Is Sweden’s Vision Zero Achievable on U.S. Roads?
In 2013, motor vehicle crashes claimed the lives of 32,719 individuals in the U.S. During the same year the number of people killed in road accidents in Sweden was 264. Sweden’s roads have become one of the safest roads on earth – with only three deaths out of every 100,000 Swedes as compared to the 11.4 per 100,000 individuals in the United States.
On September 3, 1967, a Swedish legislation that was passed in 1963, took effect. This legislation, also known as Dagen H or the Right-Hand Traffic Diversion, ordered a switch to right-hand traffic. Though everything seemed almost hilarious, but contrary to what so many said that the switch is murderous, road fatalities dropped more than 50% to the surprise of many. This was because everyone drove carefully; drivers had both of their hands on the wheel and both of their eyes on the road. Nobody or very few dared to fight for the way too.
Stating confidently that deaths or injuries on the road are not acceptable, the Swedish parliament wrote into law in 1997 its “Vision Zero” plan, which promises to eliminate road injuries and fatalities altogether. With the way they are handling and managing things, they are slowly proving that, indeed, mobility and safety can be enjoyed at the same time.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated ninety-four percent of car crashes are due to errors committed by drivers. Driving errors are clear manifestations of irresponsible and bad road behavior. These activities, which have actually become an epidemic on U.S. roads and highways include, but are not limited to, speeding, drunk-driving, reckless driving, aggressive driving, failure to use signal lights, tailgating, changing lanes improperly, improper way of overtaking and distracted driving. Of all these, distracted driving is one contributing factor in accidents that can be committed by even the most careful drivers.
Distracted driving involves turning one’s attention from the act of driving to an activity that takes away a his/her attention off the road and/or his/her hand/s off the wheel. There can be an endless list of distracted driving activities, but to name a few of those most commonly committed, there is eating, drinking, conversing with a passenger, reading a map, grooming, using/adjusting a GPS, watching a video, adjusting a radio, a CD player, or any portable electronic device, fixing a tie, lighting a cigarette, driving while angry, texting or conversing with someone over a hand-held phone (these last two happen to be the leading cause of driving distraction, especially among young drivers).
Driving distractions are so normal that a driver, most often than not, will not even realize that he/she is already guilty of distracted driving. Unfortunately, whenever a driver gets distracted or makes mistakes, the most often result is a crash that can injure or even kill another.
With our smart phones and GPS devices within arms reach, our minds are easily distracted. This type of negligent behavior can lead to serious and sometimes fatal consequences.
As clearly pointed out by a Louisville car accident attorney, however, “If there is a single expectation that we should be able to have of other drivers, it should be that they will take every reasonable precaution to avoid causing an accident. Nonetheless, there are drivers out there who are so completely unaware of themselves and their surroundings that they end up causing serious accidents that should have been avoidable. That being said, drivers who do anything else to cause an otherwise preventable accident—like looking at their phone instead of the road—can usually be held financially liable for the accidents that they cause.”