USA launches Road to Zero coalition to end road deaths within the next 30 years

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The Vision Zero concept of zero road fatalities was first adopted in Sweden in 1997 and since then has evolved across the world, with a growing number of jurisdictions (regions and authorities) adopting the goal of zero road fatalities. A coalition of the USA’s main federal transportation organizations has now launched a ‘Zero Fatality’ vision for the country’s roads.

Last year marked the largest increase in US traffic deaths since 1966, and preliminary estimates for the first half of 2016 show an alarming climb in fatalities – an increase of about 10.4% compared with the number of deaths in the first half of 2015. The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have joined forces with the National Safety Council (NSC) to launch the Road to Zero coalition, with the goal of ending fatalities on the USA’s roads within the next 30 years. USDOT has committed US$1m a year for the next three years to provide grants to organizations working on lifesaving programs.

The Road to Zero coalition will initially focus on promoting proven lifesaving strategies, such as improving seatbelt use, installing rumble strips, truck safety, behavior change campaigns and data-driven enforcement. Additionally, the coalition will then lead the development of a new scenario-based vision on how to achieve zero traffic deaths based on evidence-based strategies and a systematic approach to eliminating risks. With the rapid introduction of automated vehicles and advanced technologies, USDOT believes it is now increasingly likely that the vision of zero road deaths and serious injuries can be achieved by 2046. 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.

“Our vision is simple: zero fatalities on our roads,” said US 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.”

NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said, “Every single death on our roadways is a tragedy. We can prevent them. Our drive toward zero deaths is more than just a worthy goal. It is the only acceptable goal.”

Deborah AP Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC, noted, “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. The Road to Zero coalition affirms that it will take all of us working together in new ways to eliminate preventable deaths.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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