“Road to Zero” another U.S. Vision Zero Scam?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
NHTSA contact: Bryan Thomas, 202-366-9550, Public.Affairs@dot.gov
FHWA contact: Jane Mellow, 202-366-0660
FMCSA contact: Ed Gilman, 202-366-9999
NSC contact: Maureen Vogel, 202-775-2226

New partnership aims to end traffic fatalities within the next 30 years

WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are joining forces with the National Safety Council (NSC) to launch the Road to Zero Coalition with the goal of ending fatalities on the nation’s roads within the next 30 years. The Department of Transportation has committed $1 million a year for the next three years to provide grants to organizations working on lifesaving programs.

“Our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We know that setting the bar for safety to the highest possible standard requires commitment from everyone to think differently about safety – from drivers to industry, safety organizations and government at all levels.”

The year 2015 marked the largest increase in traffic deaths since 1966 and preliminary estimates for the first half of 2016 show an alarming uptick in fatalities – an increase of about 10.4 percent as compared to the number of fatalities in the first half of 2015.

“Every single death on our roadways is a tragedy,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “We can prevent them. Our drive toward zero deaths is more than just a worthy goal. It is the only acceptable goal.”

The Road to Zero Coalition will initially focus on promoting proven lifesaving strategies, such as improving seat belt use, installing rumble strips, truck safety, behavior change campaigns and data-driven enforcement. Additionally, the coalition will then lead the development of a new scenario-based vision on how to achieve zero traffic deaths based on evidence-based strategies and a systematic approach to eliminating risks.

“The “4Es” – Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services provide a reliable roadmap for driving down fatalities. Coupled with new technologies and innovative approaches to mobility, we may now hold the keys that get us to zero,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “The Road to Zero Coalition affirms that it will take ALL of us working together in new ways to eliminate preventable deaths.”

“Reaching zero deaths will be difficult, will take time and will require significant effort from all of us but it is the only acceptable vision,” said FHWA Deputy Administrator David Kim. “We’re not at zero yet, but by working together, the day will come when there are no fatalities on the nation’s roadways, sidewalks or bicycle paths.”

With the rapid introduction of automated vehicles and advanced technologies, the Department believes it is now increasingly likely that the vision of zero road deaths and serious injuries can be achieved in the next 30 years. The Road to Zero Coalition will work to accelerate the achievement of that vision through concurrent efforts that focus on overall system design, addressing infrastructure design, vehicle technology, enforcement and behavior safety. An important principle of the effort will be to find ways to ensure that inevitable human mistakes do not result in fatalities.

“Working closely with our partners, both inside and outside the Department, we are committing significant resources to the serious effort being put forth to make the ambitious goal of zero deaths an eventual reality,” said FMCSA Administrator T.F. Scott Darling III. “While we work tirelessly every day to promote safer roadways, we understand that this coalition will only succeed if we all do our part and pledge to make safety our highest priority.”

The “zero deaths” idea was first adopted in Sweden in 1997 as “Vision Zero” and since then has evolved across the country and across the world. A growing number of state and cities have adopted “Zero” fatality visions.

  • jcwconsult

    There is one, AND ONLY ONE, way to achieve zero traffic deaths. Limit the actual travel speed of cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, wheelchairs, skateboards, tricycles, skates, and all other moveable forms of transportation to 0 mph under all circumstances.

    Driving today is incredibly safe compared to past decades. If you are in a car for about 15,000 miles a year, you will be killed in a crash about once in every 6,000 years. If you walk 5 miles a day, you will be killed about once in every 38,000 years of walking. Can we continue to improve? Sure, but not with unrealistic goals like zero deaths which will never come about unless we are willing to totally cripple commerce and personal mobility.

