Despite Vision Zero Plan, Portland Still Cannot Reduce Traffic Deaths

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Aug 26, 2019 in Auto Accident

female bicycle commuterAfter a fatal car accident in Northeast Portland, this year’s total number of traffic deaths has already equaled the total number of traffic accident deaths in all of 2018, and it is only August.

It was not supposed to be this way after Portland’s City Council approved Vision Zero, a program with the stated goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2025. Despite spending more than $100 million on education, new crosswalks, flashing beacons and other strategies, the number of traffic deaths have not gone down. In 2016, the year Portland began implementing Vision Zero, 37 people were killed in car accidents. At their current pace, traffic deaths in 2019 are set to eclipse that number before the summer ends.

What is Vision Zero?

Vision Zero was originally started in Sweden in 1997. After the reported success of this plan, it has been implemented in cities around the U.S., as they try to eliminate traffic deaths.

Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) implemented its own version of Vision Zero in 2015, although funding for the plan was not actually available until 2016. In addition to new crosswalks and flashing beacons, Portland has installed speed cameras and worked to improve education about driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) and slowing down.

If people slow down, survival is much more likely if a crash occurs, according to Dana Dickman, who is a safety section engineer for PBOT. This is why PBOT has been adding speed bumps, reducing the number of lanes on roads, narrowing existing lanes and putting bumpers in intersections. The idea is that the more difficult you make a road to navigate, the more likely people are to drive slowly.

PBOT plans to invest an additional $61 million this year to continue to work on educating its residents about safer, sober driving while also re-engineering Portland’s city streets in the ways mentioned above.

Why is Vision Zero Having Little Effect?

Many residents believe the city is not doing enough to cause a reduction in traffic deaths. For example, Portland neighborhoods that are east of 82nd Avenue have some of the least-adequate street lighting, yet these neighborhoods house most of Portland’s black residents. Many of the roads are in poor condition, some are only dirt and gravel roads with uneven pavement.

In other neighborhoods, the existing street lights are only on one side of the street and do not provide enough light to allow drivers to see darker-skinned residents who are walking at night.

According to a 2018 survey, black residents of Portland said poor lighting is their biggest barrier to safety. Adding new lighting would be much more cost-effective than adding new sidewalks. Repairing the sidewalks would cost roughly $4 million per mile, but new lighting would only cost about $250,000 per mile.

Another reason it has been tough to reduce car accident deaths is because Portland is an overcrowded city with an ever-increasing population. It is a challenge for the city to keep up. There are still many areas where speed limits are still too high, and visibility is poor due to not having enough street lights.

Two Portland police officers think the best way to reduce DUII-related deaths is to increase the number of DUII patrols. Unfortunately, this is not one of the objectives in Portland’s Vision Zero program. PBOT’s approach is to work on educating residents to change behavior. They are concerned that adding more DUII patrols might lead to an increase in police stops based on racial profiling.

When to Contact a Lawyer

If you were injured in an accident caused by reckless driving in Portland, we encourage you to contact Rizk Law for a free, no-obligation consultation. A nearby auto accident lawyer in Portland at Rizk Law is prepared to help you pursue compensation if you have a valid claim, and we charge no upfront attorney fees to represent you.

Call us today at 503.245.5677 to see how we may be able to help.