DEKRA has launched the first online tool to track the status of "Vision Zero"--a multinational road traffic safety project that aims to eliminate traffic-related fatalities--in the United States. The interactive map, which can be accessed at http://www.dekra-vision-zero.com/map/, utilizes data from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) on the number of road fatalities recorded from 2010 to 2013 in 736 cities and towns across the country with 50,000 or more inhabitants.
According to DEKRA Accident Research, which has researched and analyzed urban accidents for decades, the DOT data shows that achieving zero fatalities is a feasible goal on a local level. Towns and small cities with higher fatality rates should be an area of focus, and every US citizen has a role to play in improving road safety.
"Vision Zero is no utopia," said Walter Niewoehner, team leader, accident research at DEKRA, who oversaw the development of the interactive map. "The goal of zero traffic accident-related fatalities has already been achieved in hundreds of cities and towns across Europe and in many urban areas across the United States."
For the four-year period for which accident statistics were analyzed, a total of 115 towns and cities with a population of more than 50,000 achieved Vision Zero at least once. This means that each of those 115 urban areas had at least one year with no road fatalities--no pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist, or occupant of a car, truck, or bus died after an accident. Thirty-three of these towns and cities achieved zero fatalities more than once in the four-year period.
Six cities have achieved the goal four years in a row--with no deaths caused by road accidents. This includes: Lake Forest, Yorba Linda, and Aliso Viejo CA; Sammamish WA; Carson City NV; and Wheaton IL. Illinois led the pack with more than half of all cities over 50,000 inhabitants in the state having achieved zero fatalities at least once. The largest US cities that achieved zero fatalities at least once in the four-year period are Lakewood WA (pop. 118,000); Ann Arbor MI (117,000); Provo UT (116,000); El Monte CA (116,000); and Fargo ND (114,000).
"By identifying the specific contributing factors that have been influential in reducing accidents and fatalities in some of these areas, it might be possible to implement similar programs elsewhere and replicate those successes," said Niewoehner.
DEKRA has identified several specific areas of action for cities and towns that want to make progress towards Vision Zero. In urban areas, the infrastructure is a key factor in road safety. For example, in all complex traffic situations--whether at intersections, on multilane roads, or at public transportation stops--the layout must be as clear as possible for all road users. Additional infrastructure priorities include creating and/or optimizing inner-city cycle paths and upgrading street lighting.
Significantly increasing the number of vehicles equipped with automated driver assistance systems--particularly pedestrian detection, blind spot assist, lane change assist, and cross traffic alert--also has great potential for preventing accidents.
However, the most important area of focus should be on educational campaigns aimed at the behavior of drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. "More cooperative coexistence in road traffic is absolutely essential," Niewoehner said. "To achieve Vision Zero, the most important point to remember is that each and every individual must take personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers, as well as all other road users."
In 2014, three major US cities—Boston MA, New York City NY, and San Francisco CA--began implementing Vision Zero, while Chicago IL began a similar program in 2012. According to the Vision Zero Action Plan for New York City, "while traffic fatalities nationwide are falling, largely due to improvements in emergency/trauma care and vehicle enhancements such as airbags, fatality rates in states that have participated in Vision Zero fell over 25% faster than the rest of the nation since 1997."