National Reports Show Troubling Trends in Traffic Safety

Looking at trends in the short term doesn’t always paint a complete picture. Nevertheless, we can’t help but be discouraged by the direction of traffic safety in the U.S. described in two recent reports — one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and another from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Both reports analyze recent data to answer a similar big picture question: When it comes to traffic safety, how are we doing? Unfortunately, the answer is “not good enough.”

The central role of public health in Vision Zero

If 30,000 people were killed each year in the United States by a curable illness, we would call it a public health crisis. We would deploy resources, vaccines and interventions to address the spread and bring the death toll to the only acceptable level: zero. Yet, every year 30,000+ people are killed in preventable traffic collisions in this country. Vision Zero asks us to see those traffic deaths like polio or cholera: epidemics that, with an urgent health framing and public response, can be eradicated. In this case study we explore how San Francisco, New York City and Chicago are using the tools of public health — including epidemiology, research and a focus on the root causes of health inequities — to advance their Vision Zero efforts.