By Faith Redd
Virginia lawmakers introduced a bill in the regular session of the General Assembly that pledged to end road deaths. The move disappointed traffic safety advocates, but supporters say they are still committed to advancing policies to protect pedestrians and drivers.
House Joint Resolution 100 was a commitment to the Vision Zero initiative, which aims to end road deaths by 2050 and halve them by 2030. The legislation received no support in a sub -House committee and died on the transport committee.
On average, two people died and at least 18 people were injured daily in traffic crashes in Virginia in 2020, according to the bill’s resolution statement. Nearly 850 people were killed in Virginia that year and more than 110 were pedestrians. Nearly 7,000 people were seriously injured that same year due to traffic accidents and more than 370 were pedestrians.
Of the. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax and Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, sponsored the resolution.
Vision Zero originated in Sweden in 1997. The program is a strategy to achieve a transportation system without fatalities or serious injuries, through policies, equity and improved fatality reporting data on the route, according to the initiative’s website. It has since been adopted in several countries and 51 US communities as of August 2021, including Richmond, Alexandria, Arlington and Norfolk. The proposed resolution would have adopted the security initiative for the entire state.
Deaths and serious injuries on the roads can be eliminated by taking proactive and preventative measures such as proper engineering, enforcement, evaluation and education, the strategy states.
The cities of Richmond and Alexandria were the first to adopt the Vision Zero plan in Virginia. Alexandria passed its Vision Zero plan in late 2017. According to the City of Alexandria website, at least 1,000 residents, visitors, employees, and business owners actively participated in the Vision Zero action plan process.
Alex Carroll manages street infrastructure and safety initiatives in Alexandria while working on Vision Zero with other partners such as the Alexandria Police Department. The Alexandria team carried out education campaigns to inform people of their rights and responsibilities when using the roads. They also offer monthly courses that incorporate Vision Zero training to municipal employees who drive municipal vehicles.
Vision Zero’s goal of ending traffic fatalities and injuries is ambitious, but the city is dedicated to the initiative, Carroll said.
“We’re committed to getting as close to it as possible,” Carroll said.
Localities committed to the Vision Zero initiative help highlight the initiative, Carroll said.
“Virginia is starting to pay more attention to Vision Zero and road safety,” Carroll said. “They’re all taking the lead from places like Alexandria and Arlington and others as well as the federal government to embed safety more into what they do.”
More than 30 high-visibility crosswalks have been installed in Alexandria, along with permanent upgrades to crossings and new signals at high-traffic pedestrian locations, according to a third-year progress report from the group Alexandria Families For Safe Streets.
Bike Walk RVA, an initiative of the active lifestyle organization Sports Backers, is one of the organizations involved in Vision Zero in Richmond. Bike Walk RVA supports pedestrian- and bike-friendly infrastructure through city-wide projects, according to the program’s website.
Brantley Tyndall, Outreach Director at Bike Walk RVA, said the resolution’s failure was disappointing.
“It will be a setback for rescue measures,” Tyndall said.
Sarah G. Taylor, deputy city manager and legislative director of Alexandria, said she was disappointed the bill died in committee, but thinks the groups will continue to make progress.
Lawmakers have passed other transportation safety laws like Senate Bill 247 and House Bill 920, which advocates say are positive moves. A driver can face misdemeanor charges and have their license suspended if found guilty of careless driving that kills or seriously injures a vulnerable road user, such as a pedestrian or cyclist.
“There is not a single bill. There is no single law. There is not a single study. There’s nothing,” Taylor said. “It’s about all the things we can put together that, combined, make our roads safer for cyclists, pedestrians and vulnerable road users.