Step one: ban Mustangs from Cars and Coffee.
Some of the things that society accepts as normal can be quite appalling when seen in retrospect and one of these, according to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman, is the fact that we accept 35,000 annual deaths on American roads as a justifiable price to pay for the convenience of fast transportation. No more they say. In a post to transportation.gov, the two public servants write, “From this day forward, we start counting down to zero.”
That simple line of text prefaces the US Department of Transportation’s new goal entitled “Road To Zero.” As its name implies, the plan outlines multiple steps that the government will take to eliminate traffic fatalities on American roads. It’s a tall order, but the DOT wants its wish completed by 2046, giving drivers, regulators, and automakers 30 years to find out how to make this utopia a reality. The US DOT’s Road To Zero plan may have taken inspiration from Sweden’s Vision Safety plan, which aims to eliminate road deaths in the small Scandinavian country that already boasts the lowest rate of traffic fatalities in the world. The first step towards ensuring that US motorists are safer is to mitigate existing dangers.
These include increasing seatbelt use and motorcycle helmets, redesigning seats, and promoting campaigns to improve driving behavior and eliminate bad habits. The next part of the plan will be more intense, focusing on technology. Features like collision mitigation, redesigned vehicle structures (such as reinforced chassis that can withstand small front overlap crashes), and warning systems will help chip away at the number of fatal accidents. However, by far the most impactful tool for the zero deaths crusade will be the autonomous vehicle. With cars that can talk to each other and the surrounding infrastructure, it will be easier for automakers to eliminate many traffic fatalities.
This is especially good news given the fact that death tolls on American highways are on the rise. The unintended consequence of an uptick in the economy and a downturn in fuel prices is that more people are apt to drive and do so for longer distances. Between January through June of this year, American drivers traveled 1.58 trillion miles, enough to make 169 round trips from Earth to Pluto when the two planets are at their furthest points from each other. This mind boggling number helps to give an idea as to why so many deaths occur on highways because with mileage numbers that high, driving becomes a game of chance. Autonomous cars will be able to eliminate the cause of 94 percent of fatal accidents: human error.