Some people think that Vision Zero initiatives – which aim to eliminate traffic fatalities or serious injuries – are unreasonably ambitious. And, the data demonstrates that, despite some great efforts, we’re headed the wrong way when it comes to our most vulnerable road users. A recent US National Highway Safety Administration study showed that, while traffic fatalities are falling for most road users, they are rising for pedestrians and cyclists.
Yet, high above our streets, travel is getting remarkably safer.
You’d think that radically improving the safety of airline passengers – who travel in an aluminum tube, five miles in the air, at over 500 mph – would be pretty challenging. Yet, that’s exactly what the commercial airline industry has done. In 1977, there were about 4.2 accidents per million flights. In 2017, that fell to a little over 0.2 accidents per million flights. Thanks to that improvement, airlines recorded zero accident deaths for commercial passenger jets that year. While there have been accidents in recent years, today’s commercial airline accidents and fatalities are notable in part due to their comparative rarity.
If this level of safety can be achieved for something as complex as air travel, surely Vision Zero is achievable closer to terra firma.
One of the advantages the aircraft industry has is access to rich data. Air travel is highly regulated and highly monitored. Commercial planes record a bounty of data in onboard black boxes and high traffic areas are carefully monitored by air traffic control. In fact, the industry also closely tracks when airliners come closer than the regulated separation distance, meaning that they can see where potential danger lurks and make changes before accidents happen.
On the ground, this kind of rich data can be harder to come by. That’s especially true as more municipalities, looking to encourage space efficient and environmentally friendly modes of transportation, are adopting Complete Streets planning approaches. As traffic becomes more diverse, counting cars simply isn’t sufficient. To make streets safer, municipalities need data on all road users: cars, trucks, pedestrians, cyclists and emerging classes of road users like e-scooters.
Multimodal data gives traffic engineers a foundation to diagnose the root cause of safety issues, especially between modes (e.g., conflicts between cars and pedestrians). That will help them identify and apply appropriate safety countermeasures, making streets safer for everyone. Given that mobility patterns are not static, this can’t be a one-time exercise. Once changes are made to ensure the safety and efficiency of the traffic network, communities need to continually monitor and measure the improvement.
The foundation for all of this is an easy, efficient, accurate way for municipalities to collect multimodal traffic data.
That’s why I’m excited about our upcoming Envision Live event, which will explore some of Miovision’s new products that give cities and towns the tools they need to gather richer multimodal traffic data and insights. We’ll also explore some best practices when it comes to using multimodal data to solve traffic issues. We’re really proud of the tools we have coming to provide traffic experts with the data they need to make every road user count.
Learn more and register to be notified when our livestream starts.