New Report Provides Roadmap for Zero Traffic Deaths by 2050
New Road to Zero Report Sets Goal to Eliminate Traffic Deaths in U.S. by 2050
As a member of the Road to Zero Coalition, the League of American Bicyclists is excited by the progress made to articulate the need for a national movement for Vision Zero – zero traffic deaths and severe injuries. Today’s release of a groundbreaking report setting a goal to eliminate traffic fatalities in the U.S. by 2050 is an important step toward nationwide buy-in for the concept of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries.
The report, A Road to Zero: A vision for achieving zero roadway deaths by 2050, is the first of its kind in the U.S. and was developed by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institution, in partnership with the Road to Zero Coalition, which is led by the National Safety Council and includes the U.S. Department of Transportation amongst other influential partners.
This historic call for action and urgency at the national level comes as traffic deaths reach staggering proportions, as more than 37,000 people lost their lives last year in the U.S. in traffic crashes — an average of 100 people lost each day in preventable crashes. People who bike and walk have disproportionately been affected by this increase in traffic deaths — with bicyclists and pedestrians making up over 18% of traffic fatalities in 2016, while accounting for slightly less than 13% of trips
The Road to Zero report identifies proven, life-saving actions for the short-, mid-, and long-terms that should be taken by federal, state, and local government officials; automakers; technology manufacturers; business leaders; insurance agencies; law enforcement; and safety advocates.
The report’s recommendations include:
(1) Institute a Safe Systems approach, a core principle of Vision Zero, which recognizes that because human error is inevitable, system designers and policymakers must design roadways, policies, and systems to prioritize safety.
(2) More robustly implement proven safety strategies, such as designing Complete Streets for all road users, and managing speed for safety by lowering speed limits and using technology to influence safe behavior; and
(3) Ensure emerging technologies prioritize safety.
“News flash: these deaths are preventable,” says Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the national Vision Zero Network, a member of the Road to Zero Coalition Steering Group. “This report shows that 100 people dying each day — children, parents, grandparents, and other loved ones in our communities — is not some inevitable ‘price’ for mobility in today’s society. The truth is that we know what works to ensure safety on our streets, sidewalks, and bikeways. And we can and must work toward the only acceptable goal of zero traffic deaths.”
As to the question: Why Zero?
The new national report asks another question in response: “What level of death on the roads should we as a society accept? How many of our own family members, classmates, neighbors, or people in our community losing their lives to crashes would be considered an appropriate number?”
The report recognizes that U.S. roadway deaths are twice the average of other high-income countries, and almost all of these countries have seen greater improvement over the past two decades than the U.S. In contrast, the two longest-running Vision Zero communities in the nation have seen marked success in their efforts to save lives. Since New York City shifted its approach to Vision Zero in 2014, it has experienced a 28% decrease in traffic deaths. In that same time period, San Francisco’s Vision Zero efforts contributed to a decrease of 41% in traffic deaths. (more here) These positive safety trends are particularly encouraging as the nation’s overall safety worsened significantly.
As national politicians, policymakers, and others consider the need to rebuild our nation’s transportation systems, this report makes a strong case for prioritizing safety by adopting a safe systems approach. According to the report, “a Safe System approach assumes that people will occasionally, but inevitably, make mistakes behind the wheel and that the overall transportation system should be designed to be forgiving so that these mistakes do not lead to fatal outcomes.”
To learn more about the Vision Zero and Safe Systems movements nationally, contact the Vision Zero Network (visionzeronetwork.org).
To learn more about the Road to Zero Coalition and the new Road to Zero report, contact the National Safety Council (nsc.org/roadtozero).