Traffic accidents were, in 2015, the tenth cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organisation. It is therefore a global problem that many countries are trying to respond to. In the USA, researchers from the Rand Corporation published a study that is set in 2050 and imagines what has been the first year without deaths on the road in this country.
The starting point is the current situation, when over 100 Americans die in their vehicle in traffic accidents every day. It is a problem that has a major effect on young people between the ages of 15 and 24, men and people who live in rural areas. Moreover, over the decades, there has been a continual drop in the number of deaths on the roads (the figure fell by 11,300 people between 1985 and 2011), in recent years a considerable rise has been detected: in 2016 5,000 more people died in traffic accidents than 2011.
The researchers imagined that they were living in 2050 and that it was the first year without a death on the road, thanks to four factors. The first was that almost all vehicles had some kind of atomisation or driving support mechanism. Secondly, that the roads were designed to reduce speed where safety is deficient. Thirdly, the improvement in emergency warning systems and care for those injured, which would reduce deaths in accidents. The last was that, as there were fewer accidents, US citizens would increasingly regard traffic accidents as unacceptable.
To get to this scenario, between 2018 and 2050 it would be necessary to implement measures focused on three areas.
- Double the efforts and investment in programmes and policies that have been shown to be effective. These policies are seen within a wider concept, from changes in regulations to changes in infrastructures or improvements in highway education.
- Speed up the most advanced technological changes. Support systems and driver assistance are more and more habitual with new vehicles and, gradually, the age of automatic driving is approaching. Agreements between car manufacturers and developers and suppliers of technology, as well as other actors, will be key in this area.
- Prioritising safety. It is necessary for Americans to adopt a new culture of safety, based on awareness, education and constant enhancement, both in the individual and collective context. With this new safety system, all divers would be aware that any one of them at some time, indeed inevitably, might make a mistake and cause an accident. This premise would lead to an improvement in all areas of the road system (roads, vehicles, drivers, emergency services), so that when there is such a mistake, the consequences will not be fatal.