Late in 1987, the Federal Highway Administration assembled a seven-member panel which, guided by a primary contractor, Harrison Boyd & Associates, was charged with the task of developing a recommended five-year research, development, and technology transfer program for highway safety starting in the 1990s. As a part of the task, each panel member prepared an individual position paper to stimulate and focus panel discussions and, ultimately, to provide the basis for a consensus paper. This represents one such individual paper.

Although it is believed that significant safety gains can be achieved in the 1990s and beyond simply by more extensive implementation of known and proven crash countermeasures, this position paper focuses on research activity, the generation or extension of information related to the enhancement of road safety. Quantum improvement in road safety as a result of highly focused new research appears unlikely. Accordingly, in the quest to achieve significant additional gains, the recommended approach tackles the road safety problem on a broad front, examining a wide variety of factors contributing to travel hazard and building incrementally on existing knowledge. Furthermore, emphasis has been placed on activities likely to yield results that, if implemented, could be expected to generate short-term gains, perhaps within a period as short as five or fewer years.

Certainly no claim can ever be made that a specific research program will generate knowledge adequate to sustain high levels of travel safety over long periods of time. The recommended five-year research program is simply an immediate, short-term phase of a continuing process that seeks to retain or enhance a high level of personal safety in face of endless changes in human activity patterns and the highway systems built to accommodate them.

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