Thirty-six people died in traffic crashes in Washington, D.C. last year, a 20% increase from 2017. Eight people, six of whom were walking or biking, have already been killed this year, prompting a major public rally just two weeks ago. Residents are angry that the city isn’t succeeding in curbing road deaths, despite the fact that Mayor Muriel Bowser committed to end traffic fatalities entirely by 2024.
It’s a common plight. While more than 40 cities in the United States and many more around the world have committed to Vision Zero, a global movement to end traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by taking a systemic approach to road safety, many are struggling to turn this vision into a reality. Citizens themselves can pursue road safety at many levels— in their schools, workplaces, streets and communities. But it’s the elected leaders who control budgets and priorities for their jurisdiction who really have the responsibility to catalyze lasting improvements that will save people’s lives. As UN Global Road Safety Week kicks into gear this week, it’s time to ask the question: What does political leadership in road safety really look like?