Last year, 37,133 people lost their lives on US roads. Next year, zero will.
It’s the goal of Vision Zero. But can it ever happen?
Can artificial light be created? Can a vehicle fly? Can a vaccine prevent illness? Can people carry small computers in their pockets with them?
If you trusted the masses, no, no, no, and definitely not.
So yes, the idea that one day nobody will die in traffic accidents seems grandiose, and honestly impossible. But Thomas Edison didn’t invent electricity because people said he could.
Criticizers and naysayers abound. Treehugger has called vision zero a failure in North America, nothing more than a tag-line. In DC, Council member Charles Allen says “We are not living in a vision zero world- we aren’t even trending in the right direction.” The San Francisco Bay City Beacon wonders if vision zero is merely zero vision.
In other cities, Vision Zero is creating real and lasting change with the introduction of strategies and programs to prevent traffic deaths.
Boston reduced speed limits and installed digital feedback speed signs, speed bumps, and crosswalks. Sacramento aims to decrease speeds with road diets, street narrowing, and driver feedback signs. Toronto has begun using speed enforcement systems near schools to help eliminate traffic-related fatalities.
Will this really lead to zero deaths? Maybe not. But what if using words like eliminate instead of reduce can make a difference in the way cities approach road safety? The axiom of reaching for the stars is an effective motivator for a reason.
Whether the goal of zero deaths is ever reached or not, for every crash that’s avoided, every fatality that is prevented, and every person who walks away unscathed instead of mortally wounded, Vision Zero has made a difference.
And that might just be enough.