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Policy Statement 552 - Vision Zero

 
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on January 31, 2020 
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 11, 2020
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 11, 2020

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the mission of Vision Zero to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. Vision Zero, is based on the tenets that traffic fatalities can be prevented, are unacceptable, and even one traffic-related death is too many.

ASCE believes that the following principles are important towards eliminating traffic-related fatalities:

  • Safety, health, and welfare of the public are the highest priority in engineering design. Transportation systems should be safe for all road users, for all modes of transportation, in all communities, and for people of all ages, incomes, and abilities.
  • Transportation systems should be designed to take into account human factors.
  • Transportation systems should be designed to protect human life and be based on target speeds appropriate for the context and type of facility. 
  • Traffic laws, such as, but not limited to, impaired driving, seat belt usage, speeding, and distracted driving, should be enforced.
  • Local, county, and state departments of transportation should update their manuals and design guides to reflect the latest safety best practices. This should include smart engineering, public education, encourage other modes of transportation, enforce traffic laws, and evaluating outcomes.   
  • Local, county and state departments of transportation should collect and analyze data to understand safety issues, prioritize investments on the high injury network and ensure there are not disproportionate impacts on Title VI communities. 
  • New technologies such as micromobility as well as connected and autonomous vehicles should prioritize safety.
  • Broaden the use of temporary treatment to pilot safety improvements before full design and construction implementation.
  • Increase transportation infrastructure funding to modernize and upgrade existing facilities and develop new transportation infrastructure utilizing the latest engineering standards.

Issue

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 36,560 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways., a 2.4 % decrease from the previous year. Vulnerable road users made up 27% of fatalities in 2018, with 857 bicyclist and 6,283 pedestrians dying. This represented a 6% and 3% increase respectively. 

Over the last few decades there has been increased emphasis on reducing traffic-related crashes through programs and initiatives such as bans on the use of handheld mobile devices, enhanced laws increasing penalties and adding jail time for driving under the influence, and enforcement of seat belt use laws. In addition, the appropriate use of current engineering design standards and the implementation of connected and autonomous vehicles can increase reasonable protection for roadway users. 

Rationale

Vision Zero recognizes the importance of roadway design in reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. Part of the first canon of the ASCE Code of ethics is "Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public." 

Vision Zero was conceived in Sweden in 1994 and was incorporated into law three years later and has been included in numerous traffic safety related materials including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) "Transportation Safety Planning and the Zero Deaths Vision: A Guide for Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Local Communities." The nations of Norway and the Netherlands have adopted Vision Zero as policy, as have a number of British, Canadian and American cities (including Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC).

Vision Zero is based on the premise that traffic deaths and injuries can be prevented; therefore, none are acceptable. It calls for safety to be the primary consideration in transportation decision-making. Vision Zero is founded on four principles:

  1. Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system;
  2. Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;
  3. 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 
  4. 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.

ASCE Policy Statement 552
First Approved 2017


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