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Austin Rolling Out Vision Zero Safety Plan

Austin Rolling Out Vision Zero Safety Plan

In October, workers began making improvements to the intersection at Cameron Road and U.S. Route 183. As reported in the Statesman, the upgrades include raised pedestrian “islands,” high-visibility crosswalks, and a flashing light to alert drivers that the traffic light ahead is red.

The project was part of Austin’s Vision Zero Action Plan, a two-year plan to reduce serious and fatal injuries among drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Austin was ranked the 24th most dangerous city for pedestrians, in the Dangerous by Design 2014 report. Hopefully, by the time the initial stage of Vision Zero ends in 2018, Austin will be a much safer city.

Specific Goals

Vision Zero originated in Sweden in 1997. It’s a comprehensive approach to improving traffic safety that involves several key components:

  • Engineering and design –  Safety improvements should account for human error. For example, if a driver is inattentive and veers out of the lane toward a sidewalk, lane barriers could prevent that car from hitting a pedestrian walking on the sidewalk.
  • Education – Public awareness campaigns should emphasize the importance of safe driving behavior and pedestrian awareness.
  • Enforcement – Authorities should ramp-up enforcement of traffic violations, especially at crosswalks.
  • Evaluation – Planners should analyze data about fatal and serious crashes to determine the top contributing factors.
  • Policy – Policies should be developed to support Vision Zero goals.

Austin Improvements

One of the design improvements you may notice in Austin is a greater number of “continental” street crossings. Normally located in front of schools, these crosswalks have wide white lines, spaced evenly across the road. And according to the Federal Highway Administration, continental crosswalks are more visible to drivers than traditional crosswalks that are marked only by two lines that run perpendicular to traffic.

The city plans to work with Capital Metro to ensure all bus stops are safe and have adequate lighting, and to consider whether bus stops should be moved to new locations. To further enhance safety, the city is targeting accident “hot spots,” and may implement improvements such as protected bicycle lanes, roundabouts, and changes in traffic patterns.

Because alcohol is a factor in so many deadly crashes, Vision Zero plans to fund a new law enforcement unit specifically to identify and apprehend intoxicated drivers, and to provide funds for hiring prosecutors dedicated to DWI cases. Those efforts will be accompanied by public awareness campaigns about the risks of drinking and driving.

Successful Implementation

Some other large cities in the United States have already seen encouraging results from their Vision Zero campaigns. In New York City, since implementing Vision Zero in 2014, traffic fatalities have decreased dramatically – 2015 was the safest year in the entire 115 years the city has tracked accident data. By March of 2016, New York City had 15 miles of protected bike lanes, with plans to add more in the city’s five boroughs.

All of the improvements cities make to help protect users of the road can’t succeed on their own. Drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists must also do their part by avoiding unsafe behaviors and respectfully sharing the road.

If you have questions about how roadway safety might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Austin, TX-based Evans Law Firm. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, we help the people of Texas put their lives back on track. We offer small law firm attention with big law firm results. Call today at 1-855-414-1012 or fill out our online contact form to find out how we can help you.

Attorney Chip Evans

Austin Attorney Chip EvansChip Evans is a partner at Evans & Herlihy. Chip brings to the firm more than 20 years of experience as a trial lawyer representing Plaintiffs. It is the desire to help individuals, not corporations, that attracts Chip to this side of the docket. [ Attorney Bio ]