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City boosts traffic enforcement in areas with high crash rates

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 by Kara Nuzback

Austin officials are boosting roadway safety enforcement as part of the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan, which aims to eliminate by 2025 car crashes that kill and severely injure people.

The Austin Police Department and the Austin Transportation Department kicked off an initiative yesterday called Vision Zero in Action, which includes additional enforcement of traffic laws in areas with a disproportionate rate of crashes, based on APD and ATD data. The plan also includes a crackdown on behaviors that contribute to traffic congestion and air-quality issues.

APD Public Information Manager Anna Sabana said the initiative is not just about ticketing drivers. “This is about having positive contacts with drivers to make them more aware and educated about behaviors that can prevent drivers from being in crashes. The bottom line is to save lives,” she said.

In addition to normal traffic law enforcement, ATD Public Information Specialist Jen Samp said the city is hiring off-duty officers to increase patrol for drivers and cyclists who speed, ignore red lights or disregard reduced speed limits in school zones, use bus-only lanes, are inattentive, fail to yield or pass school buses that are loading or unloading students. They will also look out for motorcyclists and cyclists who ride between lanes.

Officers will also be targeting drivers who “block the box,” or sit in an intersection during a red light, and vehicles that idle in a right of way, according to a Jan. 23 news release.

Areas with an increase in enforcement will include the Pleasant Hill and Ridgetop elementary school zones, and Cesar Chavez, Guadalupe and Lavaca streets, Samp said.

Sabana said residents can expect more enforcement in areas with a high volume of pedestrians and on high-speed roadways.

Samp said the initiative will go hand-in-hand with education efforts that will begin in a couple of months, which will include officers handing out literature to inform citizens about distracted driving and failing to look for pedestrians. The city will also hire temporary employees to form a street team that will deliver transportation safety education to Austin schools, to people in areas with high crash rates and to residents in areas with high concentrations of people walking, biking and driving.

“It’s not necessarily about racking up those tickets, but hopefully spreading the knowledge,” Samp said. Presumably, if a driver is ticketed for unsafe behavior, they will not risk the behavior again in the future, she said.

The extra officers were included in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget passed by City Council, so the initiative will continue at least until the next budget cycle, Samp said.

ATD also plans to launch a multimedia campaign to raise awareness of Vision Zero and work to change behaviors that cause crashes.

Photo by 123df made available through a Creative Commons license.

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