COVID-19 continues to draw upon the resources of countries around the world. In this difficult time period, how can communities also address improved road safety?
Karin Hassner: Even though countries with a high amount of car travel and goods movement have been able to improve their road safety level, a good start for communities is to plan for mobility environments where travelling by car is not only unnecessary but not more attractive than walking, biking or using public transport. Worldwide, we see cities introducing new pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure as a result of COVID-19 restrictions in public transportation. However, this infrastructure needs to be safe. More vulnerable road users in the streets together with less car traffic at higher speeds makes it even more challenging to protect vulnerable road users.
People always need safe environments to move about in their daily lives. Infrastructure improvements often take time to put in place. Planning the path for a better future should begin now, to support communities as they move through COVID-19 and people resume more activities.
Today, system designers can apply measures to prevent road fatalities. The results of implemented countermeasures not only demonstrate progress but indicate potential for continued advancement in communities that have already shown progress—and for areas to begin to their journeys by following best practices.
Can you propose one or two takeaways to guide thinking and action toward Vision Zero?
Karin Hassner: The big message is that we now have, at our fingertips, the means to prevent road traffic deaths around the world. Fatalities and serious injuries are not inevitable consequences of mobility and should not be accepted as such. We already have the tools necessary to accelerate worldwide progress through localized long-term journeys toward zero. It’s important to note that achieving a higher level of road safety also helps shape inclusive communities where all people can live quality lives and prosper.
Very much like COVID-19, the costs as a result of road traffic crashes in terms of the number of lives lost and the impact to the economy are high; also similar to COVID-19, road traffic collisions happen unexpectedly as people go about their daily lives, often leaving family and friends in a grievous situation, emotionally and economically. If a family loses a mother, father, child or other member, the rest of the family is impacted for life.
Vision Zero can be thought of as the world’s readily available and proven “vaccine” to prevent harm and enable safe mobility on the world’s roads. By following best practices, it is possible for a city or country to reduce loss of human life in a relatively short timeframe. If a measure is proven to work somewhere, it is more likely to work in other contexts too, with possible adjustments, of course, especially as new modes of mobility are introduced.