Is it possible to eliminate car wreck fatalities? Sweden thinks so and has been working towards that goal since 1997 when it implemented Vision Zero, a long-term goal and strategy for road safety. Sweden has a population of about 10 million. It experienced 270 car wreck fatalities in 2016. That is a rate of 27 per million. When it started its program in 1997, the fatality rate was over 60 per million.

Other countries and regions have since implemented a vision zero strategy. In the United States, many large cities including New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles have implemented similar long-term goals and strategies. Two states, North Carolina and North Dakota, have adopted Vision Zero initiatives. Recently, Cincinnati has taken on the initiative and is currently in the research phase.

Strategies For Eliminating Car Accident Fatalities

What measures are being taken to achieve Vision Zero? A combination of speed limits, road design, vehicle design, and seat belt use. Studies have shown that a pedestrian can survive a collision with a vehicle traveling at 19 miles per hour or less. Therefore, speed in pedestrian-heavy areas and pedestrian crossings should be limited to 15 miles per hour. An alternative would be to build pedestrian crossings that either go above or below roadways and to build barriers between roadways and sidewalks. As for vehicle to vehicle collisions, modern cars are designed to tolerate frontal collisions of 43 miles per hour and side collisions at 31 miles per hour. Therefore, speed limits at intersections or urban roads should be 30 miles per hour and barriers should be built in two-lane roads to avoid head-on collisions or the speed limits should be drastically reduced. Round-a-bouts are also proven to reduce serious car accidents. Cars are designed to tolerate collisions with barriers or vehicles that are not directly side-impact or head-on at speeds of just over 60 miles per hour. So reducing speed limits to 60 miles per hour on divided highways is recommended.

Kentucky Car Wreck Fatalities

Kentucky has a population of about 4.5 million. In 2018, there were 724 car wreck fatalities. That is a rate of approximately 160 per million. Comparing that to Sweden’s 27 per million, Kentucky has a fatality rate nearly 6 times greater. In 1997, Kentucky experienced 865 car wreck fatalities with a population of about 3.9 million. That is a rate of approximately 221 per million. In other words, Kentucky has improved its fatality rate by about 28% while Sweden has improved its fatality rate by more than 50%.

Could Kentucky Eliminate Car Wreck Fatalities?

Kentucky has yet to officially adopt Vision Zero strategies, but there is at least one group that is dedicated to the cause in the state. So what could we do in Kentucky to reduce car accident fatalities? Looking at the Kentucky Traffic Collisions Fact Books, there were 88 fatalities in 2018 from collisions with pedestrians and cyclists. Better infrastructure for pedestrian walkways and bike lanes is one solution to decrease this number. 307 of the fatal collisions, or 34%, occur on state routes. Significantly decreasing speed limits or designing better infrastructure along these routes is another way to reduce fatalities.

Is it going to be possible to get to zero traffic fatalities? The number can be reduced, as has been proven in Sweden and other areas, with the implementation of Vision Zero strategies, but as long as human error is a factor, it is unlikely that fatalities can be eliminated. However, with the possibility of self-driving vehicles in the near future that would eliminate most, if not all, human error, we will likely see a significant decrease in, and possibly the elimination of, car accident fatalities.