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Austin’s Vision Zero Future, According to Law

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McMinn Law Firm is committed to improving the lives of people who have been injured in car, pedestrian and truck crashes. The devastating pain caused by serious accidents should be prevented wherever possible. Adoption of Vision Zero philosophies is one way cities can reduce injuries and loss of life. You can read on about how these losses could be diminished with better road design and fewer negligent drivers.

Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for Vision Zero

Vision Zero efforts by cities like Austin attempt to reduce the number of tragic deaths. We know the devastating effects that car accident, pedestrian, and motorcycle fatalities have on a family’s life and well being.

Recovery doesn’t come easily or quickly – and there are some injuries a family may never recover from. We feel that loss is too heavy a price for communities to pay for distracted or negligent driving. Improvements in road construction can reduce the pain and suffering that families experience following a car crash tragedy.

102 traffic related deaths, as seen in Austin in 2015, is far too many deaths. 1 death is too many. If you or someone you know has been affected by an Austin car accident death, contact McMinn Law Firm today for a free consultation.

Vision Zero News Across the State of Texas

Bill Filed in Texas Lege Would Reduce Speed Limits on Neighborhood Roads

A bill filed in the Texas House would lower the speed limit on roads that don’t otherwise have a speed limit marked from 30 mph to 25. According to Texas Vision Zero advocate and director of Farm and City, Jay Blazek Crossley, more children are injured on 30 mph roads than on any other road type.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, has made it out of committee. No news yet on when it will be on the agenda for debate, or up for a vote in the full House of Representatives.

Austinites Honor World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

November 2018
Sunday November 19 dozens gathered at the Capitol to remember those lost in fatal traffic accidents. They shared memories of their loved ones, and what unfolded after their sudden and shocking loss.

One woman lost her partner, bicyclist Andrew Tilin, when he was struck by a car while changing a flat tire along 360. Shellie Oroshiba spoke of her loss, and expressed desire for change in the future.

You can read more about the vigil on the Statesman here.

History of Vision Zero: How Austinites Got in the Vision Zero Fast Lane

March 2, 2017
In the past two years, almost 60 pedestrians have died after being hit by a motor vehicle. A new study released by Smart Growth America has ranked as Austin has one of the most dangerous cities to walk in.

An analysis of 104 largest metropolitan areas of the U.S. revealed that Austin is 47th most dangerous. Since 2005, there have been 257 pedestrian fatalities in Austin. In the Houston area, there have been 1,026 pedestrian deaths in that time.

Authors of the study advise cities to look at street design as a way to keep pedestrians safe. Can Austin’s latest Prop 1 measure make a difference in curbing pedestrian injury? Read on to see how Austin officials are working to address safety issues.

Why Austin, Texas Needs Vision Zero Initiatives

Austin is a great place to live. There’s a music festival almost every weekend, activities for the family, and opportunity for a great education at many of Austin’s public schools. But Austin ranks as the

13th most dangerous city for traffic (among cities with population over 500,000.)

  • In an average year, 64 people are killed on Austin’s roads
  • In an average year, 200 people are seriously injured in a car crash
  • In 2015, a record 102 people died on Austin roads.

According to Vision Zero, injury and fatal crashes cost Austinites over half a billion dollars annually. To put that into perspective, that’s approximately 800 new miles of sidewalks or 7,000 new pedestrian hybrid beacons.

In Austin, it’s common to think that Vision Zero initiatives began as a response to a surge in traffic fatalities we witnessed in 2015. But the work started earlier, in 2014 when a council resolution created a task force that represented a variety of viewpoints. City and state staff, academics and community advocates make up the Vision Zero Task Force. Their role is to move Austin’s traffic death number to zero by 2025.

Austin is working to eliminate traffic deaths, but it was not the first to do so. Read to see how Austin has kept up with this international movement toward zero fatal car accidents.

1994 | Sweden Creates First Vision Zero Initiative

In 1994, Sweden became the first country to create a holistic approach to reduce traffic injury and death.

2003 | Utah Creates Vision Zero initiative

Traffic safety analysts say that compared to other places that have started traffic safety initiatives, Utah’s traffic and development patterns most closely resemble Austin’s. By 2014, traffic deaths were reduced by 48 percent in Utah.