    Vision Zero should more properly be known as Vision $$$$, an excuse to use more draconian enforcement scams against mostly safe drivers for profits. But enforcement for profits is 100% wrong, 100% of the time.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. We have seen government use Vision Zero as a label and publicity stunt rather than real efforts at improving safety outcomes. In New York they have increased enforcement against bike riders and claimed this is Vision Zero. The truth is, Vision Zero does not really mean zero fatalities, it is a change in emphasis that all fatalities must be prevented rather than cost/benefited to end any or most safety efforts. It is a balanced approach versus just enforcement and blaming the public as bad drivers. It does mean more resources in the short term, higher speed crash protection in cars and trucks, better roadway design, and even lowering speed limits where effective. It saves money in the long run through decreased insurance and healthcare costs which are massive to society, it is not cheaper to kill.

      If you separate traffic lanes to only allow same direction traffic you prevent a major problem of head-on crashes that are hard to engineer crash protection for as high additive speeds can overwhelm safety systems. Once traffic is single direction you engineer cars and trucks with crash protection that is effective at 50 plus mph. You remove or protect all roadside obstacles with crash protection such as trees, better guard rails, and stop roadside parking. We eliminate most human error through obstacle detection, lane scan, and smart car technology. We can get some mild improvement through safety messages and increased enforcement. Here we approach our goal of Vision Zero as it is very difficult to be killed in same direction crashes at reasonable speeds with properly designed cars and trucks with compensation for differences in vehicle mass.

      The cost of improved design is minimal compared to the cost of fatal crashes which exceeds a million dollars per life lost and includes substantial increases in health and insurance costs to society. As an example, I watched a County Sheriff in our County discuss the loss of thirteen teenagers in our County due to DUI roadside crashes. He suggested we needed to increase enforcement and penalties against car drivers. It never occurred to him that all of these teenagers could have been saved as all of the crashes were with unprotected roadside trees! Crash cushions and removing the more dangerous trees and stopping the practice of tree planting along roadsides would have ended most of our DUI fatalities saving a fortune. Vision Zero is a change in thinking and emphasis, throwing out cost/benefit as a short term fix that only increases costs to society versus costs to industry. It shifts liability and responsibility to the whole society and not just the motoring public.

      • jcwconsult

        You have the essence of the issue. Many governments CLAIM they want Vision Zero for safety, but in reality what they want is draconian enforcement for profits without spending money to change the traffic safety engineering parameters that would actually be more effective.

        Once the revenue stream from enforcement is in place, there is a perverse reality that the profits are too high from the enforcement to even consider making the safety engineering changes. The enforcement profits lock in the bad engineering.

        For a real-world example, research shows that increasing the length of yellow intervals on lights (typically by about one second) dramatically reduces violations by 70% to 90% and reduces crashes by more than red light cameras typically achieve. BUT, once the revenue stream is in place from split second violations of less than one second into the red, there is a perverse reality that it is too profitable to even consider increasing the length of the yellow intervals. PROFITS then permanently overcome safety gains – at least until the public absolutely revolts against the scam of enforcement for profits.

        James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

        • I wish we could have more conversations like this. American media have a herd mentality when it comes to traffic safety. They are screaming Zero fatalities in 30 years ignoring the historic rise in traffic fatalities in the past year. Our government is throwing (little finger pointing up as hand twists next to mouth) 3 million dollars towards the effort mostly in enforcement. There is no mention that car companies have failed to increase high-speed crash protection and vehicle crash compatibility and government has failed to encourage improvement through safety campaigns or increased safety standards. They do blame the increase on fatigue and drinking car drivers. Not our fault folks, pass it on to the next U.S. administration and on and on. IIHS and NHTSA continue low-speed crash testing which encourages low-speed safety engineering in vehicles. We crash tested at 30 mph or less for fifty years and were left with vehicles that only protected occupants in low-speed crashes and two million people died. What massive amount of money did those two million deaths cost the American people? Car companies gave millions in campaign donations, they were evidently very happy. If you enjoy 2.5 mph bumpers, things are great!

          If we crash tested vehicles at real world speeds like the FHWA does for crash attenuators at 62 mph (100 kph) the public after seeing vehicles disintegrate instead of performing well at very low-speeds would demand better safety engineering and more responsibility for the carnage from manufacturers. Our governments to save short term money are decreasing lane widths and roadside widths while knowing wider lanes and roadsides drastically decrease traffic deaths. Short term savings for some equal vastly increased costs for the public in the long run.

