Washington Focuses Road Safety Efforts on Individuals, Neglecting Design

Legislative efforts to reduce traffic deaths could move the needle toward Vision Zero, but state leaders failed to commit infrastructure funds to making structural improvements.

2 minute read

February 1, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Pedestrians in zebra crosswalk with green bike lane in downtown Seattle, Washington with three-story brick building in background

TS Photographer / Seattle crosswalk

A legislative push to improve traffic safety in Washington state is focusing on enforcement and education, largely ignoring the impacts of road design and infrastructure on traffic deaths, writes Gregory Quetin in The Urbanist.

At a press conference held by state legislative leaders and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, “Leaders claimed that addressing behavior could turn the tide of road deaths. However, the absence of funding priority and urgency around fundamentally redesigning our streets suggests their effort will come up short.”

Quetin warns that “the emphasis on law enforcement with the attendant risk of unequal treatment based on race and socioeconomics and after a major infrastructure spending bill containing numerous road expansion projects whose underlying goal is car speed and throughput, both key aspects of road design that make them unsafe and undermines spending on safety in the bill.”

The article describes legislation currently proposed at the state level, efforts which would boost law enforcement presence, lower the blood alcohol limit, ban right turns on red, and implement other measures that could improve safety but fall short of redesigning dangerous roads.

Traffic safety advocates have criticized the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for taking a similar approach, arguing that transportation agencies should do more to eliminate dangerous road conditions that lead to deadly crashes and reduce the chance of death and serious injury when crashes do occur.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023 in The Urbanist

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