Vision Zero Becoming More Visible By Auto Industry

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Automotive News reports:Toyota’s James Kuffner is among a global band of safety experts proposing a radical goal for the auto industry: zero traffic deaths.

The target may be unattainable, safety advocates concede. But they say it is possible to virtually eliminate the 30,000-plus annual highway fatalities in the U.S.

Kuffner, chief technology officer at the Toyota Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., says that if the industry moves decisively, within a decade “the probability of being killed in a traffic accident would be smaller than being killed by lightning.”

But automakers must speed the usual decades long pace of adoption of new technology, safety experts say, and get advanced data-crunching, crash-avoidance and communications capability into vehicles as quickly as possible.

“The longer it isn’t deployed,” Kuffner says, “the more people die.”

The war on traffic deaths would require profound changes to vehicles, the way they operate and the way they’re regulated.

And it would upend many industry norms. Can automakers sell safety instead of performance? Will their customers love robotic cars that don’t crash — but travel cautiously, carefully obeying traffic laws?”

Since 2000, automakers have introduced an array of safety technology: forward-collision warning, rear cameras, lane-departure warning, traffic-jam assist, adaptive cruise control and the like. 

Put it all together, says Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and “We’re right on the technological cusp. We have this totally new, really exciting chance to make a difference.”

The challenge is to get the technology into vehicles quickly but safely, he says. But the goal is sufficiently compelling to ensure that change will happen.

“Everyone’s got their own view of what the future is going to be,” Rosekind says. “We’re watching the future get created right in front of us.”

Much of the impetus comes from Vision Zero, a policy written into Swedish law in 1997. Its core tenet is that there is no acceptable level of traffic fatalities; the goal is zero deaths.

The policy fits the safety consciousness of Sweden’s only major automaker, Volvo, which has pledged that no one will die in an accident in a new Volvo car by 2020.

While other automakers are cautious about getting to zero — one executive marveled that Volvo’s lawyers would let the company make such a claim — Volvo r&d chief Peter Mertens isn’t backing off.

“By 2020, I think we have a good chance to be damn close to it,” he says.

With continual refinement of safety systems and adoption of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, Mertens says, it is possible to eliminate traffic deaths: “Once all vehicles are connected, then I think we can achieve zero fatalities in traffic.”

Chauffeurs or angels?

Volvo epitomizes one of two industry approaches to reducing fatalities — although they mostly differ in how quickly they propose to get to self-driving, connected vehicles.

Toyota’s Kuffner terms the two schools “chauffeur” and “guardian angel”:

• The chauffeur mode, championed by Google, uses self-driving vehicles. As Kuffner puts it, “the human doesn’t really have to participate. The car can drive itself.” 

• The “guardian angel” approach uses vehicles driven by humans, but with computerized safety systems ready to intervene. Volvo and other automakers following this path say it probably will lead to fully autonomous vehicles, but improving crash avoidance and protection is more realistic in the near term….

If the crash-prevention systems follow the usual timetable, Rosekind says, “It takes 20 to 30 years for new technology to penetrate the fleet.” 

But inertia shouldn’t be an excuse, advocates say. Lawrence Burns, an industry consultant and former General Motors head of r&d, says tolerance for traffic deaths is an outdated attitude. 

“The acceptance of roadway fatalities for over a century is really amazing, if you think about it,” Burns says. “It’s not that the industry hasn’t improved safety. It has, but the improvement has been incremental….” 

One reason for traditional automakers’ urgency is pressure from new competitors such as Google, with its self-driving cars, and Apple, rumored to be working on a car. Volvo’s Mertens says new players may speed the industry’s adoption of technology.

“We are pretty slow. The auto industry isn’t known for high speed of innovations,” Mertens says. “Others — the Silicon Valley guys that think they can do cars — I think they will help us.”

Burns puts it more bluntly, saying automakers must shift their r&d budgets toward safety: “I think we’re going to be in a dramatically different world in 2025 than we are today.

“Either the incumbents are going to redirect how they spend their money, or they’re going to have their lunch eaten.”  See

The progress of Vision Zero policies in the U.S.A. through 2015 is at
As more and more voices of advocates, crash victims, voters, and consumers are heard we can see more Vision Zero policies adopted, implemented, and effective at ending vehicle violence.  Now it’s a matter of when, and how many more lives must be lost needlessly before we end vehicle violence – forevermore.


Truck Underride Conference at IIHS

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members: reports on the Conference that included testimony from safety advocate Marianne Karth and others.

“The industry should “move heaven and earth to make the best-possible protection,” said Marianne Karth.

