U.S. Fails to Engage on Global Road Safety Commitments

by Leah Shahum | February 27, 2020 | in Global Lessons, International, News, Press, U.S. Vision Zero Cities

Response from the Vision Zero Network


Just Added: Join us April 2, 2020 for a 1.5-hour webinar as road safety leaders share their key takeaways on how the U.S. can benefit from this global road safety movement. 


It is deeply troubling to read the U.S. statement and refusal to support the recently developed Stockholm Declaration for Global Road Safety. Sadly, the response disregards well-proven, data-based findings about the most effective ways to prioritize safe mobility on our roadways. It also neglects to acknowledge what people across the nation are asking for in their very own local communities — safe streets, sidewalks, and bikeways offering more options to move about in healthy, sustainable, efficient, and affordable ways.

Unfortunately, the U.S. opted out of this important opportunity to save lives recognized by other nations around the world. Fortunately, local leadership for Vision Zero is on the rise.

Fortunately, a growing number of local leaders in the U.S. are paying attention to community members’ calls for safety, including dozens of mayors, transportation and public health leaders, and police chiefs who recognize the urgency of people dying needlessly on our streets and their authority to make changes to road designs and policies, especially reducing speeds, that make everyday trips safer. Local leaders from West Palm Beach, Florida to Boston, Massachusetts to Cleveland, Ohio to San Antonio, Texas are committing to shift from the traditional traffic safety approach to Vision Zero because they cannot wait for the federal response to catch up as people’s lives are unnecessarily lost.

While these local leaders have far more action to take in shifting the status quo approach that has encouraged speed over safety, today they stand as examples of growing political will and compassion in the U.S. to move from business-as-usual toward safe mobility for all. Strong examples exist already right here in our own country, including Portland, Oregon’s Safe Systems approach to managing speed for safety; Alexandria, Virginia’s data-driven focus on redesigning streets to be safe for all road users; and Charlotte, North Carolina’s plan to lower speed limits in its downtown central business district to 25mph because of clear safety benefits.

For the U.S. statement to point to “human error and behavioral factors” as most consequential in serious crashes and also to claim that “public education and targeted awareness campaigns” are the best ways to improve safety on our streets discounts the facts and best practices internationally. Experts and practitioners around the world – both in high- and low-income nations – as well as in diverse U.S. cities, recognize that the way we design roadways and the policies and speeds we set are far more effective in promoting safe behavior than PR campaigns and finger-wagging. If we’ve learned anything in the past decade as the U.S. has fallen behind other nations in keeping people safe — especially children who are twice as likely to die in traffic fatalities in the U.S. compared to other wealthy nations — it is that we cannot simply educate our way out of this public health crisis.

During the event, road safety champions laid shoes on a pile representing the 3,700 people who die each day on the world’s roads — 100 of them each day in the U.S.

As participants in the global road safety conference that released the Stockholm Declaration, we are encouraged by the data, research and well-documented experiences showing how to best ensure safe day-to-day mobility. And we recognize the clear potential for leaders at every level of government and industry to make life-saving changes to keep communities safe and thriving by redesigning streets, setting speeds appropriately, and leveraging technologies and policies for safety first. The truth is that we know what works, and much of it is clearly described in the Stockholm Declaration.

We are not O.K. with 100 people dying today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and onward in our country. Every one a mother, daughter, brother, or friend to so many others also impacted forever. We cannot wait for the “holy grail” of automated vehicles, especially because we have so many of the tools at hand today to prevent these tragedies and ensure that all community members have opportunities for safe trips to school, work, playgrounds, and everywhere they go.

We urge the U.S. delegation to reconsider its position. And, in the meantime, we call on local and state-level leaders, as well as those in the private sector and community-based organizations, to step up their own urgency and commitments to roadway safety and join the global movement to implement the actions laid out in the Stockholm Declaration in order to reach the goal of at least half as many traffic deaths in the next 10 years. It can be done.

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