Austin surpasses traffic death number from this time last year

Back in 2016, the unthinkable happened to Kathy Sokolic and her family.

"My nephew Ben was dropped off the street from his house. The car stopped, he got out and she just didn't brake. He crossed the street, and she hit him," she said, referring to another driver hitting him.

It happened right in her neighborhood. The boy was only 9-years-old. He survived the hit, but he required much care for the next five years.

"He required 24-hour care, he was in a hospital bed, couldn't do anything on his own," she said.

At just 14-years-old, Ben Sears passed away. Sokolic has since dedicated her life to making sure tragedies like this do not happen to anyone else's family.

"Walk Austin, Bike Austin, and Vision Zero ATX are all joining forces into one super group if you will," she said.

Another fatality happened Tuesday morning on Dessau Road near Parmer Lane. The Austin Transportation Department sent a statement saying the area from Parmer to Metric Boulevard and to Dessau Road is one of 13 sections identified as high injury roadways, and they are prioritizing improvements there.

The traffic fatalities are trending in the wrong direction in Austin so far, with now 28 people dying on city roads. That number has officially surpassed this time last year, which sat at 27. 

The number of total crashes is at 3,545, up from 3,280 this time last year. The city has a goal of reaching zero crashes and deaths, as part of their Vision Zero plan.

"I do believe in Vision Zero. I know the city of Austin is using data to try to affect change in areas with the highest number of really bad crashes," said Sokolic.

As for Sokolic's family, they believe there are ways to honor their nephew.

"To honor my nephew Ben, I would want people to just really think every time they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Pay attention while driving, follow the rules," she said.

The Austin Police Department is still investigating the Tuesday morning fatality.