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Traffic deaths a big concern in Austin as numbers near last year's record

Pedestrian deaths are reportedly higher than fatalities in any other type of crash this year.

AUSTIN, Texas — City council members are concerned about Austin's record-high rate of traffic fatalities.

They say most fatal crashes are happening on freeways, frontage roads and major roadways, and one reason for that includes the inability to redesign those roadways because they're not owned by the City.

Another issue is a lack of staffing by the Austin Police Department, which is currently only 80% staffed as most patrol officer positions remain vacant.

Last year, the department began prioritizing responses to urgent 911 calls instead of traffic infractions.

Some ideas recently presented to combat traffic fatalities include using speed safety cameras and red light cameras. Those are currently both prohibited in Texas and would require a state law change.

Meanwhile, some methods already being used include dynamic speed display devices, which are usually seen around school zones. They were installed around Austin in 2016, and early results showed a 50% drop in crashes.

Other ideas include higher penalties for unsafe driving and increasing the number of civilian traffic enforcers.

According to a report from the Austin American-Statesman, pedestrian deaths are higher than fatalities in any other type of crash this year. Currently, we're close to matching last year's record number of traffic deaths.

As of Friday, the Statesman reports 108 people have died this year from injuries related to Austin traffic. Last year's record number was 120, the most in nearly 40 years in which the APD has kept such records.

Click here to read the Statesman's full report.

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