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A New Traffic Safety Paradigm

BY TODD LITMAN VICTORIA TRANSPORT POLICY INSTITUTE

A new traffic safety paradigm is more comprehensive and integrated Despite large traffic safety investments, motor vehicle crashes impose large costs on society. Crash rates declined significantly during most of the last century, but this downward trend has slowed and recently reversed in many jurisdictions, leaving the U.S. and Canada with higher crash rates than most peer countries. Analysis described in this article indicates that conventional traffic safety strategies are inadequate for achieving ambitious safety targets such as Vision Zero. A new paradigm can

help identify additional traffic safety strategies for achieving these goals. In a word, the new traffic safety paradigm recognizes exposure as a risk factor. Let me explain. Total traffic crashes are the product of two factors, distance-based casualty rates (deaths or injuries per billion vehiclekilometers) times per capita vehicle travel (per capita annual kilometers, which safety experts called exposure). A change in either causes comparable changes in total crashes. The current traffic safety paradigm focuses almost entirely on reducing distance-based crash rates; the New Paradigm also considers exposure. It assumes that because most crashes are caused by identifiable risk factors, such as youth and impaired driving, traffic safety programs should target these special risks. The New Paradigm recognizes that all travel imposes risks, and so WINTER 2017-2018 | TRANSPORTATION TALK 12

CREDIT: FLO KARR / UNSPLASH

a n ew tra f f ic s a fe t y p a rad igm

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