closely with TTI to conduct advanced analysis of crashes and traffic enforcement activities as part of the new DPS Highway Safety Operations Center. The goal of the center is to reduce future highway deaths through awareness and proactive law enforcement activities.
“The ability to gather data on traffic crashes and traffic stops in one centralized database from multiple participants will lead to trend analysis that is improved exponentially. Predictive analysis becomes much more viable when we have multiple agencies participating. That ultimately leads to proactive law enforcement becoming a reality,” Gonzalez said. “On average, there are 3,400 deaths and 65,000 serious injuries per year on Texas highways. Those are the numbers that keep us up at night.”