Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lowering Highway Fatalities - VDOT Safety Plan Includes Bikes and Pedestrians

FABB members Kelley Westenhoff and Alan Young provided the following report on the Virginia Strategic Highway Safety Plan Regional Safety Roadshow on December 1, 2016. The big news is that bicycles and pedestrians are now part of the areas of emphasis in the safety plan, although VDOT officials admitted that these areas suffer from underreporting and data gaps. 

The Roadshow seeks to inform the public and solicit citizen feedback on the Safety Plan, which is to be presented to the legislature next year. This new 5-year plan is Virginia's answer to the national Vision Zero movement. The plan's goal is to reduce fatalities and the fatality rate by 2% per year and serious injuries and the serious injury rate by 5% per year. 

Current Safety Plan
The VDOT effort is encouraging, but the plan is complicated with hundreds of actions to be completed in the six primary areas of emphasis (speeding, young drivers, occupant protection, alcohol-related incidents, roadway departure, and intersections) and the bicycling and pedestrian areas. On the plus side, there are two dedicated pots of money for highway safety. The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds infrastructure projects while the Highway Safety Plan funds programs and activities that affect behavior (for example, Click It or Ticket, education programs, and PSA campaigns).

The plan is based on data collected by VDOT on fatal and severe injury crashes, which the department then used to create heat maps showing where and what kinds of crashes have occurred. The data is further analyzed to determine work priorities for reaching safety goals. 

The data for the Northern Virginia region for 2010-2015 shows that from a total of 6,572 crashes there were 235 bicycle crashes and 747 pedestrian crashes. Intersections are a major problem, if not the major problem, in our region for all traffic, including bicycles and pedestrians. Young, aging, distracted and impaired drivers are the next most significant problem areas for crashes.

VDOT officials stated that while bicycle and pedestrian incidents are a small percentage of overall crashes, VDOT broke them out as a separate category to make them more visible and to emphasize the importance of studying improvements for ped/bike infrastructure and safety. In the Bicycle Emphasis Area recommendations to identify where to apply bicycle safety countermeasures, enforcement, and bicyclist and motorist education have been developed. VDOT officials recognize that better data on bicycling is needed and said an effort is underway to use information available in emergency response data to fill this gap. 

VDOT is looking for volunteers to serve on statewide and regional safety committees. If you would like to participate and help insure that Virginia increases the attention given to bicycle and pedestrian safety, please contact FABB. We can help with matching your interests with VDOT’s needs and with support for your participation. You can make a big difference!

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