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The data in FHWA’s annual Highway Statistics show a record-high 214.3 million licensed drivers in the US in 2014, including 95.9 million who are of age 50 or older.  These figures support DOT's Beyond Traffic study, which predicts a 77-percent increase among drivers over age 65 by 2045. What’s more, drivers who are 85 or older increased by 2.9 percent from 2013 to 2014; they remain the nation’s fastest growing demographic group among licensed drivers.

As America’s driving population ages, resources addressing the needs of those drivers become increasingly important. And now --just in time for Older Driver Safety Awareness Week-- the Roadway Safety Foundation, with support from the Federal Highway Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has launched the Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety (ChORUS) at www.roadsafeseniors.org.

Staying active and connected with friends, family, and neighbors can promote the healthy aging we all deserve. ChORUS was developed with this ultimate goal in mind, and with the knowledge that achieving it will require the efforts of a broad range of stakeholders...

Screenshot of Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety website www.roadsafeseniors.org

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Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a monumental step toward equal access and opportunity. Under Title VI of the Act, discrimination in programs and activities receiving Federal assistance is prohibited, and Federal agencies are obligated to ensure that our recipients comply with the statute and that their program activities don’t discriminate.

Five decades later, we still find ourselves working to ensure this landmark Act's effectiveness. And today, DOT is launching an investigation into the widespread closures and service reductions at driver’s license offices in Alabama to determine whether the State’s actions violate Title VI.

"Closed" sign

In September, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) announced that it would close or reduce services in 34 offices. These offices provide essential services; they are the only places where Alabama residents can obtain driver's licenses and other state-issued identification needed to open bank accounts, vote, or operate a motor vehicle, and they are the only places where residents can register their vehicles.

Without being able to get a driver's license, access to jobs is constrained. Without being able to get a commercial driver's license, another obstacle to opportunity is raised. The services ALEA provides are critical to full participation in civic and economic life.

The preliminary information we have suggests that, in a state where driving is the primary mode of transportation, these service reductions disproportionately affect African-American residents. Because the ALEA receives substantial Federal assistance from this Department, we must ensure that its service reductions do not discriminate...

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Since 1978, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 5-Star Safety Ratings have helped consumers buy vehicles that better protect them on the road. We crash-test vehicles, then assign 'star' ratings on how they perform, giving extra credit for vehicles that offer advanced safety features. One star is the lowest rating, and five stars is the highest. More stars means safer cars.

But, in a time when vehicle technologies advance at lightning speed, NHTSA must constantly innovate to stay ahead of the pace of change. That’s why, today, we’ve announced a plan to revolutionize the way we crash-test cars and rate vehicles. Our goal --as always-- is to promote an even higher level of safety and put that knowledge to work for consumers.

We’re updating our 5-Star Safety Ratings --also known as our New Car Assessment Program or NCAP-- to provide consumers with an even better system to help them shop for safety when buying a new car...

5-Star safety ratings for the future

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Here in Washington, DC, an extension of Metrorail’s Green Line into the Southeast Navy Yard neighborhood in 1999 attracted new investment and generated huge changes. A former industrial district filled with empty warehouses and little-used surface parking lots transformed into a thriving mixed-use community that includes the home of the Washington Nationals baseball team, federal and city agency offices --with our own U.S. Department of Transportation among them, corporate offices, thousands of new apartments and condos, a riverfront park, neighborhood retail shops, a large grocery store, and dozens of new restaurants. Where, once, old businesses were fading, now, new families are growing. And the pace of this transformation hasn't slowed.

We call that transit-oriented development (TOD). The best kind of TOD results in compact, mixed-use communities that are desirable places to live, work, and visit. They include housing in varying income ranges, jobs, an improved environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, and amenities like entertainment venues, parks, and retail –all within a short walk from a transit stop.

But while everyone can agree that TOD provides positive change, not all communities know how to implement it. That’s why the Federal Transit Administration has launched a National TOD Ladders of Opportunity Technical Assistance Initiative, which will provide support for transit-oriented development activities...

Navy Yard metro
New offices rise next to the WMATA Navy Yard Metro Station in Southeast Washington, D.C. Credit: kmf164 on Flickr
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Today, we opened a Smart City Challenge for mayors and city leaders across America to integrate emerging technology into their transportation networks and define what it means to be a Smart City when it comes to transportation.

We encourage cities to develop their own unique vision, partnerships, and blueprints to demonstrate to the world what a fully integrated, forward-looking urban transportation network looks like...

