NEW YORK – Government and industry leaders should speed the introduction of intelligent transportation systems at affordable prices to make U.S. roads safer, says acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker.

Addressing the 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems here, Rosenker tells attendees Wednesday the current level of highway deaths is unacceptable.

“I believe it’s time for us as a nation to stop accepting the costs of traffic accidents and instead put that money into making cars that can avoid potential accidents,” he says.

“It is our firm belief that advanced technology is a major ingredient in reducing accidents, saving lives, preventing injuries and lessening the immense emotional and monetary toll of these accidents.”

Rosenker says the nation must look at how to prevent vehicle accidents from happening, similar to what has been developed in aviation.

“The bottom-line belief in aviation is that you’re going to get to your destination,” he says. “We’ve taken the (highway fatality) number for granted.” About 42,000 highway-related deaths occur annually in the U.S.

In an interview with Ward’s before his address, Rosenker says he is sold on the newest safety technology in cars. He recently bought a Jeep Wrangler because the new model was equipped with electronic stability control, which the predecessor model he owned did not have.

“It’s unacceptable not to have safety device that are available today (in our cars),” he says.

Even with the domestic auto makers holding on for dear life, Rosenker insists they have to put the newest safety systems in all of their products in order to compete.

“Consumers are going to demand more safety,” he says, noting systems such as short-range vehicle radar could save an estimated 150 children annually involved in accidents that occur when motorists back out of driveways.

Additionally, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 highway deaths could be eliminated with the latest crash-avoidance technology, including lane-departure warning systems and ESC.

Rosenker says such safety technology should be standard in today’s cars. “Our goal should be to bring down the 6 million accidents, 3 million injuries and 40,000 fatalities that occur today.”

While admitting Detroit’s beleaguered auto makers are hard-pressed to achieve that goal because of the current expense involved in producing a new generation of greener cars, he says the companies have technologies that are second to none.

“Technologies will evolve in autos that we can’t even think of today,” Rosenker predicts.