“Vision Zero” Program Drives NYC Traffic Fatalities To All-Time Low

Safety officials are heralding a traffic accident reduction plan in New York City, after 2015 was the safest year on record for auto accidents and roadway deaths in the city, despite increases in traffic-related fatalities nationwide.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced New York City reached an all-time low of traffic fatalities in just two years, after adopting a Swedish program known as “Vision Zero”, which aims to restructure roadway designs, pedestrian zones and traffic behaviors to prevent hazardous situations. The news comes amid recent reports that sound a nearly 10% increase in national traffic-related fatalities throughout the U.S. during the first nine months of 2015.

“Vision Zero” aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries. The program is based on the premise that all accidents are preventable when proper precautions are taken into consideration when engineering roadways and pedestrian zones, therefore no fatalities are acceptable.

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One of the main considerations of the program is that people will make mistakes; therefore the transportation system should be designed to make sure those mistakes can not result in fatalities.

Just two years after Mayor Bill de Blasio implemented the Vision Zero program in New York City, officials have recorded a nearly 30% decrease in pedestrian fatalities, making it the lowest ever recorded number of fatalities since 1910.

New York City first began the Vision Zero program on a 1.5 mile stretch of Queens Boulevard, commonly referred to as “The Boulevard of Death,” due to its 185 recorded traffic fatalities over the last 25 years. Through the use of the Vision Zero plan, city officials adopted over 100 initiatives to curb speed limits, boost speed camera enforcement, and provide education outreach programs among many other techniques. Specifically, the city identified impaired driving and lack of seatbelt use as two of the major contributors to fatalities in which enforcement was boosted to deter.

Since the Vision Zero program in New York City has been in effect, the DOT has recorded a 22% drop in annual traffic related fatalities, going from 297 deaths in 2013 before the program was implemented to 231 in 2015 just two years after adoption. The 2015 data recorded by the DOT indicated a historic low for pedestrian fatalities at only 134 in 2015 which is a 27% decrease from 2013.

Mayor de Blasio announced a $115 million expansion of the Vision Zero program in January, to expand to other high injury areas in New York. The expansion will seek to redesign more of the city’s crash-prone corridors and intersections, improve over 100 left turn intersections that account for nearly 30% of all fatal and serious injuries, expand bike routes, and increase increase speed camera use and enforcement around schools and senior citizen centers. Senior citizens and children under the age of fifteen are among the groups most frequently injured by automobile crashes in New York City.

Given the success of the initiatives, it is anticipated that other cities across the nation will attempt similar Vision Zero programs.

Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported a 10% increase in traffic related fatalities in the first three quarters of 2015, in comparison to 2014, suggesting that unsafe habits such as drunk, drowsy, and distracted driving may be contributing to the recent increase.

According to the safety administration, the last 25 years of tracking U.S. traffic related fatalities has shown a steady decrease in the numbers, with 2014 hitting a record low of only 32,675 traffic deaths, which the agency reflected as 1.07 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. However, data from the first nine months of 2015 shows there were 26,000 fatal accidents, compared to the 23,796 fatalities during the first nine months of 2014.

NHTSA officials recently announced that the agency will push for new initiatives across the nation that will attempt to change persistently contributing bad habits including drunk, drugged, distracted, and drowsy driving, as well as speeding issues and failure to use seatbelts.

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