Seattle has a Vision Zero program that calls for ending all traffic deaths and injuries by 2030. Lower speed limits and roadway changes are part of the effort.
However, the city is making little, if any progress, toward its goal. The number of injuries and fatalities has been stable for much of the past decade.
What is the city doing to save lives?
The city recently announced it is lowering speed limits on busy streets with a dividing line. The new speed limit will be 25 mph.
The city also is making road improvements and installing up to 3,000 new speed limit signs. City police are planning “emphasis patrols” with plainclothes officers. The officers will issue warnings and tickets to drivers failing to yield the right of way.
Officials say changes are necessary to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities. The numbers from 2012 to 2018 are consistent, ranging from 174 to 194 serious injuries and 18 to 26 deaths. Most of the fatalities are pedestrians.
Are these measures effective?
Critics say posting lower speed limits will not work without greater enforcement. They point to past tests that found drivers did not slow down for lower speed limits. Some street designs, they note, encourage drivers to ignore lower limits.
City officials and safety advocates believe speed limit signs can to save lives. They said crashes fell between 34% and 44% in three areas following the lowering of speed limits. Street redesign also has been effective in reducing crashes, according to their findings. Officials are conducting a public education campaign.
How can people help protect themselves?
The city is making a noble effort toward reducing traffic injuries and fatalities. However, new speed limits and changes in traffic flow patterns go only so far.
Pedestrians are vulnerable because they do not have the protection of a vehicle in an accident. All they can do is follow all laws, practice common sense and hope motorists are doing the same.