US agencies introduce "Road to Zero" plan to eliminate traffic deaths

road to zero
Public Domain Road to Zero

The American government is responding to the staggering number of deaths on the roads (17,700 in the first six months of this year) with a goal of taking that number down to a big fat zero in thirty years. They call it “The Road to Zero.”

“Our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We know that setting the bar for safety to the highest possible standard requires commitment from everyone to think differently about safety– from drivers to industry, safety organizations and government at all levels.”

Everyone is on this bandwagon: U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They will start with “proven lifesaving strategies” like seat belts, rumble strips, truck safety, behavior change campaigns and data-driven enforcement.

The press release pays lip service to Vision Zero, the Swedish plan that has been running since 1997, but indicates that they are going to be taking a techno approach.

With the rapid introduction of automated vehicles and advanced technologies, the Department believes it is now increasingly likely that the vision of zero road deaths and serious injuries can be achieved in the next 30 years. The Road to Zero Coalition will work to accelerate the achievement of that vision through concurrent efforts that focus on overall system design, addressing infrastructure design, vehicle technology, enforcement and behavior safety. An important principle of the effort will be to find ways to ensure that inevitable human mistakes do not result in fatalities.

speed limitSpeed limit signs/Public Domain

That is a bit of lip service to Vision Zero, but really, it is a bit silly, because they already know how to “to ensure that inevitable human mistakes do not result in fatalities”- lower the speed limits and to redesign the roads for safety, not speed. The real Vision Zero people note:

Our road systems are based on all the factors long known to pose hazards. They are allowing drivers to take risks way beyond our human capability. And our road systems have an unclear responsibility chain, at times, blaming victims for crashes and injuries.

But the National Safety Council brings in yet another vision, the “4Es”:

"The "4Es" – Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services provide a reliable roadmap for driving down fatalities. Coupled with new technologies and innovative approaches to mobility, we may now hold the keys that get us to zero," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, NSC president and CEO. "The Road to Zero Coalition affirms that it will take ALL of us working together in new ways to eliminate preventable deaths.”

Vision Zero thinking© Vision Zero

That all sounds more like traditional thinking than Vision Zero thinking, which requires "a complete changed of mindset." It is a real shame that they have not just adopted the principles of the real Vision Zero, and are instead banking on "automated vehicles and advanced technologies". But speed limits and serious enforcement don't play well in America. We're in a hurry here.

Tags: Barack Obama | Transportation

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