Mayor, SDOT Director announce steps toward “Vision Zero” goal

This morning, Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe announced five steps that the city will be taking in 2020 and 2021 to move closer to the “Vision Zero” goal of no traffic fatalities, which has stalled out in recent years.

A recent fatal collision on Aurora Avenue has raised more attention to whether Seattle is doing enough to deal with unsafe driving. On top of that, the city has shown no consistent progress over the last 12 years in permanently reducing traffic fatalities, as the rate has bounced up and down between a low of 13 and a high (this year) of 25. (ignore the trendline in the graph below; if there is a linear trend, it’s horizontal)

source: SDOT

According to SDOT, pedestrian fatalities have been the largest subset of the fatalities, with 16 this year — and 5 on Aurora Avenue alone.

source: SDOT

Here’s what the Mayor announced today:

  • SDOT will be lowering the speed limit to a 25 miles per hour maximum citywide. Non-arterial residential streets were recently lowered to 20 miles per hour; this new move will reduce arterials to 25.  Studies have shown that pedestrians are twice as likely to be killed if struck at 30 MPH than at 25 MPH. Where SDOT has already lowered speed limits to 25 MPH, it claims to have seen a 35% reduction in crashes and a 20% reduction in severe injuries and deaths — all while having “negligible” impact on traffic congestions. SDOT will also partner with WSDOT to reduce the speed limits on the state highways with Seattle city limits, including Aurora Avenue and Lake City Way.
  • The city will double the number of traffic signals in the city that have “pedestrian interval” timings: switching the pedestrian “walk” sign on a few seconds before the green light switches to allow pedestrians to get a head start on cars (and to be more visible). Studies have shown that pedestrian-interval signals can reduce the number of pedestrians hit by cars by up to 60%.
  • The city will make street engineering changes to improve safety. The 2020 budget added $20 million for safety corridor projects along four streets: Highland Way, Boren Avenue, Rainier Avenue South, and MLK Jr. Way. The city will also partner with WSDOT on $2 million of safety improvements along Aurora Avenue N. and $8.5 million of safety improvements to Lake City Way.
  • The city will establish a new “crash review task force,” a panel of experts to analyze serious and fatal collisions in the city and provide recommendations to prevent recurrences. It will also launch “Vision Zero Street Teams,” focused on older adults and under-represented communities, to raise awareness about transporation safety issues and educate the public.

    Source: SDOT
  • Over the next two years, the city will double the number of red-light cameras, add traffic safety cameras in five new school zones, and add 1200 additional hours of SPD enforcements on “high injury streets. The extra enforcement will be focused on giving warnings and on driver education, not so much on issuing tickets.

Thursday afternoon, SDOT will present an update to the City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation on Vision Zero and its  pedestrian safety plan.