By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I
Local governments in the United States in recent years have begun adopting “Vision Zero” policies, which aim at cutting roadway fatalities to zero. Such policies – which have demonstrated success abroad – have drawn even more interest since the onset of the pandemic, during which traffic fatalities and injuries have surged.
The Vision Zero Network is a nonprofit focused on helping local governments implement the Vision Zero plan. First implemented in Sweden in 1997, that country has seen its traffic fatalities halved, inspiring other governments to adopt similar measures. Vision Zero is also becoming an initiative for the entire European Union.
More than 40 communities across the United States have adopted these policies, including major metropolitan areas like 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 percentage of pedestrian crashes occurring because of long distances between marked crossings. Portland has taken the initiative, building “a system to protect pedestrians includes frequent safe crossings, street lighting, a cultural acceptance of slower speeds and people educated about 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 deaths for three years as of 2021. Instrumental in this has been Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s Vision Zero program. Mayor Bhalla’s 2019 executive order has resulted in the city extending its bike-lane network 38 percent in 2019 and 2020, with its total on-street network of 16.3 miles now nearly half of the city’s 33 miles of streets.
The city also has put in curb extensions at intersections, marked wider crosswalks, and timed traffic signals to give pedestrians a seven-second head start. When it’s warmer, major commercial areas of the city are closed to cars entirely or assigned as “slow streets” with decreased traffic and velocities.
“While we’ve made major progress in the past three years, having no pedestrian fatalities and a reduction in pedestrian injuries, we are striving to create even safer streets in the years ahead,” said Mayor Bhalla. “With the adoption of the Vision Zero Action Plan, we’ll be able to take even more actionable steps to reach our goal of all traffic-related deaths and injuries by 2030, one of the most ambitious Vision Zero goals in the entire country.”
With these steps being implemented nationwide, entire communities are becoming safer. Additionally, insurers could potentially pass the savings produced by lower accident rates onto consumers, as they did earlier in the pandemic.
Now the U.S. federal government has announced its own version of Vision Zero. In late January, federal transportation officials released a plan to reduce the tens of thousands of road deaths that occur every year.