Eliminating Traffic Deaths through a “Vision Zero” Approach
Vision Zero, first adopted in Sweden, is an international traffic safety movement committed to the systematic elimination of traffic deaths and severe injuries for all roadway users.9 Cities around the world are seeing dramatic improvements in street safety through Vision Zero initiatives. For example, since Vision Zero launched in 2014 in New York City, traffic fatalities declined 29% overall and pedestrian fatalities declined 45%.10
The Vision Zero Los Angeles County initiative aims to eliminate traffic fatalities in unincorporated LA County by 2035 and Vision Zero Los Angeles aims to do so in the city of Los Angeles by 2025. Achieving these goals will require an extensive prevention effort that includes strategies that address the root causes of fatal and severe injury crashes, reallocation of resources, multi-disciplinary collaboration, and data driven decision-making. Local community, medical, and public health stakeholders are working to identify local traffic safety concerns; raise awareness; and identify street safety enhancements, such as high visibility crosswalks, bike lanes, and traffic calming interventions such as curb extensions and traffic circles.
The Role of Clinicians in Ending Traffic Fatalities
Achieving zero traffic fatalities through the Vision Zero approach requires broad culture, behavior, policy, and environmental change. Clinicians have an opportunity to be leaders in traffic fatality prevention by engaging patients in conversation about safe behaviors and acting as advocates for Vision Zero. Consider the following actions in your practice, institution, and local community.
- Build patient awareness of traffic safety by sharing information on safe transportation behaviors, especially with parents and children. Resources that clinicians can use to encourage safer driving, bicycling, and walking are available in the ‘Counseling Points and Patient Education Materials’ section. They include tips for patients to: consider their abilities before driving or riding, avoid distractions, slow down, be sober, and give bicyclists at least 3 feet of clearance while driving.
- Connect victims of traffic crashes and/or their family members with support services, if interested. For instance, local organizations such as the Southern California chapter of Families for Safe Streets or Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE) can provide a community of support and opportunity for your patients to channel their experiences into advocacy for safer streets.
- Share your stories with neighbors, friends, and the community. Your stories about the victims of traffic collisions can elevate the priority of traffic safety and help create the culture change necessary to implement traffic safety improvements and policy changes. These experiences can be especially influential because achieving zero traffic-related fatalities may require tradeoffs. For example, slowing vehicle speeds on certain streets may be at odds with goals for faster commute times, but is an important intervention to prevent traffic fatalities and severe injuries.
- Advocate for institutional and policy changes. Work with facility administrators to ensure safe walking and biking conditions at your own worksite. You can also use your influence as a clinician to support local initiatives, such as Vision Zero, that reduce the potential for fatal and severe injury collisions, and to promote policies that prioritize safety (e.g., bike and pedestrian plans and complete streets policies). Encourage decision-makers by signing a letter of support, authoring an op-ed piece, sharing concerns about traffic safety at community meetings, and testifying at planning commission or city council meetings. Contact the LAC DPH Vision Zero Project to learn about local advocacy opportunities for clinicians and others.