November 11, 2015 — More than 1.2 million people lose their lives each year in traffic crashes across the globe – including more than 33,000 in America. This Sunday, on the 20th anniversary of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, communities across America will say “Enough is enough.”
On November 15th, residents in cities from Seattle to San Antonio to Boston will mobilize at public events to urge action to address the crisis of traffic violence. Uniting their voices to end this preventable epidemic, they will rally for Vision Zero: zero traffic fatalities and severe injuries among all road users.
“From New York City to Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, American communities are waking up to the crisis on our streets and sidewalks, and stepping up their actions to ensure safe mobility for all,” says Leah Shahum, Founder and Director of the U.S.-based Vision Zero Network. “The World Day of Remembrance is a chance to honor those who have lost their lives and those who have been deeply affected by traffic violence. We can and must prioritize safety over speed on our streets.”
Alvin Lester, a resident of San Francisco, understands this need only too well. His 21-year-old son Arman was hit and killed by a driver in San Francisco while walking a year ago. “This is a real epidemic,” Alvin says. “Don’t pretend that it can’t happen to you. Because it could be you tomorrow. It could be one of your loved ones tomorrow. It could be someone else’s child tomorrow.”
Lester will be among the participants and speakers at a walk and vigil planned for the World Day of Remembrance in San Francisco. Organizers aim to convince local and state lawmakers to allow the use of automated speed enforcement, which is proven to save lives.
“We want to illuminate the immense and unjust impact that traffic injuries have on our community — with an average of three people hit by cars every single day while walking in San Francisco,” says Nicole Ferrara, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco. “We want the public to understand the pervasiveness of preventable traffic injuries and what still needs to be done to achieve zero traffic deaths in San Francisco by 2024.”
In Portland, Oregon, Kristi Finney-Dunn will commemorate the World Day of Remembrance by posting a nearly life-size silhouette of her son, Dustin (pictured right), at the spot where he was hit and killed by a drunk driver while bicycling four years ago. He was just 28 years old when his life was cut tragically short — and since then, nine more people have died on that very same road.
Finney-Dunn isn’t alone in her grief. On Sunday, she’ll be joined by other members of the newly formed Families for Safe Streets in Oregon, who are commemorating their lost loved ones and working for a systemic change that will ensure safe mobility for all: Vision Zero.
“Until my son was killed by a drunk driver, I was oblivious to what was happening to people on our roads,” Finney-Dunn says. “Oh, I’d see the newscasts and I’d see the memorial signs, but it didn’t touch me personally for more than a few seconds. The lost and injured lives seemed to be isolated events and were, sadly, just ‘accidents’ — and, like so many others, I thought accidents happen when people drive.”
But traffic crashes are not accidents. On the World Day of Remembrance, community members will call for a life-saving paradigm shift in how we prioritize safe mobility for all — asking supporters, elected leaders, policymakers, and the media to change their language to acknowledge that we do have control. We have the power to end traffic violence by prioritizing speeds, road design, enforcement policies, and education efforts that prioritize safety.
In New York City, advocates with Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets have launched a highly visible and quickly growing campaign calling for community members to take the #CrashNotAccident pledge — including members of the media. On November 15th, they’ll take that message — and hundreds of supporters — to both city and world leaders.
“On the World Day of Remembrance, we are walking to the United Nations to say that crashes are not ‘accidents’,” said Samara Daly of Families for Safe Streets. “The word ‘accident’ is demeaning to victims of collisions that are actually preventable. Changing the way we talk about traffic violence is an important step toward changing the culture of reckless and careless driving, so that not one more family will have to suffer the pain we live with every day.”
“The message of Vision Zero,” adds Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, “is that safer street design can save lives, and equitable and consistent enforcement can deter dangerous driving.”
Learn more about Vision Zero and watch for photos and stories from cities’ experiences at the World Day of Remembrance at visionzeronetwork.org.
Learn more about the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims at worlddayofremembrance.org