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When a relatively small vehicle, such as a passenger car, collides with the rear of a much larger vehicle, such as a tractor-trailer, the hood of the smaller vehicle can slide under the bed or chassis of the larger vehicle.  We call that "rear underride." In severe crashes, the smaller vehicle can underride the larger vehicle to such an extent that the larger vehicle can actually penetrate the passenger compartment of the smaller vehicle.

At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, safety is our number one goal, so preventing underride is an important priority. 

Failed truck underride crash test

Most trailers and semitrailers are already required to have bars --or rear impact guards-- hanging down from the back of the trailer to prevent underride. But we know we can do better.

To enhance underride protection, NHTSA has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require more robust rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. Compared to current rear impact guard standards, these more robust standards will improve underride protection, particularly in higher speed crashes...

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My career in public service has taught me that transportation is something we absolutely must do together. When I was the mayor of Charlotte, I made investments in transportation the center of the Queen City’s job creation and economic recovery, and the U.S. Department of Transportation played a critical role in helping us move forward.

So when President Obama asked me to serve in this position, I was both humbled and thrilled because I knew that the work of USDOT really matters. But I also knew, although we had been able to break ground on some ambitious projects in Charlotte, the larger reality was that projects were being canceled or delayed all over the country. The traditionally strong funding support authorized by the U.S. Congress was in fact at an all-time low. On my first day at USDOT, it had been more than eight years since Congress had passed a long-term surface transportation bill, and my efforts to push hard for a long term bill began immediately.

President Obama and Secretary Foxx in Minnesota at train plant

President Obama had been supportive of investing in first-class infrastructure and on Capitol Hill there was actually strong bipartisan support. But the message we kept hearing was, “let’s do this later.” I worked with my team to develop a campaign to turn the corner from “impossible” to “inevitable.”

So we scheduled hundreds of Congressional meetings. We went on two bus tours and I met with leaders in 43 states to galvanize support. The President and I even twice submitted our own surface transportation bill proposal, the GROW AMERICA Act, to give Congress a clear sense of the certainty, funding levels, and policies we need in the 21st century.

Today we finally broke through. President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act into law, marking the first long-term transportation bill passed by Congress in 10 years...

Continue Reading President Obama signs FAST ››
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Wednesday, I sat down with the Washington Post's Lois Romano as part of the Post's inGENuitY forum on Millennials and Entrepreneurship. You can watch or listen to the entire 15-minute interview below, but I have a few selected highlights of my own to share.

First, when Lois put me on the spot with an icebreaker asking, "Tesla or Prius?" I --pretty deftly, I think-- dodged an endorsement by offering a third, unbranded option, "Driverless."

Second, at DOT we're exploring and nurturing some very cutting-edge automobile technologies that will revolutionize the way Americans of all generations drive and ride, and that will improve traffic safety.

Third, there's no question that Gen Y wants transportation options like transit, biking, walking, and on-demand ride-sharing. For many, the availability of those options is a key factor in their choice of jobs and cities...

Continue Reading DOT has plenty to share at ››
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After 36 extensions, hundreds of Congressional meetings, two bus tours, visits to 43 states, and so much uncertainty, it has been a long and bumpy ride to a long-term transportation bill.  It’s not perfect, and there is still more left to do, but it reflects a bipartisan compromise I always knew was possible.

Continue Reading House passes Transportation ››
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Here's something you don't often hear about in the making of new regulations: negotiation, with interested stakeholders working toward consensus...together. It might sound like someone's fantasy of effective government, but that's exactly what we're exploring at DOT in our ongoing efforts to make flying easier for people with disabilities.

Through our rulemakings, we've removed many restrictions that previously discriminated against air travelers with disabilities.  For example, airlines may not refuse transportation based on a disability, and airlines may not limit the number of passengers with disabilities on a particular flight.  Airlines must also provide boarding and deplaning assistance for travelers with disabilities if requested, and they must make information that has been made available to other passengers available to passengers with visual and hearing disabilities.

Our latest step is hiring what's called a "neutral convenor" to consider the feasibility of a negotiated rulemaking to develop additional rules toward equal access for all air travelers. We have a number of goals we're pursuing, and our convenor, Richard Parker of the University of Connecticut School of Law, will assist us in determining if they can be achieved through regulatory negotiation...

Passenger in wheelchair uses airport kiosk

Continue Reading Negotiated regulations ››
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