By: Muhammad Musa, P.E., PhD
Its mind boggling to learn that in 2016 the States of Arizona, California, and Texas each had more traffic related fatalities than the total number of people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. When more than 40,000 people die on our highway system every year, I have to wonder if we as a nation feel any pain. Globally more than one million people die in traffic-related accidents around the world every year (1). In Texas last year we lost 3,773 people in 551,971 crashes. The cost implications for fatal and injury crashes exceeds several hundred billion dollars a year for the United States.
Throughout the last 20 to 30 years, there have been tremendous strides to improve traffic safety and help prevent traffic related crashes from occurring. In Sweden in the early 90’s, a campaign was undertaken by acknowledging that “our roadway system is based on all the factors long known to pose hazards. They are allowing drivers to take risks way beyond our human capability, and our road systems have an unclear responsibility chain, at times, blaming victims for crashes and injuries”(2). This theory eventually led to Vison Zero- A strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero has proved successful across Europe — and is now gaining momentum in major American cities. (http://visionzeronetwork.org/about/what-is-vision-zero/)
The Vision Zero approach takes a system wide look at the issues and sets clear contrasts between the currently used safety planning approaches and the Vision Zero approach. The differentiating factors of Vision Zero are:
• Vision Zero acknowledges that traffic deaths and severe injuries are preventable and sets the goal of eliminating both in a set time frame with clear, measurable strategies. This is a major shift for most American communities, by establishing clear accountability to ensure safe mobility. History has shown, with campaigns to reduce drunk driving and initiatives to increase recycling, that changing cultural attitudes and ensuring political accountability make a dramatic difference — and increase success.
• Vision Zero is a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together diverse and necessary stakeholders to address this complex problem. In the past, meaningful, cross-disciplinary collaboration among local traffic planners and engineers, police officers, policymakers, and public health professionals has not been the norm. Vision Zero acknowledges that there are many factors that contribute to safe mobility — including roadway design, speeds, enforcement, behaviors, technology, and policies — and sets clear goals to achieve the shared goal of zero fatalities and severe injuries.
In 2016 ITE launched its Vision Zero Task Force. In April 2016 ITE Journal article “All Roads Lead to Zero” has a description of Vision Zero Network. ITE is a steering group member of the Road to Zero Coalition, is a partnership between the National Safety Council, the US Department of Transportation, and dozens of other associations and interest groups that aim to eliminate traffic fatalities in the United States within 30 years.
According to Vision Zero Network, the Vision Zero City is a city that fulfills the following criteria:
• A clear goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries has been set.
• The Mayor has publicly, officially committed to Vision Zero.
• A Vision Zero Plan or strategy is in place, or the Mayor has committed to doing so in clear time frame.
• Key city departments (including police, transportation, and public health) are engaged.
In December 2015, Washington DC Vision Zero Action Plan was created by a group of 30 district agencies with the mission to achieve zero accident –related deaths by the year 2024, implementing 67 different activities to achieve this goal. DC has used an online safety map to collect crowd-sourced safety data with a variety of icons that members of the public can use to report location-based safety concerns, such as poor visibility or shorter street crossing times.
Thoughts on Vision Zero San Antonio:
The five E’s of VZ San Antonio are the appropriate five essential elements of a safe transportation system; however a more focused approach to each of the five E’s: Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Enforcement, and Evaluation are needed. We can put a number of strategies for each of these E’s and then use Collaborate, Coordinate, and Communicate as three C’s added to five E’s to make it 5E3C approach. The 10 partnering agencies (City of San Antonio, AAMPO, Bexar County, Drive Kind Ride Kind, FHWA, SAFD, SAPD, TxDOT, Union Pacific, and VIA) need to collaborate. Similar to Washington DC, San Antonio can have an online safety alert map to collect crowd-sourced safety information. Interactive safety maps can be easily accessed from PC’s, laptops, smartphones, or tablets. If a hazard was observed, its location can be identified on the map, and the user gets to describe the hazard and any details about the hazard.
On the topic of enforcement: strategies, policies, and regulations have to be proposed to the governing bodies to implement new safety related regulations.
A framework for VZ San Antonio:
1) Agencies to provide strategies from their perspective;
2) Get communities involved;
3) Set up meetings with all agencies to get recommendations for the five E’s and three C’s of the VZ San Antonio;
4) Come up with a draft action plan for the region;
Any region that chooses to become a part of the vision zero initiative is encouraging, however, lack of a systematic approach to identifying the exiting hazards in the highway system, lack of public involvement (user of the system ) (public), and interagency collaboration and coordination, will remain as major challenges to vision zero initiative.
Have a comment or a question, email Muhammad Musa, P.E., PhD at firstname.lastname@example.org