Vision Zero Network is the nation’s leading voice and advocate for Vision Zero: the goal of zero traffic deaths and severe injuries among all road users.
Members of the media can contact us at +1(415) 322-0438.
On this page:
- The Challenge We Face
- Key Facts about Vision Zero
- About Vision Zero Network
- Commonly Asked Questions
- Background Information for Reporters
- References & Research
The Challenge We Face
Traffic deaths are at an unacceptably high number in the U.S. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimate of roadway deaths for the first six months of 2021 is 21,450, up 16% from 18,480 in that same period of 2020. The rate of deaths in 2020 spiked 24% over 2019. This is the highest year-over-year increase in the traffic death rate in the U.S. in 96 years, since 1924.
The U.S. ranks 41st in traffic fatality rate among 49 high-income nations, according to World Health Organization. The U.S. traffic death rate was 12.67 per 100,000 people in 2019, according to the World Health Organization, dismal compared to other countries, including the following: Canada (5.34), the United Kingdom (3.21), Japan (3.6), and Australia (4.94).
Roadway crashes disproportionately harm some groups. Crashes are a leading cause of death for young people ages 1-25. People in low-income areas are almost 3x as likely to be killed while walking than people in high-income areas. From 2010-2019, Black people were struck and killed by drivers at an 82% higher rate than White, non-Hispanic Americans. For American Indian and Alaska Native people, that disparity climbs to 221%. Further data is available in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy and Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design report.
Key Facts About Vision Zero
Note that this includes all people, whether walking, biking, riding scooters, driving, or riding transit, etc. Vision Zero is sometimes misunderstood to include only pedestrians but actually includes everyone using the everyday transportation system.
Vision Zero is also sometimes misrepresented to focus only on fatalities. In fact, Vision Zero is about preventing both traffic fatalities and severe injuries.
Vision Zero is not just a slogan or a tagline or, even, a program. It is a fundamentally different way to approach traffic safety. It is a paradigm shift. Read more about Vision Zero.
About Vision Zero Network
What does Vision Zero Network do? Vision Zero Network is a nonprofit project advancing Vision Zero nationwide (U.S.), including supporting local communities working toward Vision Zero. We develop and share resources on promising strategies, offer learning opportunities such as peer exchanges, support existing and interested Vision Zero communities’ efforts, and serve as a voice for Vision Zero nationally. Read more about our work here.
What Vision Zero Network does not do: We do not represent or speak for individual community-led Vision Zero efforts. If you’re interested in activities in a specific community, please contact them directly. We are not a membership group and cannot speak for individual communities’ efforts. We do work closely with Vision Zero communities across the nation and can offer our perspectives on the opportunities, challenges, and urgency of Vision Zero across the nation.
Commonly Asked Questions:
Vision Zero starts with the ethical belief that everyone has the right to move safely in their communities.
Vision Zero recognizes that people will sometimes make mistakes, so the road system and related policies and systems should be designed to ensure that those inevitable mistakes do not result in severe injuries or fatalities. This does not mean that crashes will be eliminated completely, but rather that systems can be designed to deter more crashes and to make sure that crashes are less severe.
Vision Zero is built on the Safe System approach to traffic safety. It is a human-centered approach. In a Safe System, roads are built, vehicles are designed, and speeds are set so that safe behavior is the most intuitive and easiest way to go. Read more about the Safe System approach in the U.S. DOT’s National Roadway Safety Strategy and the Safe System Consortium report, led by John Hopkins University.
Of course, people will make mistakes, and crashes will occur. In these cases, a Safe System is designed to be forgiving. Examples include the following:
- Lower speeds where people walking and biking mix with motor vehicles;
- Investing in traffic calming features, such as roundabouts and speed humps;
- Incentivizing transit and smaller vehicles over menacing, tank-sized personal vehicles.
With these and other kinds of systems-level changes, the inevitable mistakes we make on the roads are likely to result in fender-benders and broken ankles – not life-altering tragedies.
→Is Vision Zero Realistic?
Yes. As with any public health crisis causing avoidable pain, suffering and loss, the ethical goal is safety for all people. And when we set the ambitious goal of zero traffic deaths, people not only think differently, they also act differently. Read more from the Vision Zero Network on the power of Zero here.
In January 2022, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the following comments in announcing the goal of Vision Zero for the nation and releasing the first National Roadway Safety Strategy (full transcript here):
We cannot and must not accept that these fatalities are somehow an inevitable part of life in America.”
“When it comes to roadway deaths, we have a crisis that’s urgent, unacceptable - and preventable.”
“Today we commit that our goal is this: zero. Our goal is zero deaths; a country where, one day, nobody has to say goodbye to a loved one because of a traffic crash.”
Vision Zero’s Safe System approach is proving effective in other places. Analysis of traffic fatalities in 53 nations, conducted by the World Resources Institute, found that those adopting a Safe Systems-based approach, such as Vision Zero, achieved both the lowest rates of traffic fatalities and the largest reduction in fatalities over 20 years (1994 - 2015).
In the U.S., the 2018 Road to Zero report, developed by the Rand Corporation in partnership with the National Safety Council and other traffic safety organizations, lays out the path to safety for all on our streets — people walking, biking, driving, riding transit — everyone. From the report:
“While it will take a generation, the success of other countries and some U.S. cities demonstrates that a combination of approaches makes this an achievable goal.”
Background Information for Reporters
- Use the term “crash” or “collision”, not the term “accident” in describing incidents. The latter term implies no control or agency over situations, which is often not the case. Also, this is recommended AP style, though often overlooked. More in the links below.
- Avoid blaming the victim, or the person hit in crashes. Describing a person hit while walking as “wearing dark clothes” is inappropriate in the same vein as describing the victim of a sexual assault as “wearing a short skirt.” More in the links below.
- Recognize and point out the common patterns of crashes, rather than portraying them as isolated incidents. For example, there are often consistent themes related to poor roadway design or conditions, or high speeds, that show the fuller context of the systems, or environments, people are moving in.
- Use language that appropriately describes people involved, rather than de-humanizing actions. For instance, automobiles do not act on their own volition, ex: “a car hit a person walking.” More appropriately, this was “a person driving a car hit a person walking”.
References & Research:
- Using the term “crash” not “accident”, New York Times
- When covering car crashes, be careful not to blame the victim, Columbia Journalism Review
- The research: How news reporting about traffic crashes influences public perceptions, Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives Journal
- Journalists: Here’s how to produce less horrible stories about pedestrians and cyclists getting killed, Medium
- Editorial Patterns in Bicyclist and Pedestrian Crash Reporting, Transportation Research Record
- How news reporting about traffic crashes influences public perceptions, Pedal Love
Note that we are a small team and will do our best to respond to requests for information. Much information can be found on our website.
Photo credits: Seattle Department of Transportation; US DOT (National Roadway Safety Strategy); Vision Zero Network.