Karth’s teenage daughters AnnaLeah and Mary, riding in the back seat, died from injuries in a 2013 underride accident. Karth’s Ford Crown Victoria was hit by a truck, spun, hit again and shoved backwards under another semi-trailer, flattening the rear of the passenger compartment.

Federal regulations require trailers and some straight trucks to be equipped with rear underride guards – the bars than hang down on the back of trucks and trailers. In fact, regulation requiring modest underride guards have been in place in the U.S. since 1953.

“It’s incredible that we have vehicles today that we can underride,” Molloy said.

There’s uncertainty over the seemingly straightforward notion of how many people are killed each year in all types of underride accidents.

Federal data from the widely used Fatality Analysis Reporting System logged 5,081 deaths from 1994 to 2014.

Yearly counts range from a low of 198 in 2001 to a high of 299 in 2002. The 2014 count is 228; 2015 data aren’t available yet.

But a September 2013 report from the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine calculated that fatalities from one type of underride collision, the side-crash, are about three times as frequent as the federal data indicates. That’s why some critics are saying the federal data does not represent an accurate fatality count from all types of underride crashes.

The underride crash problem has been debated for decades. Back in 1991 NHTSA rejected extending requirements to prevent underride crashes, stating, “Combination truck side underride countermeasures have been determined not to be cost effective.”


Captive DOT NHTSA and the industry have a lot of tragedy to answer for.


Truck Safety and Congress

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

What should Hours of Service Rules be for safety on the roads?

I have often thought that if anyone in a position of responsibility for governing this question were required to spend one week riding with a truck driver before voting or acting on it in the Executive or Judicial branches, the rule would be closer to:*   40 hour week*  5 day week maximum

*  8 hour day with 1/2 hour for lunch and two 15 minute breaks in each 4 hour stretch.

Do you think any longer hours will result in preventable deaths and serious injuries and be a form of economic slavery?


The Life or Death Question: How Did It Happen That Safety Has Been Derailed For Decades In Washington?

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
ABC News and AP report on an NTSB Investigation of an Amtrak crash:

“As for what this could mean for Amtrak and Bostian, the railroad has already taken responsibility for the tragedy, and its liability is capped under federal law at $295 million, which could easily be exhausted, given the number of deaths and serious injuries.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is helping the NTSB on the investigation, but a spokesman would not comment on the possibility of criminal charges.

The hearing included a spirited discussion over how much blame to assign to the lack of positive train control. In the end, the NTSB cited that as a secondary factor.

But NTSB chairman Christopher Hart warned that unless the technology is put fully in place soon, “I’m very concerned that we’re going to be back in this room again, hearing investigators detail how technology that we have recommended for more than 45 years could have prevented yet another fatal rail accident.”….

The NTSB has pushed for Positive train control since the 1970s. Over the past 20 years, the board has cited the lack of such technology as a contributing factor in 25 crashes, including deadly wrecks in Chatsworth, California, in 2008 and New York City in 2013.

Amtrak has now installed PTC on all the track it owns on the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington. A 56-mile stretch from New Rochelle, New York, to New Haven, Connecticut, is owned by other railroads and is expected to have automatic controls by the end-of-2018 deadline.

At the time of the Philadelphia crash, the technology had been installed at the accident site but was still being tested.

Before the NTSB voted on its conclusions, T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the board’s vice chairman, strongly urged the panel to put more blame on the lack of Positive train control.

“Eight people have died, dozens more have been injured — life-changing injuries — because the government and industry have not acted for decades on a well-known safety hazard,” Dinh-Zarr said. “I ask: Why does our probable cause focus on a human’s mistake and what he may have been distracted by?”

The investigation also pointed up the need to make passenger trains safer. In the derailment, the train’s emergency windows dislodged as the cars slid on their sides, and four people were ejected and killed, according to investigators.”  (Emphasis added in Bold)


The candor of these NTSB Officials is noteworthy.   Possible winds of change in the air?



Secret Papers Released by GREENPEACE

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

As a public service, Greenpeace releases Secret Papers:Greenpeace Netherlands has released secret TTIP negotiation documents. We have done so to provide much needed transparency and trigger an informed debate on the treaty. This treaty is threatening to have far reaching implications for the environment and the lives of more than 800 million citizens in the EU and US. Whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labour rights or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents. They underline the strong objections civil society and millions of people around the world have voiced: TTIP is about a huge transfer of power from people to big business.See



Progress on Truck Underride Safety

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Safety progress reported by family of two daughters tragically lost in a crash.  This is a story the public needs to hear and that deserves wider distribution by the media.A grieving dad got the attention of the trucking industry & made a difference.

Lou Lombardo