Back in December we posted a chart of annual changes in traffic fatalities in six American cities that have adopted “Vision Zero” goals. There was no real discernible pattern, suggesting cities have yet to make much progress in reducing traffic deaths.
With data for 2017 now available, we updated the chart and added a few more cities. In several places, traffic fatalities fell much more sharply last year than in the nation as a whole. Does that mean Vision Zero policies are working? Well, it’s still too soon to tell.
Traffic deaths, especially in smaller cities like Portland, are subject to sizable year-to-year variation. A change in any given year doesn’t say much — only sustained reductions over a period of several years would indicate that Vision Zero policies are making an impact.
In Boston, traffic deaths fell in 2017 despite what advocates characterize as a lackluster commitment to traffic safety policies from Mayor Marty Walsh.
Stacy Thompson, executive director of Boston’s Livable Streets Alliance, said the decline in Boston was good news, but she hesitates to draw conclusions.
“It’s much like any public health trend,” she said. “This is a promising shift, but we need three to five more years of downward trends and analysis to fully understand if this is working.”