The question is, why not? On its face, it seems an impossible goal — to end all traffic deaths in North Carolina. And yet, an effort called N.C. Vision Zero proposes a campaign to do just that, and toward that end has launched a website, ncvisionzero.org, to make people aware of statistics and to offer expertise from law enforcement, first responders, engineers, drivers and others who have expertise that might relate to the goal.
The prospect of driverless cars, likely to be quite common in the lifetimes of coming generations, could be a factor, but Don Nail, director of a worthy, established organization called the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, is realistic, with more than a touch of optimism. “For us,” he said, “it’s more of a vision. We know that we’re not going to achieve that (no deaths) overnight.” But he and other safety experts know that something has to be done.
Just in North Carolina last year, some 1,387 people died in traffic accidents, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. Even facing that grim number, DOT officials think it can be cut in half in 15 years.
It doesn’t seem that far-fetched when one considers the break-down in causes of accidents:
Of the 793 deaths so far this year, 368 of those killed weren’t wearing seat belts.
Speeding proved a factor in 155 of the deaths.
Alcohol was involved in 168 deaths.
Distracted driving (includes cell phone use) was a factor in 100 deaths.
That’s mind-boggling, almost. And it shows that if people will obey the rules of the road — just the rules of the road — fatalities in wrecks would be dramatically diminished.
The state can punish bad drivers. But the punishment comes after the damage, including death, has occurred. And it’s true the state can’t do much about people who are determined to drink and drive or to simply be reckless out of ignorance or arrogance.
But N.C. Vision Zero will push to have drivers take an online pledge to play, or drive, by the rules: wear seatbelts, obey the speed limit, don’t drink and drive, and pay attention.
Nail put it simply: Part of reducing traffic deaths is getting drivers to “start thinking about the personal responsibility that people have when they get behind the wheel.”
So let’s hope the state, along with citizens who want to raise the consciousness of others, succeed in helping it not happen.