The US Department of Transport and the National Safety Council have joined forces to announce an ambitious plan to reduce the number of fatalities on the country’s highway network to zero within the next 30 years, with the introductions of new technologies and road designs key to this.
The Road to Zero Coalition comes after the number of deaths on US roads saw its largest increase since 1996 last year, while preliminary figures for the first half of 2016 also show an “alarming uptick” in fatalities.
US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said: “Our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads. 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 organisations and government at all levels.”
Initially, the project will focus on promoting proven lifesaving strategies, such as installing rumble strips, improving the use of seatbelts and promoting driver behavioural change campaigns.
However, in the coming years, the emergence of new vehicle and highway technology is expected to play a central role in reducing the number of road fatalities.
The Road to Zero Coalition will work to achieve its vision of zero road deaths through a range of efforts that focus on “overall system design, addressing infrastructure design, vehicle technology, enforcement and behaviour safety.”
Finding ways to ensure that inevitable human mistakes do not result in fatalities will also be an important principle for the initiative.
Semi- and fully-autonomous cars are expected to be a key driver towards this, but not all the solutions being promoted by the coalition are quite so high-tech. For example, NBC News reported that the use of roundabouts is set to be encouraged as part of road design, as these have been shown to significantly reduce crashes compared with the four-way intersections that are common in the US.
Federal Highways Administration deputy administrator David Kim said: “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. 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.”