Washington, D.C. - Californian Christopher J. Murphy was recently elected as the new Chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The GHSA membership made this selection at the Association's Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Murphy has served in California's Office of Traffic Safety for twenty years, culminating in his appointment as Director and Governor's Highway Safety Representative by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005. As Director, Murphy is responsible for administering the California traffic safety program which includes the administration, distribution and management of $87 million in yearly traffic safety grants. Murphy also serves his state as a member of the Highway Transportation Safety Committee on Safety Management and is Co-Leader of California's Strategic Highway Safety Implementation Plan.
Murphy served as Vice Chairman of the Association from 2005-2006 and as a faculty member for the GHSA Executive Seminar on Program Management. As the Association's new Chairman, Murphy plans to focus attention on key highway safety issues including: drunk driving, occupant protection, motorcycle safety, aggressive driving/speeding and protecting young drivers. He will also work to strengthen GHSA by implementing the Association's new strategic plan.
Chairman Murphy indicates that reducing drunken driving is a top priority. National statistics reveal that in 2005, there were 12,945 fatalities in crashes involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a BAC of .08 or higher, the legal limit throughout the country. Murphy wants to focus on what he calls "the worst of the worst," those drunk drivers who are repeat offenders and who violate their probation or fail to appear in court.
To bring further attention to this problem, GHSA will continue to work closely with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on the new national drunk driving campaign, "Drunk Driving. Over The Limit. Under Arrest." This effort combines the tough enforcement message with a media campaign aimed at those most likely to pick up the keys while intoxicated.
Murphy wants to continue to bring attention to the benefits of buckling up and to increasing the national safety belt use rate through the highly successful "Click it or Ticket" program. This is critical to reducing overall fatalities as 55 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2005 were unrestrained. While enforcement of existing laws can increase safety belt usage, Murphy says the best thing states can do is enact and enforce a primary safety belt law. Currently, only half the states and D.C. have this critical law.
Last year, motorcycle fatalities increased 13 percent to 4,553 total deaths. This was the eighth straight year that fatalities increased and an increase of 115 percent since 1997. Murphy wants to help bring a national focus on the problem.
GHSA urges increased support for the development, implementation and evaluation of statewide comprehensive motorcycle safety programs. At a minimum, these programs should address rider training programs, protective gear, impaired riding, operator licensing, and motorist awareness. Murphy believes states need to either enact or retain their helmet laws despite pressure from some motorcyclists to allow helmet-free riding.
Chairman Murphy plans to continue the organization's focus on the issue of aggressive driving particularly as it relates to speed. Murphy urges NHTSA to implement the recommendations of the 2005 National Forum on Speeding. These recommendations focus on addressing speed in areas where it is most practical and politically feasible such as in: school zones, work zones and high-crash locations involving excessive speed. Murphy also wants to bring attention to the emerging issue of illegal street racing and its growing popularity among young drivers.
As the parent of two teenagers, protecting young drivers is a personal as well as professional issue for Murphy. Murphy says GHSA will continue its support for strengthening graduated licensing laws as well as improving driver education. To achieve these goals and try to fill some of the gaps left by driver education, the Association and its partner, the Ford Motor Company Fund, are planning new educational and outreach efforts in the states in 2007 for the Driving Skills for Life program. This web-based program (www.drivingskillsforlife.com) teaches teens the key skills they need to know to be safe drivers.
Implementation of GHSA's Strategic Plan
Chairman Murphy will also focus on strengthening GHSA. This will largely be accomplished by implementing the Association's new strategic plan which was passed by the membership at the Annual Meeting. The plan details strategies and activities to achieve GHSA's goals which include:
- establishing traffic safety as a national priority
- expanding and delivering member support services
- strengthening partnerships to achieve GHSA's goals and missions.
The full GHSA Strategic Plan is posted online at http://www.ghsa.org/html/about/strategic_plan_092006.doc.