          • jcwconsult

            The “sky is falling” screamers also fail to mention that the fatality rate for the last several years rounds to 1.1 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Yes, it is higher last year and this year with the improving economy and cheap gas, but the basic fact that travel is incredibly safe compared to previous decades has NOT been significantly affected.

            Actually, the real world survivability of crashes has materially improved with the use of European-style offset crashes, as well as the square hit ones in the NHTSA regimen. The USA would benefit materially from scrapping the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards entirely – and adopting the set of European standards which are more real-world related.

            We could get a MASSIVE reorientation of emphasis by removing ALL financial penalties from traffic enforcement – no fines, no court costs, no surcharges. The penalties would be only sanction points on the driver’s license. This move would insure that traffic enforcement was only for safety, never for profits. But since profits have been the focus of enforcement for the last 40 years, changing the emphasis to safety is a very unlikely result.

            James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

          • This year we are on track to kill nearly 40,000 Americans and severely injure nearly 5 million. Knowing what we could have easily and cheaply achieved I believe the sky is falling. Improving crash tests and Volvo proving that safety sells are responsible for most of that improvement. When the public is informed of true costs and severity of crashes and is also informed who is responsible public pressure works.

            We can no longer trust safety groups or public interest messages. We saw General Motors Corporation virtually take over MADD in recent years with GM becoming the largest funder and electing GM personnel as executive officers of MADD. MADD successfully lobbied to remove the right to sue from the majority of drunk driving victims which were actually passengers of most DUI drivers. They continued lobbying for increased enforcement when statistically further efforts would have near zero effect. There was no effort to increase vehicle crash survival through engineering improvements by the car companies that would have knowingly saved far more lives. We are seeing similar Teamster and truck driver funding of trucking victim groups. The Obama Administration is spending millions forming government controlled safety organizations with industry partnerships, recently in the field of Vision zero activism that overwhelms public and victim efforts and gives industry viewpoints as in the public interest. They loudly proclaim government successes and compliment industry. Recently, they successfully removed cars from inclusion in the definition of side underride guards, they are now meant to be bike only even though the vast majority of children dying in side crashes with trucks die in cars.

            We have seen the proof of the profit motive in the unfair system of traffic fines in the U.S., revenue generated from excessive enforcement against the poor and minorities is used to decrease property taxes and business expenses for middle and upper class citizens. Fines largely punish the poor and offer just a cost of doing business or a discomfort to those with extra resources. Those whom can afford legal representation rarely are punished. In a Democracy we need a fairer system and public service and traffic education or addiction treatment would provide more cost effective and fair results.

            I disagree that we are over regulated, we just regulate in a misdirected and less cost/effective manner due to a broken cost/benefit model that only counts costs or benefits to industry and government officials rather than the American public. Do we spend millions on public education to not text and drive giving a false impression of fault, or do we regulate the industry to equip new computer controlled cars to turn off text messaging ability in phones when the vehicle is in drive? I strongly believe in an educated public that can properly provide the pressure to the appropriate parties to bring about positive and cost/effective change.

            We do strongly agree on many changes that are needed in our outmoded system of laws, regulation, and punishment.

          • There is more evidence this effort stems from Administration efforts to place blame on car drivers behavior rather than government failures to regulate and industry failure to engineer vehicles with 30 year old technology to end the carnage of the American population. See Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/02/16/2016-03040/driving-behavioral-change-in-traffic-safety . The National Safety Council referred to this page from their announcement of this partnership. “NSC is dedicating $1 million over three years for the Road to Zero initiative, which builds on the national Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety conference held earlier this year.” This is not Vision Zero! Are trucking victims organizations involved as they mentioned truck safety? Curious as they have done nothing for trucking victims or truck safety in the past 8 years. Oh yeah, they did remove cars from the definition of side underride guards so they could call plastic wind directors underride guards to fool the public! Traffic Safety is not blaming or punishing the public, it is safer cars and trucks and roads and higher-speed crash tests and better training and regulation.