When Zero Is a Good Thing
Posted on November, 23rd 2015
Roadway safety is not only a public health issue, but it is also a challenge for every road user on a personal level. Many readers have seen the YouTube videos put out by several state departments of transportation regarding how many people are killed each year on America’s roadways, and how many of those deaths are an “acceptable number”. The videos then show random people being asked “What is the goal for your family?”
“Zero”. The answer is always the same.
Those videos ask the interviewees more questions. Can we move the number of transportation related fatalities that far down? How do we work toward this goal? The good news is that we are already on the path. The concept of Zero Fatalities has been gaining momentum over the last several years, with a focused approach that has become known as “Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety.”
In 2009, the effort materialized when transportation safety stakeholders began the dialogue toward creating a national strategic highway safety plan. Much planning and strategizing has led to a broadly accepted zero fatalities approach, recognizing that no roadway fatality is acceptable. Many (well over half) states have adopted TZD principles in their State Strategic Highway Safety Plans- some have gone as far as adopting a zero fatality target, while others have reflect a zero fatality vision.
To work towards zero, transportation professionals are working on better roadway design, maintenance, and implementation of safety countermeasures. Emergency medical service is improving performance and safety. Enforcement is targeting the reduction of high risk behaviors, such as speeding, impaired driving, and distracted driving. Your organization can participate in the TZD effort as a partner by following the guidelines here.
Let’s go back to those videos where your average, every-day citizen is asked what the goal is for their family. They all replied with “zero”. Reaching zero means there is a lot of work to be done, and not all responsibility falls to transportation agencies. Adopting a road safety culture transcends what lawmakers and enforcement do. It means that you and I have to make a concerted effort to be responsible road users. Put our phones away, pay attention to our surroundings, and adjust our driving for the conditions of the road. We will make sure our passengers wear seatbelts. It means we will take care to do the right thing, not the quick thing or the easy thing- because we want to all have the same answer when asked how many roadway fatalities happened to someone we know: ZERO.