FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2021
Congress Considers Confronting Traffic Safety Epidemic with Commitment to Vision Zero
In the face of a worsening safety crisis on our roads, community members across the country applauded the introduction today of a bicameral Congressional Resolution calling for the first national goal of Zero Traffic Deaths in the U.S. — or Vision Zero. Introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Jan Schakowsky, the Resolution recognizes the urgency of addressing the leading cause of death amongst youth in this country and calls for stepping up effective and equitable actions to prevent traffic deaths and severe injuries. The need is acute, given an estimated 42,060 traffic deaths in 2020 — an 8% increase over the prior year, despite far less travel due to the pandemic, a staggering 24% increase in the traffic death rate (data from the National Safety Council).
“No other preventable cause of death is so overlooked and implicitly condoned as the tens of thousands of preventable traffic fatalities each year in this country. This must — and can — change,” said Leah Shahum, Director of Vision Zero Network. “We are encouraged that this new Resolution to set and advance the goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2050 is a sign of stepped-up federal leadership. Now we need to put proven strategies to work, including designing roadways for safety instead of speed and investing funding in safety improvements, especially for those walking and biking and those in traditionally underserved communities.”
“Cities will push urgently for meaningful reforms to achieve Vision Zero goals, but a national commitment to eliminate traffic deaths on our streets is long overdue,” said LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds. “Building smarter and investing in the safety of our streets will end the terrible heartbreak that too many families and communities continue to endure.”
Resolution Recognizes Tragic, Preventable Losses of Loved Ones
“Every traffic death is more than a number,” said Amy Cohen, Co-Founder of Families for Safe Streets in NYC. “October 8th will mark eight years since I lost my 12-year-old son Sammy. He was in 8th grade and just trying to get from school to soccer practice. This should not be a deadly act. We are so grateful to Senator Blumenthal and Congresswoman Schakowsky for urging the U.S. to commit to ZeroTrafficDeaths. Taking that first step to a safety-first transportation policy will prevent others from the heartache we have suffered.”
“Driving your child back to college is often thought of as a bonding moment as your ‘baby’ blossoms into a burgeoning young adult — not a deadly act that ends two lives in an instant,” said Cathy Bell-Forman of Bloomfield, Connecticut, whose sister and 19-year-old niece were killed in a crash with an 18-wheeler-truck in 2018. “I have been fighting since for a small legislative change to require trucks to be fully illuminated, and even that small change has not yet been made. If only the U.S. had prioritized safety sooner and put in place the proven solutions to save lives, my kind, generous sister and her smart, bubbly daughter would still be alive.”
“From hopelessness arises a desire for change,” said Thomas Hyneman of Atlanta’s Families for Safe Streets chapter, whose 14-year-old daughter Alexia was struck and killed in 2016 in a preventable crash. “Passing this Resolution and embracing Vision Zero cannot bring back my daughter, or any of the 100 other loved ones who died in America that same day. It cannot bring back the 100 people who have died every day since. It does however declare openly that our leaders care and are going to do what it takes to finally stop this completely preventable loss of life.”
Changes Needed to Step Up Safety
The Resolution for Zero Traffic Deaths is an important step in signaling federal leadership to improve traffic safety at a time when the nation is struggling to ensure safe mobility. A few examples of the urgency:
- The U.S. ranked 41st worst amongst 49 high-income nations in traffic death rates (World Health Organization).
- Traffic deaths are the leading cause of death amongst youth (New England Journal of Medicine).
- Black people are ~80% more likely to be killed by drivers while walking than white, non-Hispanic Americans (Smart Growth America).
- American Indian & Alaska Native adults are twice as likely to be killed in motor vehicle crashes than non-Hispanic whites (Smart Growth America).
- Traffic deaths of people walking increased 45% between 2010-2019 (Smart Growth America).
“Pedestrian safety is a crisis in America, with the toll of death disproportionately falling upon Black and Brown communities, the old, the young, and those with lower incomes,” said Mike McGinn, Executive Director of America Walks. “We have the ability to prevent traffic deaths and serious injuries, but we need the political will to make change. This is a step toward much-needed, increased attention and urgency at the federal level for safety.”
Based on a growing body of data, expert analysis, and reliable projections, the nation has the tools and the know-how needed today to reduce traffic deaths by 75% in the next 30 years. A combination of policy changes, modernized road designs, and advanced technologies exist today and can be implemented to save lives.
Does Setting the Goal of Zero Make a Difference?
“Our priorities, plans, and policies are based on the goal we aim for, and we should not be aiming for some of our loved ones to be safe as they move about our communities — we should be working for safety for all,” said Vision Zero Network’s Shahum. “Goals drive our actions and our urgency. And we need to shake off the complacency we’ve had for too long of preventable deaths and injuries. Just as a civilized society works to provide safe drinking water and clean air, we must work to ensure safe mobility.”
Analysis of traffic fatalities in 53 nations, conducted by the World Resources Institute, found that those adopting a Safe System-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).
Advocates with the organizations Families for Safe Streets, It Could Be Me, Vision Zero Network and many others have been meeting with members of Congress to share their personal stories of suffering and to urge leaders to prioritize safety in upcoming federal funding and policy bills. The Zero Traffic Deaths Resolution recognizes that safe mobility is a right for everyone moving about our communities, and that we can prioritize safety with leadership and focus.
Vision Zero Network is a nonprofit organization advancing the goal of Vision Zero in the U.S. — zero traffic fatalities or severe injuries among all road users. More than 45 communities in the nation have committed to Vision Zero as a way to ensure safe mobility for all. Learn more at visionzeronetwork.org.
Families for Safe Streets is a grassroots advocacy group of people who have lost loved ones or been injured themselves in traffic crashes. They work tirelessly for meaningful policy changes to help others avoid the tragedies they have suffered. Today there are 18 Families for Safe Streets chapters in N. America. Learn more at www.familiesforsafestreets.org.
It Could Be Me is a group working to improve responsibility and respect on our roadways to ensure safety, especially for vulnerable road users. Their efforts include working to re-humanize people biking to improve safety. Find out more at itcouldbeme.org.