Barbara Rooney, governor’s representative (GR) and director of the California Office of Traffic Safety (CA OTS), was elected to serve as Chair of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) Executive Board at the organization’s 2022 meeting. Rooney will serve a one-year term for GHSA, a national nonprofit association of the state and territorial highway safety offices (SHSOs) that address behavioral traffic safety issues.
In this role, Rooney will lead GHSA’s efforts to work toward zero deaths on America’s roadways through countermeasures that address unsafe driving, including speeding, not buckling up, and impaired and distracted driving. She became chair after more than two years of surging traffic fatalities resulting from an uptick in dangerous driving behaviors coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are at a critical juncture in traffic safety,” Rooney said. “Urgent action and a new way of thinking are needed to buck the trend in roadway deaths that continue to rise. Working with new and diverse partners, we can tackle the many safety challenges we face and improve our traffic safety programs to keep all road users safe.”
According to Rooney, GHSA and the highway safety community will continue to use the Safe System approach as the guiding framework to address roadway safety, which emphasizes safer street designs, safer vehicles and safer people as required interventions to reduce deaths and serious injuries.
“More preventative measures combined with law enforcement detecting and removing impaired drivers from the road will have a monumental impact on reducing crashes,” Rooney said. “Education and enforcement programs remain critical interventions for saving lives.”
Under Rooney’s leadership, GHSA will continue efforts to advance equity in traffic safety by identifying actions SHSOs can take to reverse inequitable policies and practices that have burdened communities of color and historically underserved neighborhoods.
“Equity and roadway safety go hand in hand,” Rooney said. “Efforts to make our roads safer will also advance equity, which remains a fundamental principle in traffic safety.”
Rooney was elected GHSA vice chair in 2020 and 2021 and became chair in 2022 following a vacancy. She previously served as chair of the association’s Federal Relations Committee and Workforce Development Committee. Rooney was appointed to lead CA OTS by California Governor Gavin Newsom in August 2019, where she manages approximately $100 million in federal traffic safety grant funds that are disseminated across the state.
Also elected to serve a one-year term on the GHSA Executive Committee are: