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30-year target: Zero highway fatalities

The Department of Transportation last week laid down a challenge to the nation: In 30 years, we will reduce the number of annual highway fatalities from the current 30,000 yearly to zero.

This is a daunting challenge, inasmuch as last year's number of fatal crashes was the highest since 1966, and this year's total looks to exceed that.

The Road Zero team

The project is a collaboration involving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The three federal agencies are working with National Safety Council (NSC) to launch the Road to Zero. The DOT has committed $1 million a year over the next three years to fund lifesaving programs and ideas.

Little is set in stone at this point, but early indicators are that the government wants:

  • To intensify the use of standard safety equipment such as seatbelts and airbags;
  • To improve roadway safety through tried and tested features like speedbumps and rumble strips;
  • T take advantage of sensor technology to develop driverless cars that hopefully will make accidents much rarer than they are today.

In addition, the government wants to raise consciousness about drunk and distracted driving even higher than it is today.

Is zero a practical goal?

We are reminded that a bold ambition, like "We shall land a man on the moon within the decade" is often at the base of great forward leaps.

The Road to Zero is modeled after a Swedish program undertaken 20 years ago, called Vision Zero, which showed remarkable results in that country.

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