US Government Moving Toward Zero Traffic Fatalities in 30 Years

“From this day forward, we start counting down to zero” was the headline this week from the National Safety Council and the US transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

With this statement, the US government set into motion a plan that has been carried to the front lines of US politics from a grassroots campaign. Obama’s Vision Zero is adapted from the Swedish multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. It started in Sweden and was approved by their parliament in October 1997

In 2015, there were over 35,000 deaths in fatal traffic crashes, which is a seven percent increase over the year before.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, National Safety Council, and a coalition of safety advocates have vowed to lead America toward the Road to Zero traffic deaths in the next thirty years.

As we move towards an era of driverless cars, the vehicles we will start to see in showrooms and dealerships across America will continue to get better crash avoidance technologies and features. Right now only 5% of cars on the road have such systems.

Crash avoidance technologies over the next twenty years will be focused on lane departure assists and frontal collision detection systems. Cars will get smarter and less apt to crash, but it could take 20-30 years before those vehicles represent over 50% of the cars on the road.

In the meantime, the US Government’s plan involves a wide range of groups from the public and private sector, including safety advocates, federal, state and local officials, technologists, data and behavioral scientists, engineers, community planners and policy experts.

The Department of Safety has committed $1 million for each of the next three years to support the coalition, including providing grants to national organizations on a competitive basis for innovative efforts that will cut traffic deaths.

Their short-term focus is to promote strategies that save lives over the next three to five years. Strategies that include improving seat belt use and motorcycle helmet usage, innovative street and intersection designs, commercial truck safety improvements and leading driver behavioral change campaigns.

Long term, the DOT and the Safety Council will focus on overall system design, new vehicle technology, traffic law enforcement, and behavioral safety.

The DOT and the government believe that with the rapid pace of automated vehicle technology development, the goal of zero deaths is achievable in our lifetimes.

Reaching zero will require commitment from the traveling public, too. After all, 94 percent of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error, like impaired driving, speeding, or texting behind the wheel.

What choices can you make to better protect yourself, your family and others on the road toady, tomorrow and into the future?

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