With the country’s fatality figures recently increasing after years of decline, the Road to Zero Coalition, managed by the National Safety Council (NSC), has released a comprehensive report laying out strategies for ending all roadway deaths in the USA by 2050.
Under the management of the NSC, a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and on the road, the Road to Zero (RTZ) Coalition currently comprises 629 member organizations that are all involved in some aspect of road transportation, including numerous US government bodies.
The release of the report is the first time in the USA’s history that so many organizations have collaborated to put forth a comprehensive plan to address motor vehicle fatalities.
Written by the RAND Corporation, a non-profit, non-partisan research institution, RTZ Coalition’s report has identified three main initiatives to reduce roadway fatalities:
• Double down on what works through proven, evidence-based strategies;
• Advance life-saving technology in vehicles and infrastructure; and
• Prioritize safety by adopting a safe systems approach and creating a positive safety culture.
The report, A Road to Zero – A vision for achieving zero roadway deaths by 2050, is released amid national discussions about motor vehicle safety issues, such as highly and fully automated vehicles, investing in infrastructure, distracted driving, and alcohol- and drug-impaired driving.
In the short term, the report stresses enforcing and strengthening current traffic safety laws, providing new resources for traffic safety researchers and practitioners, and supporting those who design and build roads and vehicles.
The report assumes that the widespread use of fully automated vehicles is still several decades away, but while technology is being rapidly developed, it will take many years for cars with these new systems to replace conventional vehicles. In the report, the Coalition proposes accelerating the benefits of new technologies by creating partnerships between public safety and health groups and industry professionals that could identify incentives for faster adoption, and focus on applications with the greatest safety benefits.
The report also encourages the USA to prioritize safety by fostering a safety culture and adopting a safe systems approach. Many businesses have made great improvements in fatality and injury rates through adopting a safety culture, and a number of cities have adopted a Vision Zero strategy incorporating the safe systems approach that accommodates human error. But to be fully effective, these ideas need to spread across the whole country.
“We demand 100% safe operations in aviation, marine, pipeline, rail and transit – we should cultivate a corresponding societal demand for safe roads,” said Deborah AP Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC. “With these three guidelines, everyone can do something to reduce fatalities on the roadway. Getting to zero fatalities is not impossible; it just hasn’t been done yet.”
Liisa Ecola, a senior policy analyst at RAND and lead author of the report, commented, “The safe systems approach has saved lives in other countries. Sweden reduced the number of traffic deaths by more than half since the approach was introduced. This shows that we in the USA can make large strides in traffic safety with existing technologies and policies.”