On seven days over the next two weeks, Austin police officers will be stationed at key areas throughout the city enforcing traffic laws and city ordinances, such as the hands-free law that prohibits drivers from using an electronic handheld device while driving or riding a bike.
“It means roads are going to get a little bit safer,” said Jim Dale, assistant director of the Austin Transportation Department, which partnered with the Austin Police Department on rolling out the Vision Zero Action Plan.
1. Vision Zero is a goal that seeks to achieve zero traffic fatalities.
In 2015, Austin saw the most number of recorded deaths from traffic incidents at 102, which includes drivers, passengers and pedestrians. In response, the city created a Vision Zero task force to create a plan to help the city achieve zero traffic fatalities.
The plan aspires to reach this goal by evaluating data, educating residents, enforcing existing city ordinances and traffic laws, re-engineering safer roadways and updating or creating policies. Austin City Council adopted the Vision Zero Action Plan in May 2016.
“We want to have zero fatalities by 2025 and no serious injuries,” Dale said. “It’s going to take a lot of things to get there.”
2. The plan first targets safety enforcement.
This component will complement what Austin police officers also do to enforce traffic laws. Officers will focus on certain areas of town that had more traffic fatalities to ticket drivers for specific behaviors, such as:
- Failing to stop at red lights and stop signs
- Speeding, including in school zones
- Using bus-only lanes or parking in bike lanes
- Not adhering to the city’s hands-free ordinance
- Failing to yield the right of way, including at crosswalks
- Riding or driving between lanes
- Passing stopped school buses
- Failing to comply with pedestrian hybrid beacons, which are signals that allow residents to safely cross a street
3. The city also aims to manage congestion.
Police will enforce the city’s campaign called Don’t Block the Box, which launched in May 2015. Police officers ticket motorists who block intersections and prohibit cross traffic movements.
Dale said will primarily focus on downtown Austin, particularly Cesar Chavez Street, during peak morning and afternoon periods.
4. Officers will focus on air quality.
This step also coincides with the city’s clean air policy, Dale said. Motorists who idle in right of ways for longer than 5 minutes will be ticketed. This includes drivers of vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds, such as flat-bed or delivery trucks and tractor-trailers.
“We’ll start that off as an education piece instead of just going right in and ticketing,” Dale said. “We’ll give them warning. The revenue is not of interest to us, but we know if someone does get a ticket it has a bigger impact on changing their behavior.”
The city will expand the Vision Zero action plan in the coming months with additional education and outreach efforts and launch a Vision Zero Street Team.
“Those will be folks we hire to pair with police officers and go to the schools and talk about how to get to school safely,” Dale said. “When the street teams go into a school for awareness, we’ll follow it up with the enforcement piece.
For more information visit www.austintexas.gov/visionzero.