2014 | New York City Adopts Its Own Vision Zero Plan

New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio announced a citywide commitment to save lives lost to car accidents.

June 2014 | Austin Adopted Complete Streets Policy

In early summer of 2014, the Austin City Council adopted a robust Complete Streets Policy. It is policy that makes roads useful for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and the disabled. It adopts policy goals such as creating sidewalks, bike lanes, connecting existing infrastructure, and accessible transit stops. A comprehensive measure requires robust attention from all City departments.

Nov. 3, 2014 | Pedestrian Advisory Council Recommends Vision Zero Task Force

In early Nov. of 2014, Austin’s advisory council recommended creation of a Vision Zero Task Force in Austin. Early on, the task force involved a variety of voices from community safety advocacy organizations, city departments, and Capital Metro. Between 2004 and 2013, 634 people were killed in Austin motor vehicle accidents. These groups got together to plan for a safer future.

Nov. 20, 2014 | Austin Creates Vision Zero Task Force

City of Austin officials voted unanimously to form a Vision Zero Task Force.

Jan. 2016 | New York’s Vision Zero Plan Protects Lives, Prevents Injury

According to traffic fatality numbers from 2015, the Vision Zero plan in New York City had already reversed the number of deaths. From 2014 to 2015, traffic deaths decreased from 257 to 230. This might be most significant because national traffic deaths soared in 2015.

May 19 2016 | Austin’s Vision Zero Task Force Releases Plans

Austin’s robust traffic safety plans revealed a five part action plan with evaluation, enforcement, engineering, education, and policy.

Aug. 5 2016 | Austin City Council Announces Mobility Bond

In the upcoming election on Nov. 8 Austin voters have the chance to approve a “mobility bond” proposed by the city. City council says that the bond would improve safety on Austin’s roadways, but critics note the lack of light rail system initiatives in the budget.

Can Laws Prevent Crashes? Cases of True “Tragic Mistake” Under Review

In New York, an important component of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero law was ruled unconstitutional in late June. Since June, the “Right of Way Law” has been called into question. The law helps protect pedestrians by making it a misdemeanor crime when a driver fails to yield and kills or injures a person walking in the crosswalk with the right of way.

A judge said that penalizing drivers for failure to exercise due care puts them in the position of proving their innocence. That would violate their right to due process under the fifth and fourteenth amendment.

The ruling, by Queens Supreme Court Justice Gia Morris, came out as part of a case between a bus driver who hit and killed an 85-year-old woman crossing the street in Dec. 2015. Jeanine Deutsch was crossing the street in Forest Hills when she was struck by a yellow school operated by school bus driver Isaac Sanson. The fatal crash occurred just steps from Deutsch’s home.

A month following the crash, Isaac Sanson was arrested and charged with “failure to yield right of way,” a misdemeanor outlined in the city’s Right of Way law. Then on March 4, Sanson appeared in court where his charge of failing to exercise due care was assessed by judge Morris.

Who’s at Fault in an Accidental Pedestrian Crosswalk Crash?

So does the NYC’s vision zero provision violate a driver’s right to due process? Vision Zero and traffic safety advocates don’t expect the new ruling to hold up in court. And NYPD has stated that it is still enforcing the portion of the law that penalizes drivers for failing to exercise due care. After all, the law had already been upheld in a different court. Safety advocates say that if NYC’s law violates due process, so do offenses such as DWIs.

Under NYC’s Vision Zero “Right of Way” law, which was enacted in 2014, four things must be proven before a person can be charged:

(1) defendant operated a motor vehicle, (2) that defendant’s motor vehicle caused contact with a pedestrian or cyclist, (3) that the pedestrian or cyclist had the right of way at the time of the impact … and (4) suffered physical injury as a result of the collision.

Street safety advocates say that these standards are applied in long-established criminal driving laws such as drunk driving statutes. Or in another parallel: recklessness and negligence play a role when a gun goes off. Regardless of whether the safety catch was on, they didn’t know how to operate the machine, or if it was all a big accident. There’s some level of culpability, no matter the situation, in a gun “accident.”

Imagine a vehicle as a dangerous instrument (there were 102 car related deaths in 2015 in Austin alone) – then apply these standards of law to traffic safety violations. We can’t make the ruling, but there may be space for provisions such as New York City’s “Right of Way” law.

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