Vision Zero is the elimination of all traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The first initiative of its kind took place in Sweden in 1994. After implementing the initiative, the number of traffic-related deaths has gone down considerably while traffic volume has continued to increase. The crucial point of Sweden’s Vision Zero Initiative is summarized on their website: “Transport systems traditionally place responsibility for safety on road users. The Vision Zero Initiative puts this responsibility on system design.” Thus, Houston’s most dangerous roads, intersections, and bike lanes must be fixed before our Vision Zero can be achieved.
Vision Zero is based on four principles:
- Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system
- Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;
- Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur; and
- Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety. (source)
Vision Zero suggests reducing speed limits based on the impact on humans and vehicles. For example, the built-in safety of an average car can be expected to be a maximum of about 45 mph in frontal impacts, and 30 mph in side impacts. Given this information, speed limits should generally not exceed these limits. In lowering the speed limits, fatalities in car accidents will be reduced.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 180 fatal car crashes and road traffic accidents in 2013, and 188 fatalities. In 2014, those numbers rose to 214 fatal car crashes and 227 fatalities. With Vision Zero, we want to bring these numbers down to 0.
In March of 2014, Mayor Annise Parker dedicated $50,000 towards the Houston Bike Plan, which had its own Goal Zero specifically to eliminate bicycle fatalities in Houston. While this is a great effort towards safety on the roads, more must be done to include not just bicycles, but cars and other vehicles as well.
We need to follow in the foot steps of cities like New York, San Francisco, and San Antonio to adopt an Action Plan that will bring Houston’s Vision Zero to life. We want to build a network of support to bring about this initiative, so join us in establishing Vision Zero in Houston.