When someone is killed in a car crash, who’s at fault? We usually find someone to blame, a driver or maybe a pedestrian (or cyclist or skateboarder) who didn’t look both ways. Someone made a terrible mistake. And it’s those imperfect people we blame for the more than 40,000 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States every year. Those deaths are seen as sad but inevitable.

But what if we stopped blaming individuals and instead took a hard look at our transportation policies and infrastructure? What if we designed our roadways with the understanding that humans will make mistakes?

That’s the idea behind Vision Zero, a strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries on our roads. The strategy was first implemented in the late 1990s in Sweden, where traffic deaths have decreased by more than half over the last 20 years.

Unfortunately, in Maine, as in much of the rest of the country, things are trending in the wrong direction. Last year, there were 150 deaths and 678 suspected serious injuries on Maine roads from traffic crashes. This year we’ve already had 147 deaths and 600 serious injuries, and crashes tend to spike toward the end of the year.

The Greater Portland Council of Governments is creating a Vision Zero Action Plan to help our region work toward a goal of zero deaths and zero serious injuries from traffic crashes. The plan will identify strategies for reducing crashes, such as education and changes to road design. Our first task: identify our most dangerous areas.

We have access to crash statistics and police reports. But we need the public’s help, too.


Where do you see people consistently driving too fast? Which intersections lack adequate safeguards for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles? Where do people walk without sidewalks or drive with no warning of what’s up ahead? Are there places in your community that seem like a crash waiting to happen? Are there streets or intersections you avoid? Where do you feel unsafe? And what do you think needs to be done?

In November, we’ll be holding a series of community workshops so we can get your input – and we’d love for you to come. We’re collaborating with 18 cities and towns in our region to do this work. Check our website to see if your town is involved and sign up for a workshop. If you cannot attend, you can still participate by visiting our website to watch and share our video, take our survey, or drop a pin on our map to let us know where you feel unsafe on our roads and why.

Once we identify the problem areas, we will work with stakeholders to develop tools and strategies that address people’s concerns. We’ll also prioritize specific high-crash, high-fatality, or high-injury areas so we’ll all know where to focus our regional resources first. This information, along with specific targets and milestones on our path to zero, will be included in our action plan.

Our goal is to have a draft of the plan in early 2023 so we can gather more feedback and create a final draft for adoption by the region in late spring or early summer. Adopting the action plan will set us on a course to reduce traffic fatalities and severe injuries in our region to zero. It will also help communities qualify for funding to make the changes to our roadways that will make us all safer.

Please come to a workshop or visit visionzerogreaterportland.org and give us your feedback. Together we can make a plan that will increase safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.

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