November 18, 2009
Emerson Brown, NPR




November 18, 2009; Washington, D.C. – Next week, millions of Americans will pile into cars to visit family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday -- one of the busiest periods on U.S. roads each year. During this hectic travel time, NPR News will explore whether drivers are "On the Road to Safety" in a weeklong multipart series detailing the consistent car and road improvements of the last generation -- and why they may soon run into a bumpy patch. The series begins Sunday, November 22, and will cross all programs and be available at

Led by NPR's National Desk, "On the Road to Safety" will look at automobile travel enhancements, from technology, smarter road designs, legislation and changed behaviors. The series ultimately traverses the issues surrounding one big question: will these efforts be able to continue in coming years, or be derailed by problems such as highway budget cuts and distracted driving. A tentative schedule of pieces follows.

All broadcast stories will be archived at, where there will also be an interactive timeline offering a historical view of driving safety and charts analyzing government spending on roads and the effects of drunk-driving campaigns. In advance of the series, is currently asking audiences to share their biggest complaints – and solutions – about being on the road in the online feature "What Drives You Crazy?". Select submissions will be published at the week of November 23.

NOTE: The following are selected pieces in the series; this is not an inclusive list. Broadcast dates are tentative. All material will be available at

Sunday, Nov. 22
Weekend Edition: "On the Road to Safety" Overview
Senior business editor Marilyn Geewax shares how better technology (like air bags) and changed behaviors (such as reduced incidents of drunk driving) have made roads safer, while also describing how highway budget cuts and distracted driving could threaten this progress.

Monday, Nov. 23
Morning Edition: Vehicle Technology
The number of people killed on the nation's highways last year hit its lowest level since John F. Kennedy was president. Correspondent Brian Naylor visits the crash hall at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Vehicle Research Center, to learn about the latest vehicle safety innovations.

Tell Me More: Undocumented Drivers
The program offers a story on the effects of two different law enforcement policies concerning drivers' licenses for undocumented immigrants. What is the safety impact of preventing many people working in this country from taking a driver’s test?

All Things Considered: Federal Role In Safety
Reporter Audie Cornish reports on the daunting challenges Congress now faces that may signal the end of the key role they’ve played in the continued improvements in driving safety.

All Things Considered: California Crumbling
Once the envy of the world, budget constraints have made California's highways more nightmare than dream. Correspondent Ina Jaffe rides along its troubled roads, wondering how states can maintain safety levels when they can’t afford to keep up their roads and bridges.

Tuesday, Nov. 24
Morning Edition: Road Safety
Beyond rumble strips and Cloverleaf interchanges, correspondent Brian Naylor looks at new technologies and design ideas that can make roads safer for travel.

Talk of the Nation: Truckers and Safety
Host Neal Conan leads a talk about truck drivers and highway safety. Do financial pressures force them to drive too fast -- and on too little sleep?

All Things Considered: Driving While Old
Florida is making visibility and navigability improvements because the state leads the country in older-driver deaths. Host Robert Siegel travels there to investigate Florida's initiatives, including a special older-driver program and an anonymous tip line to alert police to potentially dangerous senior drivers.

Wednesday, Nov. 25
Talk of the Nation: What do we give up?
Host Neal Conan asks audiences what they’d be willing to give up for safer roads. Would they be willing to drive 55 mph again or have tough anti-texting laws?

All Things Considered: Teen Angel
Though highway fatalities have dropped significantly over the last decade, statistics show there has been little change in the number of highway deaths among teenage boys. NPR's Robert Benincasa explores the persistently lethal mix of horsepower and testosterone.

All Things Considered: Aging Suits
New technology is often touted as improving the driving ability of older motorist. Tracy Samilton of NPR Member station Michigan Radio investigates if this technology actually increases safety, or simply gives false confidence to older drivers who shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

Thursday, Nov. 26
All Things Considered: Texting -- The New Drinking
Highway officials say that, in 2008, nearly 6,000 people were killed as a result of distracted driving -- a third of those deaths involved texting. NPR reports on efforts to change attitudes about mixing these two activities.

Friday, Nov. 27
All Things Considered: Pod Cars
Getting people out of their cars is one of the best ways to reduce highway fatalities, but having them take public transportation can be a hard sell. NPR reports on what some transportation planners hail as the answer: the pod car -- a driverless, point-to-point transit with no rubbing elbows with strangers.

Saturday, Nov. 28
Weekend Edition: The Trouble with Tailgating
Many colleges have cracked down on alcohol consumption at football games. Reporter Greg Allen investigates why tailgating has become a problem, including a visit to a football game that's come to be known as "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

Sunday, Nov. 29
Weekend Edition: Dangerous Rural Roads
Well over half of traffic deaths occur on rural roads, though only a quarter of the U.S. population is rural. Correspondent Howard Berkes visits a highway in Utah (once labeled "America's Most Dangerous Highway"), which got more than $160 million in safety improvements after demands from residents.