The Dallas Examiner
Eliminating traffic-related deaths by the year 2030 was the focus of the city of Dallas in its quest to become a Vision Zero City.
Director of the Department of Transportation Michael Rogers briefed the Dallas City Council on Vision Zero, a traffic safety strategy program, during the Oct. 2 briefing.
“Vision Zero is an internationally recognized strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries relating to automobile users, pedestrians and bicyclists,” Rogers said. “It is based on the belief that no loss of life is acceptable and that all traffic fatalities and severe injuries are preventable. It also encourages urban design that makes streets as easy as possible to navigate for all roadway users of all physical abilities and promotes safe and equitable mobility for all users, such that movement around the transportation network can be done by road users of all walks of life.”
On average, over 100 people died in traffic crashes everyday in the United States in 2017. There were 37,133 total traffic fatalities, of which 5,977 were pedestrians, the National Highway Traffic Administration reported.
“Now, take a little bit of time and think about that. How severe those numbers are. Those numbers are higher than the fatalities that have happened in Desert Storm. Take a real hard look and think about that,” Rogers said.
Additional data by TxDOT reported that from 2013 to 2017 there were 3,780 fatal and severe injury crashes in Dallas.
Dallas is known to have one of the highest traffic fatalities in the country. It has the fifth highest traffic and pedestrian traffic fatality rates among the 25 largest U.S. cities and the highest rates among Texas’ largest six cities, including Houston, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso and Fort Worth, according to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration in 2017.
“On average, over two people died in traffic crashes every week on Dallas city streets in 2017,” Rogers said. “That is unacceptable. Of those fatalities that happened in 2017, 46 were pedestrian and one was a bicyclist. These are significant issues we truly need to start to address. When looking at some of the data and looking at those 25 major cities within the country, you will see only four cities actually are ahead of us. Those cities are Jacksonville, Phoenix, Detroit and Memphis. Our fatality rates are based on 100,000 population as well.”
Dallas also ranked fifth when it came to pedestrian fatality rates in the country. As a result, the Federal Highway Administration designated Dallas as a Focus City for pedestrian safety.
“Thirty five percent of all fatal and severe injury crashes occurred within the city’s Priority Improvement Zones,” he added. “Areas where we will continue to focus on includes downtown, uptown, Park Lane station area, Northwest Highway from Community Drive, Harry Hines area, Hampton, Illinois, Ledbetter, Hampton and our Buckner corridor, and our LBJ east area by Skillman. These areas are where we see higher rates than other areas in the city.”
In order to combat this issue, Rogers said getting involved in the Vision Zero network is key.
“The National Vision Zero Network is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing Vision Zero in the United States, and it recognizes over 40 cities as Vision Zero communities based on their formal commitment and significant actions to advance Vision Zero principles,” he said. “It provides resources and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for communities engaged in Vision Zero, such as Dallas.”
Rogers said in order for Dallas to become a Vision Zero City, the path includes committing to Vision Zero and setting a clear goal of eliminating traffic deaths and severe injuries among all road users within a specific time frame.
“It is just not a hope and desire but an action plan to get there,” he explained. “It also includes committing to development of a Vision Zero Action Plan within a specified time frame and focusing on being data driven, equitable and including community input. There would also be a formation of a Vision Zero Task Force that will collaborate with city departments on the development of a Vision Zero action plan. Key city departments will need to be actively engaged in the process of developing the Vision Zero plan development, implementation and evaluation.”
Vision Zero Action Plan is a document that establishes the strategies that Dallas would employ to have the goal of zero traffic fatalities and a 50% reduction in severe injuries by the year 2030.
“An example of the Vision Zero Action Plan strategy includes to prioritize roadway design by implementing complete streets policy, identify intersections, corridors and areas where crashes are likely to occur using predictive analytics and target capital investments in areas where there is a high frequency of fatal and severe injury crashes,” Rogers said.
Future goals include the adoption of a resolution by the City Council that commits the city to a Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities and a 50% reduction in severe injuries by 2030.
“It would also direct the city manager to develop a Vision Zero Action Plan by December 2021,” Rogers said. “The city manager will create a Vision Zero Task Force that will collaborate with city departments on the development of a Vision Zero Action Plan, and the city manager will direct key city departments to participate in Vision Zero Action Plan development, implementation and evaluation. In conclusion, adopting a Vision Zero plan would be an important step in our future in making our city as safe as possible.”
Rogers also addressed the high number of minorities affected by injuries from traffic fatalities, especially the African American community, which has a disproportionate number of people affected. Even though the African American population in Dallas is 24.3%, the percent of fatalities and injuries is 34.7%.
“When it comes to people of color, 70% of these injuries and fatalities that we are looking at are people of color,” he concluded. “That’s why it’s very important that we look at these through an equity lens. Because if we have a problem in a certain area, that’s where we need to set our priorities and fixing those issues.”