Stockholm Declaration Calls for Vision Zero, Lower Speed Limits; USA Says Drop Dead

©. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Over 80 countries have signed up to make our roads safer. Only one dissented.

There was a big conference you never heard of recently in Stockholm, the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. It came up with some pretty significant conclusions and recommendations that could change our roads, our cities, and save thousands of lives, recognizing "the need to promote an integrated approach to road safety such as a safe system approach and Vision Zero." In their declaration, they:

Express great concern that road traffic crashes kill more than 1.35 million people every year, with over 90% of these casualties occurring in low- and middle-income countries, that these collisions are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years, and that the projected up to 500 million road traffic deaths and injuries worldwide between 2020 and 2030 constitute a preventable epidemic and crisis that to avoid will require more significant political commitment, leadership and greater action at all levels in the next decade.

Among other things, they resolved to:

Call upon Member States to contribute to reducing road traffic deaths by at least 50% from 2020 to 2030... and to set targets to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, in line with this commitment, for all groups of road users and especially vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists and users of public transport.

Include road safety and a safe system approach as an integral element of land use, street design, transport system planning and governance, especially for vulnerable road users and in urban areas, by strengthening institutional capacity with regard to road safety laws and law enforcement, vehicle safety, infrastructure improvements, public transport, post-crash care, and data.

Speed up the shift toward safer, cleaner, more energy efficient and affordable modes of transport and promote higher levels of physical activity such as walking and cycling, as well as integrating these modes with the use of public transport to achieve sustainability.

Twenty is Plenty

Guerrilla urban activists change sign in Minneapolis

Guerrilla urban activists change sign in Minneapolis/ Tony Webster on Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

And the big one:

Focus on speed management, including the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h [18.5 MPH] in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe, noting that efforts to reduce speed in general will have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries.

Meanwhile, in the United States of America:

As Carlton Reid noted in Forbes, the U.S. was the only one of over eighty nations that rejected the plan and issued a dissenting statement, which in itself is a very interesting document, because of how much it gets wrong from the second sentence.

While the United States supports many of the objectives outlined in the declaration, we find it necessary to dissociate ourselves from certain paragraphs that, in our view, muddle our focus and detract attention from data driven scientific policies and programs that have successfully reduced fatalities on roadways. Specifically, the United States dissociates itself from preambular paragraphs (PP)7 and 8 that references climate change, gender equality, reduced inequalities, responsible consumption and production as these issues are not directly related to road safety.

Of course a look at any of the statistics from the USA shows that the deaths caused by drivers are disproportionately inflicted on the poor and the black populations. These are all directly related.

They then take a shot at the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the successor to the dreaded Agenda 21, noting that "the 2030 Agenda is non-binding and does not create or affect rights or obligations under international law, nor does it create any new financial commitments." The US response claims that "the United States is committed to improving global road safety and is leading by example." This, when the number of pedestrians being killed continues to rise.

To reduce the risk of crashes and their resulting injuries and deaths, the United States will continue to work closely with our state and local partners to implement evidence- based public education and targeted awareness campaigns. In addition, we are continuing research to better understand the relationship between roadway design, traffic volumes, speed, and crash outcomes. The United States is focused on improving road safety especially for pedestrians and bicyclists through infrastructure design.

Of course, everybody knows the relationships between road design and speed and the deaths of pedestrians and cyclists. It's just inconvenient for drivers.

And there's not a peep about light truck and SUV design, which has been proven to be deadly. Instead, they walk away from the Declaration's demand that "all vehicles produced and sold for every market by 2030 are equipped with appropriate levels of safety performance, and that incentives for use of vehicles with enhanced safety performance are provided where possible." Because pickups don't look dominating from every angle if you do that.

Oh, and don't forget, self-driving cars are just around the corner and they will save us all!

Further, our country is on the verge of one of the most exciting and important innovations in transportation history— the development of Automated Driving Systems (ADSs), commonly referred to as automated or self-driving vehicles. This new technology can lead to a future in which vehicles increasingly help drivers avoid crashes. And, especially important, it’s a future in which highway fatalities and injuries are significantly reduced.

Nobody is talking much about this story, I only learned about it because I follow Carlton Reid. Even in Canada, they didn't send Marc Garneau, the Transport Minister; just bureaucrats. In fact, the Stockholm Declaration is a very big deal; I look forward to 30 km/hr speed limits and real Vision Zero and safer cars in the near future.

And Americans will continue to die in huge numbers, on roads that are too wide, where drivers go too fast, and where people continue to get killed by these huge black trucks that are so popular and so deadly.