How One US City Completely Eliminated Traffic-Related Deaths

One city in the United States did that unthinkable. Hoboken, New Jersey has completely eliminated traffic-related deaths.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

traffic-related deaths

Our busy roadways are more dangerous than ever. There is a never-ending supply of tragic traffic-related deaths hitting the news. From pedestrians getting struck to distracted drivers, the causes vary greatly. Many municipalities go to great lengths to curb accidents and protect their citizens. But often, those messages fall on deaf ears. Now there is one city that finally succeeded in its mission.

It may be a surprise that Hoboken, New Jersey, has not had any traffic-related deaths in 4 years. Hoboken is not a small city, either. They are home to roughly 60,000 people and sit across the Hudson from Manhattan. And according to the 2020 US Census, Hoboken is one of the most densely populated cities in the US.

So how in the world did they stop traffic-related deaths from occurring? Ryan Sharp, director of transportation and parking in Hoboken, says the success came from a number of simple measures. They installed a few practical solutions that had a significant impact.

One of these solutions is what Sharp calls “daylighting.” The city installed posts roughly 25 feet from each crosswalk to prevent cars from parking or stopping against them. The result? The elimination of blindspots. Now cars have better visibility of pedestrians or bike riders headed their way. The ability to see pedestrians before turning plays a tremendous role in reducing traffic-related deaths.

Another step the city took in its attempt to stop traffic-related deaths was to reprogram its traffic signals. Now, all lights have a feature called a leading pedestrian interval. This signal change allows pedestrians to start crossing without worrying about turning vehicles.

Sharp’s work has had a tremendous impact on the overall safety of pedestrians in Hoboken. Thanks to the hard work he and his team put in, the city has been able to stop traffic-related deaths. But, would such measures work in a city with more cars on the road and fewer pedestrians?

The nonprofit Vision Zero Network believes they would. Leah Shahum founded Vision Zero with the hopes of bringing a Swedish road safety concept to America. The goal is to drastically reduce traffic-related deaths in as many cities as possible – from large to small.

Vision Zero is working with many cities across the US to help them determine the first (or next) steps. The organization puts cities through a rigorous vetting process before allowing them to join the Vision Zero network. They expect city leaders to develop a plan for achieving zero traffic-related deaths. And stick to it.

Some cities beginning work with Vision Zero are San Francisco, New York City, and Denver. However, those are huge cities with a ton of moving pieces. So getting to the point of eliminating traffic-related deaths will take a lot of work. 

Local activists and nonprofit organizations are stepping in to help as well. They hope that by spreading the news of their work towards pedestrian safety, they will be able to start achieving their goals. Ultimately, both Vision Zero and the local organizations have one main agenda. Make the streets safer and reduce tragic traffic-related deaths.