By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator
Part of the afternoon session at the Vision Zero Summit was a panel discussion called “Vision Zero in Action”. The panel included speakers from Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto and focussed on what each city is doing towards realizing Vision Zero. One of the panelists was Greg Hart from Safer Calgary. Greg’s perspective was an interesting one as Safer Calgary is not part of the municipality; rather they are an outside agency working with the city of Calgary. The Safer Calgary coalition is an alliance of individuals and groups that have a common interest of decreasing the potential for preventable harm and death in the city of Calgary.
Greg began his presentation by reminding us (as many speakers have today) that distracted driving is a huge challenge on our roads. There are four states in the US where texting is legal- but in the rest of the states, bans on texting have not reduced the number of distracted driving charges and fatalities. Why is that? Greg says this is because of our tendency to blame individuals for their behaviour. “He should know better than to text and drive because he’ll get a ticket” or “she should look both ways before crossing the street or she’ll get into an accident”. Statements that involve the word “should”, says Greg, raise a red flag. This is because in our brains, should statements – which are statements about our behaviour- are connected to punishment, as in my two examples above. To which our brains say, “…if I get caught”. We think that we’ll evade capture, we’ll escape an accident, that our actions won’t kill someone. Because we believe that we are smarter than we are.
The reality is that we’re not as smart as we think that we are. We think that we can pay attention all of the time, that we can multi-task and do all tasks equally well. This is not true. This is in part because of the role that our unconscious mind plays in our decision making. We make decisions based environmental cues that we’re not consciously processing.
Instead of thinking “should”, says Greg, we should rely on the design of our roads to guide the behaviour of the majority of road users, leaving enforcement for the 10% of underperforming road users. For example, Greg told us about an intersection in Calgary that had installed automatic ticketing, which resulted in $11 M in fines. There are two ways to view this: first that we take the money and fuel it into safety interventions or public transit etc. The second way is to realize that obviously, the intersection needs to be designed in such a way that $11 M dollars of laws are not broken. We need to create successful situations so that we criminalize fewer people and have fewer injuries and deaths.
I am positive that I am not doing Greg enough justice with this summary of his presentation. And frankly, I wish he could have spoken for at least an hour! Please visit the Safer Calgary website to learn more.
HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero
Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?
Sweden’s Vision Zero Websitehttp://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/
Parachute’s Vision Zero Websitehttp://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero