Can you imagine a world where no more car accidents resulted in death? There are nearly 36,000 fatalities each and every year in the U.S. as a result of car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. What if all of that could be avoided?
The good news is that safety professionals believe that it is possible. In fact, experts are confident they can estimate the year to expect it by.
The Transportation Department recently launched an initiative known as the "Road to Zero" campaign with the cooperation of the Federal Highway Administration, the National Safety Council and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
As the name of the program implies, the big-picture goal of the "Road to Zero" campaign is to effectively end instances of deadly car crashes. And with so many advances in automotive technology in recent years (autonomous vehicles as well as collision avoidance features, for example), the DOT believes such a goal is attainable by approximately 2046.
With the consultation and advisement of the Federal Highway Administration as well as the National Safety Council and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Transportation Department recently launched what it calls the "Road to Zero" campaign.
"The goal is to bring deadly crashes to an end."
As its title implies, the overarching goal of the initiative is to bring deadly crashes to an end. Thanks to the rapid implementation and installation of autonomous and collision avoidance features, the respective organizations think this may be achieved by 2040.
"Our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads," said Anthony Foxx, Secretary for the Department of Transportation said in a statement. "We know that setting the bar for safety to the highest possible standard requires commitment from everyone to think differently about safety – from drivers to industry, safety organizations, and government at all levels."
Fatal accidents rising as of late
The number of highway-related vehicle fatalities has dropped overall in the last 50 years, but there has been enough of an increase in recent years to prompt concern among safety officials and the general public.
In fact, the number of deadly traffic accidents rose by more than 10 percent through the first half of 2016 (17,700), according to an "Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Half of 2016" released by the DOT.
This is disturbing data, given the fact that 2015 saw the largest increase in traffic deaths over the course of a year in the last 50 years. Mark Rosekind is head of the National Traffic Safety Administration. He maintained most of the deaths didn't have to ever happen.
"Every single death on our roadways is a tragedy," Rosekind said in a statement. "We can prevent them. Our drive toward zero deaths is more than just a worthy goal. It is the only acceptable goal."
How it will work
The collection of organizations that make up and support the "Road to Zero" campaign run a campaign with four major themes in mind: education, engineering, enforcement and emergency medical services. The education element will be further promoted by continuing many of the existing campaigns, such as "Click It or Ticket," where drivers receiving a moving violation for driving without a seatbelt.
"Many fatalities are the result of distracted driving."
Additionally, distracted driving awareness efforts and other public safety announcements will be be made in an effort to get motorists to change their behaviors on the road. Although some deaths on the road may be attributed to malfunctioning equipment or horrible weather conditions, many more fatalities are the result of distracted driving.
Deborah Hersman is the President and CEO at the National Safety Council. She believes that it will take a group effort to resolve an uphill battle.
"Reaching zero deaths will be difficult, will take time, and will require significant effort from all of us, but it is the only acceptable vision," Kim emphasized in a statement. "We're not at zero yet, but by working together, the day will come when there are no fatalities on the nation's roadways, sidewalks, or bicycle paths."
Inspired by Sweden's 'Vision Zero'
While the goal of zero driving deaths is a noble one, it is not an original one. Nearly two decades ago, Sweden implemented a similar system with extremely similar qualities known as "Vision Zero." That program is what eventually inspired professionals in the U.S. to look into ways to develop a program of their own.
In addition to the improvements in communication, education and public awareness that come as a result of the "Road to Zero" campaign, professionals feel confident that autonomous vehicles will go hand in hand with the efforts to reach zero deaths on the road.
The government has invested millions of dollars in an effort to expedite the innovation and production of self-driving vehicles to eliminate human error from driving. Although the two ideas are independent of one another, the advancement of one will positively affect the other. The Department of Transportation has committed $1 million per year for the next three years (in grants) to aid in the zero-death campaign.