In October, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a new initiative dedicated to eliminating all traffic-related deaths in thirty years. “Road to Zero” is the concept that achieving zero traffic-related deaths is achievable through new policies and solutions. First initiated in Sweden in 1997 as “Vision Zero” the program has been adopted by many European. The U.S. version made progress last week with the holding of a symposium and invited speakers to discuss the challenges and choices with the concept. The event also offered participants the opportunity to partake in “breakout sessions” to discuss proposed actions on how to achieve the lofty goal.
The only entity representing the motorcycle community present at the symposium was the Motorcycle Riders Foundation’s Vice-President of Government Affairs, Megan Ekstrom. Ekstrom was invited to participate in one of the breakout sessions focused on how to create a safer environment for other roadway users with modes of transportation outside of traditional automobiles. Working directly with DoT officials, Ekstrom emphasized the need to prevent crashes rather than concepts focused on how to have “safer” crashes.
Specifically, she addressed the need for additional training and awareness programs for other drivers teaching them strategies on how to be alert, identify, react and interact with motorcyclists on the road. She suggested that this could be achieved by targeting education towards new drivers on the road and even encompassed in driver education programs as well as included as part of the testing for drivers’ licensing requirements. These sorts of activities and strategies could help to make motorcyclists safer on the nation’s roadways and help contribute to achieving Road to Zero’s goals.
Other participants in the coalition emphasized alternative approaches; most centered around how to crash ‘safer’ rather than to avoid crashing. Dr. Grant Baldwin, Director of the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spoke to participants touting the requirement of universal helmet laws as one of the Agency’s key recommendations in achieving zero traffic deaths.
As the Road to Zero initiative moves forward over the next few months, there will undoubtedly be opportunities to shape the program in different ways. For the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, their emphasis will be focused on how to prevent crashes between motorcycles and automobiles and measures that can be taken suggesting that education and awareness to prevent crashes is the preferred strategy for the motorcycle community.