By Max Dorfman, research writer, Triple-I
Local authorities in the United States have in recent years begun to adopt zero-vision policies, which aim to reduce the number of road deaths to zero. Such policies – which have shown success abroad – have aroused even more interest since the beginning of the pandemic, during which deaths and injuries in traffic have increased.
The Zero Vision Network is a non-profit organization focused on helping local authorities to implement the Zero Vision Plan. The first time it was implemented in Sweden in 1997, the country has seen its traffic fatalities halved, which has inspired other governments to take similar measures. Zero Vision is also becoming an initiative for the entire European Union.
More than 40 communities across the United States have adopted these guidelines, including major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. In Portland, several data points are helping government officials better understand how to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries, including a high rate of pedestrian accidents that occur due to long distances between marked intersections. Portland has taken the initiative and built “a system to protect pedestrians includes frequent safe intersections, street lighting, a cultural acceptance of lower speeds and people who are trained on how to interact safely on the streets.”
Success in Hoboken, NJ
Hoboken, a city of about 54,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City, has experienced zero traffic fatalities for three years from 2021. Participating in this have been Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s Vision Zero program. Mayor Bhalla’s executive order in 2019 has resulted in the city expanding its bike lane network by 38 percent in 2019 and 2020, with its total street network of 16.3 miles now nearly half of the city’s 33 miles of streets.
The city has also added curbs at intersections, marked wider pedestrian crossings and timed traffic signals to give pedestrians a seven-second lead. When it is warmer, large commercial areas of the city are closed to cars completely or assigned as “slow streets” with reduced traffic and speeds.
“While we have made great strides over the last three years, without killing pedestrians and reducing the number of pedestrian injuries, we are striving to create even safer streets in the coming years,” said Mayor Bhalla. “With the adoption of the Zero Vision Action Plan, we will be able to take even more active steps to achieve our goal of all traffic-related deaths and injuries by 2030, one of the most ambitious Zero Vision goals in the whole country.”
With these steps being implemented throughout the country, entire communities will be safer. In addition, insurance companies could potentially pass on the savings from lower accidents to consumers, as they did earlier in the pandemic.
Now the US Federal Government has announced its own version of Zero Vision. In late January, federal transportation officials released a plan to reduce the tens of thousands of traffic fatalities that occur each year.