AUSTIN, Texas - The City of Austin Transportation Department (ATD) has been seeing promising results from its Vision Zero initiative, which aims to prevent traffic-related fatalities and severe crashes by improving road safety and increasing mobility.
According to ADT, the early results of the focused work by the Vision Zero team show significant effects on reducing severe crashes, even amidst a local and nationwide trend of increasing traffic deaths.
"These are early results, but the data is promising," said Assistant City Manager for Mobility Gina Fiandaca. "We will continue to evaluate the results to find the most effective and impactful ways to improve safety on our roads, so everyone makes it home to their loved ones each day."
HIRs are streets containing the greatest concentration of crashes. ADT identified 13 sections of road in Austin deemed as HIRs. More than 350 people were seriously injured or killed on those streets over a recent five-year period.
Vision Zero is working to improve streets and reduce severe crashes.
On six of the 13 HIRs, safety improvements have been substantially completed. Improvements range from low-cost treatments such as more protected left turns for drivers or backplates for traffic signals to more substantial street design changes, such as the current project on South Pleasant Valley Road between Cesar Chavez Street and Elmont Drive. The current project consists of new left turn lanes, centerline hardening, pedestrian crossings and shared use pathways being added to address several crash types accounting for over $40 million in comprehensive crash costs between 2015-19.
Crashes resulting in deaths and serious injuries were down 17% on the six HIRs that are considered substantially complete this year through August compared to the 2017-19 average in the same eight-month period. The 2017-19 average was used to analyze a time period before the COVID-19 pandemic changed traffic volumes.
There have been more than 100 fatalities on the roads this year citywide, up 30% from 2020. More than 1 out of 3 of the traffic-related fatalities on Austin roads in 2021 have been drivers hitting people who are walking or rolling. More than 35 people outside of vehicles have died in car crashes this year.
To combat these statistics, Austin is implementing a strategy to better protect pedestrians. LPIs have been installed at dozens of downtown crossings and are continuously being installed throughout the city at more than 40 other locations. These installations provide pedestrians with a 5-to-7 second head start in the crosswalk before vehicles receive a green light.
Head starts at signals for pedestrians is leading to safer outcomes.
Following the LPI installations, there was a 54% decrease in crashes involving a pedestrian and a left-turning driver at downtown crossings compared with the previous three years. Over that same period, there was a 36% decrease at downtown signals that did not receive LPIs.
Voter support made many of these improvements possible. The 2016 Mobility Bond provided $15 million for Vision Zero and intersection safety programs, while 2018's Proposition G provided an additional $15 million and the 2020 Safety and Active Transportation Bond provided $65 million.