The road to 'Vision Zero'

Tips for both government and individuals to lower the chance of a traffic accident.

car accident 88 (photo credit: )
car accident 88
(photo credit: )
The sudden, shocking upsurge in road deaths - 21 in one week - underscores the case for implementing an update of the recommendations of the Metuna road safety organization and Hebrew University for achieving Vision Zero, an eradication of the road death epidemic, within five years. At the moment the county suffers an annual toll of between 400 and 450 road deaths, down from still higher numbers, which fell after speed limits were lowered in the 1990s. WHAT WE as individuals must do: • Take buses, minibuses, taxis or trains. Public transit is one-tenth to one-twentieth as dangerous as car travel - and it's cheaper. It also reduces air pollution. • Kill speed. Reduce your speed by up to 10 kph below the posted speed limit. • Use seat belts and child restraints at all times. • Drink drink drink - and not only when you are thirsty. Prevent fatigue from dehydration by drinking more water. When you are fatigued, do not drive. Remember: Thirst is a late sign of dehydration. • Light up. Use front headlights on all roads with single lanes and no dividers - at all times, during the entire year - to ensure you are seen from a distance. • Don't tailgate. Keep a two-second headway interval. • Respect pedestrians' right of way at crosswalks. • Protect skulls and brains: Make sure you and your kids wear bike helmets at all times. • Pedestrians: Cross only on a crosswalk, at a green light - and make sure that you have been seen by drivers. WHAT THE government must do: • Expedite the introduction of a national speed camera network of no less than 600 cameras within two years on our inter-urban and high-risk urban roads. This measure should save some 150-200 or more lives per year. Revenues from speed cameras can be used to finance fixing road hazards. Each week of delay costs some three lives. The UK, Australia and France have already halved their death tolls with national speed camera networks. Dubai is adding 400 speed cameras to its existing 450. • Suspend the licenses of young drivers with speeding and drinking offenses for a year or more. Our guess is that this measure will save some 20 lives annually. • Lower speed limits on highways - not only on the Big Six major highways, but on the new east-west connecting roads as well. This measure should save some 50 to 75 lives per year • Set up a metered fee charge system for truck shipments, which will guarantee a living wage for truckers. Crack down on trucking companies which force drivers to work more than a 12-hour day. Provide legal backing for truckers who resist pressure to work more than the legal limit. Promote more cargo shipment by train. These measures should save some 30 of the 60 people killed each year from truck crashes. • Invest more in public transport. Get the public, especially the young, out of cars and into public transit. Invest in more minibuses for nightime inter-city and intra-city travel in Galilee and the Negev. Mesh their scheduling with bus and train schedules. This measure would save some 20 or more lives. • Stop building new roads. Cost overruns from these projects produce legalized corruption. Instead utilize the infrastructure budget for dividers, better markers, cat-eye reflectors on rural roads, and lighting. Upgrade signage to accord with EU road safety standards. Pad all rigid roadside poles and other dangerous road furniture with energy-absorbing materials. These measures would save some 25-50 lives. • Require headlights on in the day all year around (and not just in winter) on roads which do not have separation barriers. This measure would save some five or 10 lives per year. • Increase pedestrian safety with more roundabouts and pedestrian malls. Move ahead on the national bike path network. Enforce 30-kph limits with speed bumps and speed cameras. These measures would save some 50 lives. • Crack down on cell phone use in cars. We suspect such enforcement would save some 10 lives. • Continue to upgrade pre-hospital emergency and trauma care. This measure should save some 20-40 lives. Under optimum circumstances, these measures will get us to Vision Zero. Under worse ones, we would still be more than halfway there. Zelda Harris is spokesperson for the Metuna road safety organization. Elihu D. Richter is a professor at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Injury Prevention Center