National Goal of Zero Roadway Deaths Lauded

by Leah Shahum January 27, 2022 in News, Press, Zero Traffic Deaths

Vision Zero Network Statement on New National Roadway Safety Strategy

Safety advocates are praising the new National Roadway Safety Strategy, calling it a significant step forward to stem and reverse a troubling upturn in traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The new Strategy, released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT), sets a first-ever national goal of zero roadway fatalities and commits to specific actions to advance the goal of safe mobility for all people.

“We commend this stepped-up approach to safety because it names the crisis on our roadways, recognizes it as unacceptable and solvable, and lays out a plan to make meaningful changes to our everyday transportation system,” says Leah Shahum, founder and director of the Vision Zero Network, a national nonprofit advancing the goal of Vision Zero, zero traffic deaths and severe injuries among all road users. “This is the kind of human-centric approach that is sorely needed and has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year in communities across the nation.” 

The U.S. ranks 41st worst amongst 49 high-income nations in traffic deaths, according to World Health Organization analysis. Traffic deaths are skyrocketing in the U.S., with a 24% increase in the rate of roadway fatalities in 2020 over 2019. Traffic deaths are rising disproportionately amongst some communities, including Black people and people walking.

The new Strategy signals a shift in direction for the U.S. DOT, stating that “Americans deserve to travel safely in their communities” and that “zero is the only acceptable number of deaths and serious injuries on our roadways.”

In his comments today announcing the agency’s new approach, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said: “Our goal is this: Zero. Zero traffic deaths.” Read the full Secretary Buttigieg’s remarks here.

Amongst many notable elements, the Strategy takes the following significant steps:

➢ Sets the goal of zero roadway fatalities nationally, adding to the momentum of Vision Zero, adopted by more than 45 local communities in the U.S. and proving effective in nations around the world.

➢ Adopts the Safe System approach, recognizing that people make mistakes and our bodies are vulnerable, so the transportation system should be designed and operated to be human-centric and accommodate human vulnerabilities.

➢ Lays out clear actions and timelines to advance the goal of zero traffic deaths, incorporating much-needed transparency and accountability.

➢ Commits to address the disproportionate impact of crashes on people of color and on people outside of vehicles (walking, biking, rolling).

➢ Acknowledges and commits to address historic and ongoing inequities, and to ensure that traffic safety strategies, including traffic enforcement, have equity at their foundation.

➢ Links these stepped-up roadway safety efforts to the nation’s priorities to address equity and climate needs.

Notably, the policy and program changes laid out in the new Strategy are accompanied by the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes $14B in new federal funding for roadway safety, signaling a commitment to action.

“We commend the Biden Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation for taking on this complex and serious issue, which affects everyone in the nation,” says Shahum. “It won’t be quick or easy to make the changes needed to ensure safe mobility for everyone, but this stepped-up leadership and call to action at all levels are essential. We hope states, regions, and local communities across the nation will join this commitment to make safety the true priority in our everyday transportation system.”

The Vision Zero Network particularly lauds the following actions in the new Strategy:

>> Launching a new, comprehensive Complete Streets initiative, including assisting communities in implementing policies that prioritize safety of all road users, including those walking, biking and rolling.

>> Leading a robust speed management program, including encouraging setting context-appropriate speed limits and designing roadways to help self-enforce safe speeds, and making funds available to study and pilot automated strategies focused on speeding, that are designed to ensure equitable application.

>> Updating federal guidance and regulations to reflect best practices for safety, including elevating context-sensitive design to promote the safety, inclusion, and mobility of all users, especially vulnerable road users.

>> Improving State performance on achieving safety performance targets.

>> Prioritizing vehicle safety performance and technologies not only for occupants but also for those outside of vehicles (walking, biking, rolling).

“We hope this signals a new day in the nation’s commitment to safe mobility,” says Shahum. “As Secretary Buttigieg said in his comments at today’s release of the Strategy, committing to the goal of zero traffic deaths helps change the way we do things, ranging from how roads are designed, speeds are set, cars are built, and funds are prioritized. We appreciate that Secretary Buttigieg recognizes that by setting a shared goal and believing in our ability to make collective progress, we can make change and save lives.”

We commend and thank all of the advocates across the nation who work tirelessly to make our nation’s streets, policies, and programs prioritize safety for all road users, especially the most vulnerable. Vision Zero Network is proud to work with partner groups and thousands of active volunteers committed to safety for all. And we look forward to the work ahead to make the new national goal of Zero Traffic Deaths a reality.

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