Vision Zero sets a target of zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries. It is a movement within the transportation profession with the goal of ensuring that safety is prioritized above other considerations, such as mobility, within a transportation system. At the core of Vision Zero is an embrace of the safe systems approach, a strategy of roadway safety management focusing on safety from all aspects of the roadway use experience, from design and operation, to driver behavior.
Vision Zero and the safe systems approach emphasize that some degree of roadway user error will always occur, and that such errors should not result in a fatality or serious injury. Thus, while the onus is on the roadway user (whether that is a driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist) to operate safely and within the rules and limitations of the roadway environment, the roadway itself must also be designed and operated to accommodate certain driver errors, and make any crashes that do occur survivable.
In practice, there is a strong emphasis on roadway design and operation that limits the kinematic impacts and stresses associated with any potential crashes, to those levels which are deemed survivable by the typical roadway user. Tactics such as speed management and traffic calming, physical separation of roadway users, and treatments that enhance visibility of vulnerable users to give drivers greater reaction time, all contribute to a portfolio of tools for ITE members to achieve Vision Zero within their communities.
For more information on Vision Zero, please visit the ITE Vision Zero Webpage
Within the realm of transportation safety, urban and suburban contexts present certain unique challenges that must be considered. In high density, urban spaces, ensuring a safe roadway environment for all users can be problematic, due to the sheer number of competing needs (e.g., automobiles, delivery trucks, transit, pedestrians, bicyclists), and number of potential distractions for users (e.g., traffic signals, street signs, advertisements). However, low speeds in many dense urban environments often ensure that even when crashes do occur, that they are typically less in severity than in other contexts.
Suburban environments, by contrast, are especially challenging, due to their nature of blending elements of the rural and urban environments. Many suburban areas are built primarily with automobile use in mind, lending themselves to straight, wide roadways with high posted speed limits, and limited or no accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists. Issues such as long blocks (which limit crossing opportunities for pedestrians), infrequent transit service, and single-use land development further inhibit access for non-motorized users within the community and can result in dangerous behaviors such as jaywalking. Moreover, the higher operating speeds of these suburban environments frequently lead to crashes with greater likelihood of fatalities and serious injuries.
ITE is committed to ensuring that roadway users can have access to safe transportation in rural, urban, and suburban environments alike. Within urban and suburban contexts, below are some of the resources which can be useful for transportation professionals in planning and programming for safety within their jurisdictions:
Similar to planning for safety in urban and suburban environments, rural contexts present their own set of challenges. In many rural areas, speeds are higher, roads are narrower, and the potential for issues such as driver fatigue, extreme weather, and animal-related incidents is increased. Additionally, when crashes do occur, access to appropriate medical facilities is often much lower than in urban and suburban environments.
ITE recognizes the unique challenges that rural environments can present when it comes to safety and understand that transportation professionals in these areas often have limited funding and staffing to address safety issues. Below are some resources that can be used by professionals in rural areas to improve transportation safety:
Speed management is an important element associated with transportation safety and the Vision Zero movement. Approximately one third of all roadway fatalities each year are at least partially caused by speeding-related factors. Proper speed management ensures that roadway users are operating at speeds that are safe and appropriate for the given roadway environment, and that certain types of vulnerable roadway users (e.g., pedestrians, bicyclists) are protected against unsafe conditions from higher-speed vehicles while operating on the roadway.
Proper speed management is not just about traffic calming and setting lower speed limits; it is about ensuring that the proper speed limit is set for the proper context. Speed limit setting and speed management is especially difficult in lower-density urban and suburban environments, which frequently see straighter, wider roadways with little natural visual interference to prompt the driver to operate at slower speeds. Tools such as the 85th percentile speed rule of thumb can be useful, but this should not be the sole technique by which speed limits are set and managed. The modern transportation professional should take advantage of the full depth of resources and state-of-the-art data collection and analytic techniques to ensure proper speed management, and help to eliminate speeding-related fatalities and serious injuries.
Within the 4 E’s of transportation safety, “engineering” and “education” are two of the more traditional focuses for transportation engineers and planners. However, the importance of “enforcement” and “emergency responses” should not be understated, and both are critical elements of a successful roadway safety management program. The resources below describe two aspects of public safety resources that modern transportation professionals should consider.
ITE offers a wide variety of professional development and training opportunities within transportation safety.
The Transportation Professional Certification Board (TPCB) in collaboration with a wide array of transportation- and safety-related organizations in the United States and Canada announces the upcoming availability of a new Road Safety Professional (RSP) Certification beginning in October 2018. The goals of the RSP certifications are to recognize road safety as a profession, to establish a recognized level of practice and knowledge, and to incentivize safety education. More information about the RSP certification can be found here.