According to the CEO of the National Safety Council, Deborah Hersman, by 2050, no one will die from crashes on U.S. Roads. Is this something that is actually possible?
Something to understand is that all roadway deaths are pretty much preventable. Using your phone, drinking or using drugs while driving and other behaviors are all choices that don’t have to be made. Over 40,000 people died in 2017 on U.S. roads, that is more than 100 people a day. So, how does Hersman think that 100 people a day will turn into zero people? Well, the Road to Zero Coalition proposes three connected approaches that they say, if taken together, could possibly eliminate car crash deaths.
The “Approaches” to Reach Zero Deaths on U.S. Roads
The first approach is to continue enforcing strategies that work. This includes automated speed enforcement, alcohol ignition interlocks, and other technologies. This includes the simple act of using a seat belt. While 90% of drivers wear a seat belt, more than half of passenger fatalities are not wearing their seat belt.
The next approach is to continue to advance new technologies that contribute to road safety. From vehicle design, roadway construction and implementation and enforcement technologies, there is a lot of growth to be had in this area. In a study by Carnegie Mellon found that three existing technologies could save around 10,000 lives every year: forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring. Some of these technologies will soon become standard safety features. But, more than that increased education around these technologies is crucial to make a difference. Other technologies such as smart grid technologies and automated enforcement, among others will help as well.
The final approach is simple: prioritize safety. Road to Zero’s idea is to create a “Safe System” approach and a culture of safety in the U.S. Currently the U.S. is trailing in addressing road safety based on the rest of the world. The below graph is from the CDC; it compares motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 population among high-income countries. You can tell that the U.S. has had the least amount of fatality reduction from 2000 to 2013 compared to the rest of the countries shown.
Legislators, engineers and the users of the roads have to come together to improve safety on U.S. roads. Hersman makes a great point, “If a plane crashed each day in the U.S. and killed everyone on board, we would demand solutions. We would change our behaviors. Today, we will lose more than 100 people on our roadways, but there is no national outcry.”
It is time to cry out for some necessary change.