Road deaths in Austin dropped slightly in the city’s second full year of a campaign for traffic safety.
Seventy-four people died on city streets in 2018, according to numbers from the Austin Police Department. That's two fewer deaths than the year before.
“The first reaction is that’s a terrible tragedy; 74 people died,” said Jay Blazek Crossley, executive director of Farm & City, a nonprofit that advocates for safer transit throughout the state.
SPECIAL REPORT| The Road To Zero
“That being said, considering where we were this summer where it seemed like Austin was on the path to increasing deaths, it’s really great that something happened and we didn’t increase," he said. "The city is still on its path of reducing traffic deaths to zero.”
The Austin Transportation Department was unable to provide comment by deadline.
Almost three years ago, Austin City Council members approved the Vision Zero Action Plan, which outlined an aggressive goal of reducing traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero by 2025. Fatal crashes have dropped slightly year over year since then.
Pedestrian deaths typically account for roughly a third of all traffic fatalities. But in 2018, pedestrians died at a higher rate than years past. Pedestrians accounted for 42 percent of traffic deaths last year, compared with 30 percent the year before.
Crossley said pedestrian deaths can often be attributed to street design and speed.
“We have many, many streets that are designed to encourage people to drive 40, 50. It feels uncomfortable to drive 30 miles per hour on North Lamar,” he said, arguing the street is designed for cars to go faster.
A 2011 report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that a pedestrian’s likelihood of dying after being hit by a car rises with the car’s speed; a pedestrian hit by a car traveling 25 miles per hours has a 10 percent chance of dying, while a pedestrian hit by a car going 40 miles per hour has a 50 percent chance of being killed.
A spokesperson for the Austin Transportation Department responded to this story by email on Jan. 9, 2019:
“Over the last two years of the program, the City has completed more than $20M in engineering improvements for everyone, including 9 of the City’s top crash intersections, reached more than 60,000 people through the Street Team education program and issued over 3,000 citations through the Vision Zero in Action enforcement program, all of which target the key dangerous behaviors that contribute to serious injuries and fatalities. ATD reminds everyone in Austin to pay attention, never choose to drive while intoxicated, slow down and watch for people on motorcycles, walking or bicycling.”