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U.S. transportation officials set goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2040s

“We're not at zero yet, but ... the day will come when there are no fatalities on the nation's roadways, sidewalks or bicycle paths," a transportation official said Wednesday.

By Doug G. Ware
U.S. transportation officials set goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2040s
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced an initiative on Wednesday to entirely eliminate traffic fatalities by the mid 2040s, called Road to Zero. The NHTSA and several other agencies are involved in the project, which will be spearheaded by $3 million from the Transportation Department in the first three years, officials said. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 5 (UPI) -- After the deadliest year in nearly a decade, President Barack Obama's administration set a goal Wednesday to make sure not even a single person dies on American roads by the mid 2040s.

Several government agencies committed to the goal on Wednesday, which will rely on adequate federal funding and continuing technological advancements in the automobile industry -- particularly self-driving vehicles.

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The initiative is called Road to Zero.

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"Our vision is simple -- zero fatalities on our roads," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "Setting the bar for safety to the highest possible standard requires commitment from everyone to think differently about safety -- from drivers to industry, safety organizations and government at all levels."

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"Every single death on our roadways is a tragedy," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind said. "We can prevent them. Our drive toward zero deaths is more than just a worthy goal. It is the only acceptable goal."

According to statistics, 2015 was the deadliest year for U.S. traffic fatalities since 2008. Also, American traffic deaths jumped by more than 10 percent the first half of this year over the same period in 2015. That's 17,775 people killed on the road between January and June.

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"All this death and injury is avoidable," Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez said. "We simply have to remain focused and not let up on this."

The Road to Zero will focus initially on ways to mitigate traffic dangers, such as increasing seat belt use, and eventually graduate to more advanced measures based on evidence-based strategies and a systematic approach to eliminating risks.

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An expected key to the goal will be the introduction of self-driving vehicles, which are presently in development at a number of automakers.

"With the rapid introduction of automated vehicles and advanced technologies, the Department believes it is now increasingly likely that the vision of zero road deaths and serious injuries can be achieved in the next 30 years," the Department of Transportation stated.

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The DOT has committed $1 million a year for the next three years for life-saving programs.

In addition to the NHTSA, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Safety Council are involved in the Road to Zero Coalition.

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"Reaching zero deaths will be difficult, will take time and will require significant effort from all of us but it is the only acceptable vision," FHWA Deputy Administrator David Kim said. "We're not at zero yet, but by working together, the day will come when there are no fatalities on the nation's roadways, sidewalks or bicycle paths."

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