A Strategy That Works
Vision Zero’s comprehensive approach to safety has contributed to crash reductions worldwide. In Sweden, the birthplace of Vision Zero, fatalities dropped more than 30 percent since this policy was first enacted in the late 1990s. Governments in the US are taking note and adopting Vision Zero policies – most recently, New York City and San Francisco.
Washington State’s Target Zero program provides an outstanding local example of how these strategies save lives. Traffic fatalities have dropped 40 percent in our state since the first version of Target Zero was launched in 2000. Through partnerships with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the Washington State Patrol, Seattle experienced collision reductions thanks to Vision Zero-style tactics employed on busy urban corridors.
On Aurora Avenue N, collaboration with the State led to a 28 percent reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes. We’ve carried these strategies into our work on corridors like Fauntleroy Way SW, NE 125th Street, Nickerson Street and NE 75th Street where collisions and speeds have gone down.
Developed and implemented in less than six months (in 2013), the NE 75th Street Road Safety Corridor Project reduced speeds by 3 mph eastbound and 4 mph westbound. Crashes are down 50 percent. This is a strategy that works.
We know that most crashes occur on arterial streets, and the laws of physics tell us that higher speeds will result in more crashes, and greater chances of injury or death for those involved. We also have a good sense of key crash causes, and know that certain streets have higher crash rates. Together, all this data means we can take a more proactive approach to reach our goal.
Our data-driven approach starts with SeaStat. This Seattle Police Department (SPD) program uses data to allocate police resources. We’ll continually monitor collision trends and deploy enforcement appropriately.
We’ll improve information sharing between SDOT and SPD after serious collisions occur through forensic engineering efforts. SPD’s Traffic Collision Investigation Squad and SDOT engineers will review the factors that contribute to each serious collision that occurs on our streets. When bad things happen, it’s important that we learn as much as possible from each incident.
Honing in on Arterial Street Design and Speed Limits
Forty percent of Seattle’s street network is arterial streets. 9 out of 10 serious and fatal crashes occur on arterial streets, so we’ll focus efforts on these critical corridors. We’ll deploy quick, big impact improvements through our Road Safety Corridor projects, the Downtown and Urban Center Safety efforts, and by lowering arterial speed limits citywide. We’ll also begin to reduce speed limits on our non-arterials roads through a new 20 MPH Zone program.
Why Speed Matters
Field of vision at 15 MPH
Field of vision at 30 to 40 MPH
A driver’s field of vision increases as speed decreases. At lower speeds, drivers can see more of their surroundings and have more time to see and react to potential hazards.
Speed is especially lethal for vulnerable users like pedestrians and people biking. The risk of injury and death increases as speed increases.
We should not accept death as a byproduct of commuting. It’s time to slow down to the speed of life.