Why You Should Get Involved in the Texas Strategic Highway Safety Plan

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Texas leads the nation in traffic deaths, with an average of 10 lives lost every day — and five times as many incapacitating injuries. It’s possible to prevent these needless deaths, we just have to change the way we design and operate our streets and transportation systems.

A big upcoming opportunity is the state’s new Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which gives advocates a chance to push for Vision Zero policies at the state level. We need the entire state to adopt the goal of ending traffic death in a specific timeframe. We need a shared responsibility at all levels of government to take this seriously and make our getting around our cities safe. We need to focus a lot more on how the design and funding of our streets and transportation systems have made Texas the national leader in this daily carnage.

While TXDOT, local governments, nonprofits, and first responders do amazing work every day to cut down on traffic deaths, the crisis continues to worsen. A Vision Zero approach would mean taking a systemic look at how we can end this epidemic and reconsider policy decisions that cause us to drive more than we have to and encourage dangerous behavior.

If you want to have a voice in how we address this threat to public health and safety, the Strategic Highway Safety Plan process gives you a platform. While this federally required document is called a “highway” plan, it can in fact serve as a platform for redesigning our entire transportation system in Texas to be safe.

The website for the new Texas plan includes pages on seven emphasis areas: Impaired Driving, Distracted Driving, Intersection Safety, Speeding, Roadway and Lane Departure, and Older UsersAnyone can join the teams looking at each of these emphasis areas or ask to join the main stakeholder group. Please get involved.

While the state of Texas is not yet pursuing a Vision Zero approach, other states have set out to seriously work to actually eliminate traffic deaths, and Texas can too.

In 2000, Washington became the first state to set the goal of zero fatalities in its highway safety plan, aiming to end traffic deaths by 2030. Traffic deaths have been going down year after year in Washington, while Texas continues to see traffic deaths increase. Oregon also has a specific target date to achieve the goal of zero traffic deaths, while another 12 states have explicit timetables for cutting traffic fatalities in half, according to our review (xls) of Federal Highway Administration data.

As we noted before, several bills proposed in the Texas Legislature would explicitly tell TXDOT and all other stakeholders to use a Vision Zero approach to ending the epidemic of traffic deaths. SCR 42, the Vision Zero resolution, is expected to have a vote in the Senate this week, but would then need to make its way through the House and be signed by the Governor.

You can join the letter writing campaign to ask your State Senator to support SCR 42 and establishing a clear zero fatality goal. There could be a vote on this next week.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2017 Traffic Safety Conference — June 7-9 in Irving — will focus on the Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Registration is open and the leadership of the Texas Strategic Highway Safety Plan are encouraging every interested party to join the conference to help provide input into the plan.

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