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Why Isn’t “Vision Zero” Working in the United States?

Why Isn’t “Vision Zero” Working in the United States?With traffic fatalities increasing here in Phoenix and across the country, many communities are turning to a program called “Vision Zero,” an initiative designed to eliminate motor vehicle-related deaths, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. However, in the years since several cities implemented these programs, statistics show Vision Zero may not be as effective as first thought – at least in the United States.

What is Vision Zero?

According to the Vision Zero Network:

Vision Zero recognizes that people will sometimes make mistakes, so the road system and related policies should be designed to ensure those inevitable mistakes do not result in severe injuries or fatalities. This means that system designers and policymakers are expected to improve the roadway environment, policies (such as speed management), and other related systems to lessen the severity of crashes.

Vision Zero is a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together diverse and necessary stakeholders to address this complex problem. In the past, meaningful, cross-disciplinary collaboration among local traffic planners and engineers, policymakers, and public health professionals has not been the norm. Vision Zero acknowledges that many factors contribute to safe mobility — including roadway design, speeds, behaviors, technology, and policies — and sets clear goals to achieve the shared goal of zero fatalities and severe injuries.

To become a Vision Zero city, communities must take “demonstrable and significant” action to support the program’s core principles in eliminating traffic fatalities. Cities also must apply for this recognition.

The Vision Zero movement started in Sweden in 1997, adopted as a long-term strategy by Swedish Parliament to put more effort into focusing on the design of road systems, rather than on the behavior of individual drivers. So far in Sweden, traffic fatalities have more than halved, even while traffic volume has increased.

Vision Zero’s effect in the United States

With the success of Vision Zero in Europe, traffic and safety experts in the US were eager to bring the program over to America. An article in Bloomberg notes, “During the last decade, traffic deaths have fallen steadily throughout the European Union, with cities including Brussels, Cologne and Milan posting significant declines.” However, here in the States, even in cities that have implemented a Vision Zero goal, traffic fatalities continue rising. Why?

Cities across the country have adopted Vision Zero – just a few include New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Albuquerque, and Seattle. Experts note that most people support Vision Zero in theory; but not in practice. Seleta Reynolds, the director of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, tells Bloomberg, “A moment comes when a person shows up to do the actual [infrastructure] project, and it’s down the street from your house. Whether it’s a bike lane or a bus lane, the calculus suddenly changes, and it feels like a fundamental assault on your way of life.”

Safety advocates also see more pushback here in the US on issues like traffic cameras, bike lanes, or reduced speeds. They mention both community and governmental opposition to these types of infrastructure changes, which can negate the goal of Vision Zero. Leah Shahum, head of the Vision Zero Network, notes, “We have to change the current paradigm that prioritizes speed and free-flowing traffic,” she said. “That’s the priority now over safety — no matter what people will tell you.”

Is Phoenix a Vision Zero city?

As of 2022, Phoenix is not yet a Vision Zero city, but they have plans to join the network, along with Tempe, which developed an action plan in 2019. According to Phoenix 12 News, traffic fatalities increased by 25 percent in 2021, jumping from 69 to 97 car accident-involved deaths.

Phoenix Transportation Director Kini Knudson tells 12 News Phoenix sees a traffic death every other day and that it is time to take action: “The number of deaths on our roadways each year could fill a 737 (plane). This is absolutely not acceptable for us.” Councilmember Yassamin Ansari added, “People are literally afraid to walk, to bike, to drive their cars in the city.”

However, as we previously noted, the city of Phoenix is also seeing pushback in their efforts, much like across the country. Councilmember Sal DiCiccio voted against Vision Zero, telling News 12 the city should focus more on repairing roads and fixing yellow light times. “It’s going to do absolutely nothing in the city of Phoenix to make things safe,” he says.

What should I do after a Phoenix traffic accident?

If you or a loved one are injured in an accident, especially as a pedestrian or bicyclist, you can do a few things to protect yourself:

  • Check for injuries and determine if you can move out of the road safely.
  • Call authorities to the scene, where police can take a report and paramedics can tend to your injuries.
  • Get the driver’s information, including driver’s license, insurance, and plate number. Limit your communication to exchanging information only.
  • Seek medical attention, even if you do not feel injured. Some injuries may take some time to symptomize, and seeing a doctor promptly can protect your health as well as establish a direct link between the accident and your injuries.
  • Contact an experienced Phoenix personal injury attorney for guidance on your next steps.

If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, the Phoenix injury attorneys at Plattner Verderame, PC want to help. Our legal team is experienced in serious and catastrophic injury cases like pedestrian and bicycle accident claims, and we work to secure the financial compensation to which you are entitled. We handle these cases on a contingency-fee basis, so you do not need to worry about upfront costs. You owe us nothing unless we obtain a verdict or settlement on your behalf. Call our office at 602-266-2002 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation today. We serve clients in Phoenix and Tempe.