Why It Matters

Everyone needs to be active and everyone needs to be safe

Pedestrian crashes rising as inactivity takes an even greater toll

  • Every day, approximately 15 pedestrians die on our streets.1
  • Though total traffic deaths in the US fell by nearly 18 percent from 2006 to 2015, pedestrian deaths rose by 12 percent during the same ten year period.1
  • Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.2

With Vision Zero for Youth, cities create safe places for everyone to be active

  • Vision Zero for Youth is an important opportunity to accelerate getting to zero traffic deaths, starting with children.
  • Today, cities and communities across the U.S. are committing to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries, often as part of Vision Zero initiatives. A growing group of these places are including a focus on improving safe walking and bicycling in school zones and other places where youth are present. There are many reasons why focusing on safety for youth can be an important component. Children and youth need and deserve special protection, and starting with youth can be the spark that builds community support for a broader Vision Zero program.

Starting near schools: why it works

Starting safety initiatives near schools and in places where youth often walk and bike, first and foremost creates a safer environment for children. In addition, prioritizing the needs of child pedestrians and bicyclists can form an integral piece of a plan to meet larger safety goals. Safety measures targeted at protecting youth, whether in controlling speed, creating safer, improved walking and biking facilities, or in changing behaviors, have broader effects that benefit entire communities. Based on our experience serving as the SRTS clearinghouse for the Federal SRTS Program for eleven years, we have learned that starting where youth walk and bike offers five ways to integrate into broader safety initiatives such as Vision Zero plans.

  • Areas around schools provide a logical starting point to employ innovative infrastructure to improve driver behavior and pedestrian safety at crossings.
  • Programs for youth create opportunities to try behaviors that inspire community-wide change.
  • School-zone focused efforts serve as starting points for using strategies to tackle speed that may require more political traction.
  • Improving safety where youth walk and bike supports safer walking and biking networks in general.
  • Programs that aim to protect children encourage broad support from the community.

For more information, see the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s Advancing Transportation and Health: Approaches from the Federal Safe Routes to School Program That Offer Broad Application.


About Vision Zero for Youth

Today communities of all sizes are committing to eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries, often as part of a Vision Zero commitment. A growing number of communities are focusing on improving safety for youth and recognizing that communities of color and low-income communities have been historically underserved and disproportionately burdened by traffic injuries and deaths. Starting with youth can be the spark that creates community support for a broader Vision Zero program to eliminate all traffic fatalities. Moreover, in some places youth are actively working with cities and other partners to effect this change.

Launched by the National Center for Safe Routes to School in 2016, the Vision Zero for Youth initiative encourages communities and elected officials to focus safety improvements and efforts to slow traffic speeds where children and youth travel. It aligns with the Safe Systems principles that are at the heart of Vision Zero: that traffic deaths are preventable, that people are fallible and that multiple strategies requiring the involvement and coordination of different disciplines and groups are needed to improve the road environment and stop traffic deaths. A key part of Vision Zero is the idea that advancing safety of the most vulnerable road users will create a safer environment for all. The initiative includes resources, ideas for taking action, and a recognition program. Support is provided by the FIA Foundation and UNC Highway Safety Research Center.


For ways community members can gets things started and/or support their city leaders to do the same, visit Take Action.


1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (NHTSA). (2017). Traffic Safety Facts. Retrieved from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812375. 2. Kohl, Harold W et al. (2012). The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health. The Lancet, Volume 380, Issue 9838, 294 – 305.