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WABA’s Vision Zero Summit Tackles Tough Bicycle & Traffic Accident Issues

By: Dan Hausman

The Washington region Vision Zero Summit is a multi-jurisdictional traffic safety event designed to encourage stakeholders such as local elected officials, policymakers, agency staff, members of the private sector, and advocates to commit to launching Vision Zero programs in their jurisdiction. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association, which CSCS proudly sponsors, hosted the third annual Washington region Vision Zero Summit on March 19, 2019.

The stakeholders were briefed on many traffic safety issues in the region and commitment was sought in the fight to eliminating traffic deaths. The entire agenda is available on the Washington Area Bicyclist Association website, but I have highlighted some important issues to know about.

Traffic Deaths are a Public Health Crisis

More than 1.3 million people were killed on the roads around the world in 2018. However, people, governments, and the private sector have struggled to focus on the preventable nature of these deaths because of the ingrained nature of the use automobiles in our societies. Vision Zero looks to treat deaths on the road as a public health crisis.

Traffic Deaths Disproportionately Affect African Americans and High-Population Density Areas

LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Health Department, said “African Americans are significantly more affected,” Nesbitt said they were involved in more than three-quarters of all crashes in D.C.

Traffic deaths are focused in the eastern parts of the city and downtown, where there are concentrations of pedestrians. Health professionals found injuries are more severe in the Connecticut Avenue corridor.

Lowering Speeds

Claudia Adriazola-Steil of the World Resources Institute, in speaking about how speed kills bicyclists and pedestrians, stated “our bodies are vulnerable to kinetic energy … how much can we absorb? Well if someone is hit at 17 mph, it’s comparable to jumping from the second floor of a building. Not many people want to try that.” She said pedestrians have about a 20 percent chance to live if they are hit at 30 miles per hour.

Mayor Muriel Bowser called for 15 mph speed limits in neighborhoods. Last year, the D.C. Department of Transportation and Bowser suggested lowering speed limits to 15 miles per hour near schools, parks, retirement homes and other residential areas.

Helping the Youth

Traffic gardens are mini traffic courses put into parks and schoolyards that teach kids how to safely pilot roads. George Mason University, through a Vision Zero grant, set these up in two D.C. elementary schools. Hopefully, these young students will learn how to navigate roundabouts by the time they are adults.

District Set to Announce More Vision Zero Projects

Mayor Muriel Bowser teased a big Vision Zero budget announcement in the future. Time will tell what plan is implemented in Washington, D.C.

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is a nationally recognized law firm that helps victims of preventable accidents, including pedestrians and bicyclists, across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia seek justice through personal injury lawsuits. Our team is here to help you explore your options for recovering compensation. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to speak with an attorney.