AUSTIN, Texas — During the past few days, there have been several deadly crashes in Austin.
The latest was an 18-wheeler hitting and killing a man crossing Interstate Highway 35 early Monday morning. That was the City's 11th pedestrian death on I-35 this year.
The City's Vision Zero program aims to drastically reduce deaths on the streets by the year 2025.
“[Its goal is] to reduce serious injuries and fatalities we see on our roadways to zero,” said Lewis Leff, Austin's Transportation Safety Officer and the leader of Vision Zero’s efforts.
City officials like Mayor Steve Adler and Police Chief Brian Manley are spreading the message.
“Someone is killed in a traffic crash in Austin every five days,” Chief Manley said in a video on Twitter. “We can do better. Speeding is a cause in one in four of each of these crashes. Pay attention to the posted speed limits.”
Traffic deaths had been decreasing since Vision Zero began in 2015 – until this year.
“We're seeing a tragic increase in the number of fatalities happening and serious injuries happening on our roadways,” Leff said.
In all, 57 people have died in crashes on Austin roads this year, which is more than the year before. At this point in 2018, Austin police said 48 people had died.
"We've seen a lot of different cities and countries take a comprehensive approach like this towards transportation safety,” Leff said. “Nobody's reached zero that has a comparable situation as Austin, but they've seen significant reductions – 50, 60% over a period of decades."
The City said systemic changes need to happen to reduce traffic deaths, like bringing down speed limits.
“Understanding that the higher the speeds, it impacts the outcome of the severity of injuries of those crashes,” Leff said
He added that the City plans to release its first package of speed limit changes later this month.
The Transportation Department is also working with APD to enforce speeding, driving under the influence and distracted driving violations.
Leff said the department is also talking with Austin Energy about increasing pedestrian lighting.
There are $1.4 million and four positions budgeted in the upcoming fiscal year under the Transportation Department for Vision Zero. There is also $1.4 million allocated to reimburse APD for enforcement costs related to the initiative.
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