City releases plan for zero traffic deaths

Traffic deaths are preventable. We have the tools and resources to make them stop.

All we need is the will to make it happen.

The city concluded nearly a year of outreach and work to create its first Road Safety Action Plan, which outlines the tools and necessary culture shifts we need in order reach a zero-death reality on Seattle streets. If all of the points in the plan are taken seriously and given the proper resources, it could work, too.

In essence, the report says very little that we didn’t already know. In order to reduce traffic injuries and deaths, we need a combination of education, enforcement, engineering and empathy (they add evaluation to the list of Es). So along with the plan comes a media campaign to teach people the rules of the road and discourage distracted driving and texting.

The plan also includes more targeted emphasis patrols for all road users. However, this process is informed by data showing that by far, the leading cause of collisions between people driving and people on bike and on foot is people driving failing to yield the right of way:

Evidence suggests that speeding emphasis patrols can slightly reduce average speeds on a roadway. However, the results pale in comparison to safe road engineering projects, like the Nickerson rechannelization.

That project has reduced collisions by an impressive 23 percent. The number of people driving more than 10 mph over the speed limit plummeted more than 90 percent. Most of the collisions prevented were auto-on-auto, so people in cars were the biggest beneficiaries of the changes.

Basically, here’s where we are: We know how to reduce collisions, and the city is doing so, though at a glacial pace. Meanwhile, the number of people cycling, walking and taking transit continues to climb.

We have the means and, now, a clearly stated and data-based goal of making safety our top transportation priority.

For the cost of just the first phase of the Mercer Project, Seattle could have more miles of complete streets with world-class cycle tracks, bus bulbs for transit efficiency and safe crosswalks than Copenhagen. Can you imagine the attention the city would get for being such an inspirational example of ambitious urban investment in safety, sustainability and livability? How many national headlines are we going to get for the Mercer Project?

Add to this the hundreds of millions spent on the Spokane Street Viaduct and the Deep Bore Tunnel (just the city’s portion of the costs), and you can see that we have more than enough money to cure senseless road violence. But we aren’t doing it, choosing other priorities instead.

Now that we’ve gone through this community process, prompted by heartbreaking loss of life on our roads and supported by a data-driven approach, let’s invest some real dollars toward road safety. We might just inspire the nation in the process.

Here’s video of the press conference:

Here’s the full plan:


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