Austin Police: To Reduce Traffic Deaths, Focus on Pedestrian Behavior

Jan 5, 2016

The Austin Police Department has some ideas how reducing pedestrian traffic fatalities in the new year, some of which they shared with the city’s Public Safety Commission Monday night.

In 2015, more than 100 people died on Austin’s roads. That’s nearly double the number of traffic fatalities the year before. Roughly one-third of those deaths in 2015 involved a pedestrian, which is why APD is considering ways it can make more unsafe pedestrian behavior illegal.


Right now, if a pedestrians walk around town, they can only be ticketed if they're doing something unsafe in a portion of the road where cars are traveling, like crossing Guadalupe Street against the light. 

This chart shows Vision Zero's data on the factors contributing to Austin's record number of traffic fatalities.
Credit City of Austin/Vision Zero

“But, I think we can all drive around the city and see people on medians and shoulders that aren’t safe,” APD Commander Art Fortune said Monday night. His department will be asking the City to consider outlawing walking on the medians or shoulders of highways. The department will also look to assign more officers to pedestrian safety along the city’s highways.

“So like I-35, 290, 183 – the officers could go out and focus on those areas,” Fortune said.

But not all of them – they probably can’t afford to do that.

“It may be stretching the officers too far out to enforce other areas.”

Austin police have also made these suggestions to the City’s Vision Zero Task Force.

The task force, set to develop a comprehensive traffic safety plan, has broken down the causes of last year’s record number of crashes. As of October 31, the City determined that roughly a quarter of all fatal crashes were caused by improper movement on the road, like a driver making an unsafe turn. Distracted driving and failure to yield made up another quarter of these crashes. Speeding, alcohol and drugs, and failure to stop were other contributing factors.

The task force is now taking what it knows about causes of these accidents and finalizing safety recommendations.

The task force is set to present concrete traffic safety recommendations to the next meeting of the City Council’s Mobility Committee on Feb. 3.