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United States aims for zero traffic deaths

The U.S. federal government has set a lofty goal to eliminate traffic deaths by the year 2046. The 30-year timeframe is a popular figure and doesn't originate with the Obama administration, but was first implemented in Sweden back in 1997 and elsewhere over the past two decades.

Although U.S. fatalities have risen so far in 2016 and consistently since 2014, advances in technology and awareness lead the initiative.

The leading causes of traffic deaths today include the well known issues of drunk driving and distracted driving, and nearly all accidents -- an eye-popping 94 percent -- are from some form of human error, whether from the preventable causes just named or from improper technique or reaction to a situation.

The zero deaths initiative includes increasing funding for safety measures and awareness, but technology will play a major role that covers more than seatbelt campaigns and more rumble strips.

Driverless cars have gained traction in recent years through quick technological advancement, making them appear a viable alternative for future transportation. Given that just 6 percent of road deaths are not related to human error, their prominence alone would greatly increase safety once the technology has been mastered and approved as safe for the general public.

Taking the steering wheel away from human hands means the cell phone can stay out and the road rage never reaches the accelerator pedal. Driverless cars use lasers and radar to sense obstacles instead of human eyes.

Driverless cars aren't ready just yet, though, so it's important to buckle up, hide the cell phone and to make sure you're 100 percent sober before taking the wheel. The initiative is to greatly improve the safety of American roads but, over the past three years, conditions show that there is a long way to go.

Focusing on the road and carefully following rules while driving defensively remains the surest way to keep yourself and others on the road out of harm's way.

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