Road to Zero coalition seeks US path to Safe System

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The seminar at Johns Hopkins was attended by about 100 students and faculty, including public health icons such as Professor Sue Baker, who has dedicated her life to advancing public health and injury prevention worldwide.
The seminar at Johns Hopkins was attended by about 100 students and faculty, including public health icons such as Professor Sue Baker, who has dedicated her life to advancing public health and injury prevention worldwide.
Former NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind spoke to students and faculty about the Road to Zero coalition.
Former NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind spoke to students and faculty about the Road to Zero coalition.

The FIA Foundation participated in a meeting of the new Road to Zero Coalition, and convened a Road to Zero Seminar. The Coalition is striving to end traffic fatalities in the United States within the next 30 years.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and the FIA Foundation co-sponsored a seminar, ‘The Road to Zero: Research, Policy, and Practice Needs.’ The event, on 23rd January 2017 at John Hopkins University, featured the Honorable Mark Rosekind, PhD, until recently Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Rosekind opened with a stark comparison: “We lost 35,092 people in 2015. That’s the equivalent of a 747 crashing weekly for a year. If this happened two weeks in a row, we would close the entire aviation system – but when it comes to cars, we accept this.” He pointed to three ‘lanes’ we need to explore to decrease the fatality rate: human factors, highly automated vehicles, and proactive vehicle safety.

Discussing proactive vehicle safety, he pointed to Global NCAP, funded by the FIA Foundation, as a way to democratize safety particularly in areas where cars are still being produced without airbags. To address human factors, he placed hope in his audience: “Public health has the power to change human behavior to lead to safer outcomes, and we need data driven solutions from institutions like Hopkins,” he said.

He emphasized the urgent need to reverse the United States road traffic fatality trend. In 2015, the traffic fatality rate was 8% higher than the prior year, representing the largest increase in 50 years. The trend is only getting worse, with the first half of 2016 showing an increase of over 10% over the same period in 2015.

In response to this trend, Rosekind helped establish the Road to Zero coalition during his tenure as NHTSA Administrator. In October 2016, NHTSA partnered with the National Safety Council, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish the coalition with one goal: to eliminate traffic fatalities within 30 years. Several US cities are already playing a pioneering role in promoting a ‘vision zero’: the seminar came in the same week as New York City announced major new funding for its Vision Zero implementation and Los Angeles unveiled a new Vision Zero strategy.

The seminar at Johns Hopkins preceded the Road to Zero Scenario Development Workshop later that week. Held on 26 and 27 January, the workshop was a structured, collective assessment to identify and characterize policy pathways to achieve zero deaths in the United States. Six key focus areas included safe vehicles, infrastructure, emergency medical response, safe drivers and passengers, vulnerable users, and safety management. The FIA Foundation is one of approximately 60 organizations that participated in the workshop, and will be one of about 30 to take part in the following workshop on 13-15 March. “In 30 years, when we look back at how we got to zero deaths, we want this group to be remembered as where it all started,” said Debbie Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

“The FIA Foundation welcomes the opportunity to contribute an international perspective to the Road to Zero coalition. By sharing successes from other countries, we can implement proven initiatives rather than re-inventing the wheel. More evidence-based research will only expedite the Road to Zero, which is why we’ve connected the former NHTSA Administrator with public health students and faculty,” said Natalie Draisin, FIA Foundation Manager of the North American Office.