‘Vision Zero’ program aims to reduce traffic fatalities

  • Gov. David Ige

Gov. David Ige passed a bill this week codifying a policy to eliminate traffic fatalities statewide through better traffic engineering and emergency response strategies.

The bill requires the state Department of Transportation and all county transportation departments to adopt “Vision Zero” traffic policies.

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Vision Zero is a worldwide traffic safety program that seeks to eliminate fatal traffic collisions by reorganizing and re-imagining traffic management systems. First approved in Sweden in 1997, Vision Zero policies have since been adopted around the world, including New York City, where traffic fatalities dropped to their lowest recorded point in 2018.

Vision Zero policies have already been introduced to Hawaii County, after mayor Harry Kim issued a commitment to reducing all traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero in February.

Since then, a task force has been formed to develop a series of strategies to improve traffic education, engineering and enforcement policies, said Tina Clothier, executive director of PATH Hawaii, a nonprofit dedicated to improving pedestrian and bicycle accessibility in Hawaii County.

Clothier said the task force also hopes to hire a consultant firm to develop traffic crash heatmaps to determine where the most crash-prone parts of the island are. By working with the Department of Public Works and the Hawaii Police Department, the faults of each troublesome area can be identified and corrected, Clothier said.

“If it’s an engineering problem, we can try to fix that; or if it’s an education problem, we can see how we can fix that,” Clothier said. “I know there were a couple of recent crashes that were caused by someone passing on a double-yellow line.”

The task force hopes to have a full draft of an action plan completed by Feb. 2020, Clothier said. The final plan will also include a public safety website that allows residents to comment about crash-prone roadways.

The statewide Vision Zero initiative will only improve the county’s program, Clothier said.

“We’re very excited to be a part of the statewide Vision Zero group that’s being formed right now,” Clothier said, adding that, with the state now pursuing Vision Zero policies, it will be easier to address and clarify certain traffic laws.

Some of those traffic laws were also amended earlier this week after Gov. Ige passed three other traffic-related bills alongside the Vision Zero bill.

The first of the new traffic bills is a bill that would establish a committee that would investigate a potential program to install red light cameras in order to reduce the number of drivers running red lights.

The other two bills clarify how pedestrians and vehicles must interact within intersections and crosswalks. One bill states that pedestrians and cyclists are considered to be within the bounds of a crosswalk if any part of their body or bicycle is beyond the curb or within the roadway; the other clarifies that, on crosswalks controlled by a pedestrian countdown timer, pedestrians are not allowed to enter the crosswalk after the countdown begins, although pedestrians already within the crosswalk can still continue to the other side before the countdown ends.

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Clothier will make a presentation about Vision Zero at a session by the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce at the Hawaii Innovation Center Conference Room in Hilo on July 9 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendance is free, but must be pre-registered at admin@hicc.biz.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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