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A pioneer in injury prevention and traffic safety
Patricia Mary Florence Theresa Fossum Waller, 70, died at her home on 15 August 2003, following a nine month battle with metastatic colon cancer. We had the good fortune of knowing and working with Pat to promote highway safety in the context of public health. She was a friend and mentor to many.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference” —Robert Frost
Throughout civilization, people have profited from the efforts and foresight of those rare individuals who have the ability to see what needs to be done to improve the human condition and the capacity to make it happen. Such has been the case with the history of traffic safety; such an individual was Dr Patricia Fossum Waller. Pioneer, leader, scientist, advocate, innovator, policymaker, consensus builder, writer, speaker, visionary, friend, and mentor—Pat Waller was all of these and more. Such was the reach and influence of her work that it is nearly impossible to discuss injury prevention and traffic safety without hearing her name.
In 1967, Pat Waller became Associate Director for Driver Studies at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center and began a career that contributed significantly to reducing the human toll and public health burden from traffic related injuries. In 1965, the motor vehicle death rates were 25 per 100 000 population and five per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT). By comparison, the death rates in 2001 were 14.75 per 100 000 population and 1.5 per 100 million VMT. These reductions were not the result of any single improvement but rather a combination of factors, including improvements in vehicle safety, highway design, and driver behavior. Pat Waller played a leading …