A new national traffic study by a public safety nonprofit has Dallas ranked fifth in the nation when it comes to traffic wrecks last year — something that is no surprise to people like Genesis Gavino.
The latest study, from Go Safe Labs, found that there were 14,685 crashes last year in Dallas — an increase of 3% year-over-year. The group compiled the data from a review of more than 1.8 million accident reports from 2018 to 2019.
Dallas’ interim deputy resilience officer Gavino is tasked with helping the city take a hard look at its bad traffic planning habits, in hopes that it can reduce accidents, injuries, and deaths.
“It is true; we are fifth when it comes to traffic fatalities,” Gavino said.
Go Safe Labs found that traffic accidents across the country increased by 6.8% last year, with 953,630 accidents.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Dallas had 72 traffic fatalities in 2018 (the last complete number available), 86 in 2016, and 73 in 2017.
But Gavino said there are mitigating factors.
“The numbers are increasing. However, one needs to take into account the increase in the number of new residents to the area as well as the increased vehicles miles traveled (VMT),” she said. “This is why we are working on the Connect Dallas plan to look at strategies to decrease the VMT and increase the mode split (the number of people taking public transportation, walking, biking, etc. versus driving a single-occupancy vehicle).”
The city has a couple of plans designed to address that, including the Connect Dallas plan, which will work to develop a transportation system that considers virtually every way one could use to get around the city — biking, walking, public transit, cars, and more.
The second, Vision Zero, is more granular and looks directly at how planning city streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, transit, and other modes of travel can either help or hinder the goal of reducing traffic accidents.
The idea is that human error is inevitable, but better design can plan for that error, and therefore reduce accidents.
The city announced last year that it would work toward a Vision Zero plan that it hopes to unveil in December 2021, to reduce traffic fatalities and halve severe injuries by 2030.
The Texas Transportation Commission gave a similar statewide goal to TxDOT last May, asking the agency to cut traffic deaths in half by 2035 and end them by 2050.
The Vision Zero strategy has been adopted by 40 U.S. cities, including Austin and San Antonio.
The city hopes that neighborhoods and other community members will weigh in as it begins crafting the plan.
“As we develop our Vision Zero plan, I’d love for neighborhood organizations and all community stakeholders to actively participate to help us develop solutions,” Gavino said.