Vision Zero

Traffic on the double-decker portion of I-35 through downtown Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday voted to adopt a goal of reducing traffic fatalities on the state's roadways by half by the year 2035 — and reducing them to zero by the year 2050. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

At least one person has died on Texas roads every day since Nov. 7, 2000. Despite efforts to “End the Streak,” as the Texas Department of Transportation puts it, the state still leads the nation in traffic deaths.

Fatalities did fall about 2% between 2016 and 2017, but more than 3,700 people died in 2017.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin City Council has adopted a long-term transportation plan – its first since 1995. It's a 337-page document, so there's a lot to unpack.

The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan is meant to cement how Austin's streets are designed and how both cars and buses and pedestrians (and scooters and maybe automated cars) occupy them.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

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.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Part 3 of a three-part series

A driver hit and killed Judy Romano’s son, Barry Friedman, while he was walking in Austin two years ago.

According to the police report, Friedman tried to cross E. Parmer Lane just before 6 a.m. on July 9, 2016. The driver said Friedman was in the crosswalk even though he didn't have the light to cross. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Part 2 of a three-part series

Mike Villegas was doing work around the house with his 12-year-old son on Christmas Eve 2016 when he noticed a police car parked outside.

“I knew immediately that this was not going to be good,” he said.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Part 1 of a three-part series

Fourteen-year-old Alexei Bauereis had quit the backyard stunts like jumping from trees onto roofs and downhill skateboarding that defined his childhood. He was saving his legs for ballet.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Testimony included talk of a birthday.

“Ben turned 10 on Monday at a rehabilitation facility in Dallas,” Kathy Sokolic told members of the City Council Mobility Committee on Wednesday. As we’ve chronicled before, a car hit Sokolic’s nephew, Ben, outside his home in the Mueller neighborhood in September. He survived, but his injuries have left him unable to speak or walk.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Holding back tears, Kathy Sokolic told roughly 30 people seated outside City Hall the story of a bruised heart.

“On the evening of Sept. 12, our 9-year-old,” began Sokolic, before pausing to gather herself. “Our 9-year-old nephew, Ben, was hit by a truck on the residential street just feet from his home.”

KUT News

The Austin City Council has approved a plan aimed at eliminating deaths and serious injuries on the city’s roads by the year 2025.

The plan, called Vision Zero, is based on a philosophy developed in Sweden in the 1990s. The idea is to treat traffic crashes like smoking – basically, as a public health problem that can be prevented. Last year, Austin had 102 traffic deaths – its highest number ever. There have been more than 20 deaths so far this year.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

Francis Reilly is unique for an Austinite: he doesn’t have a car. He mostly rides his bike, but these days he mostly depends on the bus. To explain why, he met me at intersection of Wallis and Rollingwood Drives in Austin's Rollingwood neighborhood west of MoPac. 

“This is where I was hit by a landscaping truck about two years ago," Reilly says, as cars whiz by us. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

Robert Lormond is standing on the corner of Ben White and Manchaca watching his friend, Jerry. Two police officers have stopped him.

“I called him across the street. I didn’t see a police officer and he jaywalked," Lormond says.

There are crosswalks on three of the four sides of this intersection, but Jerry cut across the road—the one side without a crosswalk and that's illegal.

Courtesy of Adrienne White

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zerowhich explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

When Adrienne White arrived home on Mar. 5, 2016, she found a note on her door from an Austin police officer that made her panic. 


Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

The city of Austin’s Vision Zero plan is heading to the full city council for final approval next week with the blessing of the city’s Mobility Committee, which voted to send the plan to the full council Monday.

Francis Reilly of the city’s planning department told the Mobility Committee that traffic deaths are a public health problem, like smoking or seat belt use.


Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

This is the first story in our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

One hundred and two people died on Austin’s roads in 2015 - the most ever recorded. More than 20 have met a similar fate so far this year. Nearly every death involved a car. Yet, in a city where 93 percent of households own a car, Francis Reilly does not. Reilly works in the city's planning office.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

The City of Austin’s Vision Zero plan continued its final parade through boards and commissions Monday with a visit to the Public Safety Commission. And while some commissioners were dissatisfied with the 94-page document, others had little to say.

“About the only thing I can say is the pictures are pretty,” said Commissioner Mike Levy to open the discussion. “It was as if it basically has nothing to do with what the task force did.”

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

It’s been just over a year since the City of Austin’s hands-free ordinance went into effect and, in 2015, Austin Police officers cited more than 5,000 drivers in Austin for using devices while behind the wheel.

While that number may seem steep to some, it’s just the start, as APD plans to diversify enforcement efforts and work to integrate hand-held enforcement efforts into the city’s Vision Zero plan.

flickr user mirsasha

Members of Austin’s Public Safety Commission are calling for changes to a city plan that aims to eliminate traffic deaths in the city. 

Commission member Mike Levy criticized the Vision Zero task force’s draft plan, which includes more than 100 recommendations aimed at making Austin’s roadways safer, calling it a "kitchen sink."

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

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.


Council Hears First Proposals for Vision Zero Plan

Dec 8, 2015
Callie Hernandez/KUT News

This year, Austin has seen more traffic deaths than any other year on record, with 92 people having died on the roadways in 2015 so far.

Last November, the Austin City Council commissioned the Vision Zero Task Force to find solutions for the perennial problem of traffic deaths, and Tuesday the task force outlined a draft of its proposals to the Austin City Council.