How San Francisco Is Eliminating Traffic Deaths

Motorcycle Accidents

Many of San Francisco’s streets are dangerous by design. Each day in the city, at least three people walking are hit by cars. In 2013, a near-record number of people were killed while walking and biking: 21 pedestrians and four bicyclists were victims of lethal traffic crimes–including six year-old Sofia Liu and an 86 year old man who were both killed in crosswalks–the highest number since 2007. Last year, 18 people lost their lives needlessly as a result of traffic-related collisions.

Yet, despite the City’s 2013 release of the Pedestrian Strategy, which identified the most dangerous six percent of roads where more than 60% of pedestrian crashes occur (see map), and repeated calls for much-needed, engineering improvements for street safety, more targeted and data-driven, traffic crime enforcement, and effective education, San Francisco has made limited progress to improve the safety of people walking on the city’s increasingly chaotic streets.

In response to increasing number of traffic-related injuries and deaths, in 2014 Walk SF and a coalition of community groups, including the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, called on City leaders and agencies to formally adopt Vision Zero by funding and implementing the engineering, enforcement, and education efforts required to:

  1. Fix the known dangerous locations where people are being injured on our streets – the majority of which are in the SoMa and Tenderloin neighborhoods — by delivering on-the-ground improvements quickly. The Vision Zero Coalition calls on City leaders to expedite implementation of at least 18 miles of street safety improvements on the city’s high-injury corridors, and prioritize locations in communities of concern. 
  2. Ensure full and fair enforcement of traffic laws, with a focus on the most dangerous behaviors, problematic locations and at-fault drivers. The coalition advocates for a change in state laws to allow for more effective enforcement of illegal and dangerous speeding behavior. It also calls for enforcement on the five most dangerous traffic behaviors. According to collision data, the five dangerous traffic behaviors most likely to result in serious injury or death include: speeding, red light running, failure to yield, unsafe turning behavior, and not stopping at stop signs. 
  3. Invest in training and education programs for all road users, with a focus on frequent drivers, who spend the most hours on the road and are involved in a disproportionate number of fatalities and serious collisions.

The Safe Streets SF campaign combines marketing, enforcement, and public outreach to address two critical safety challenges: crosswalk violations and speed. In San Francisco, 41% of all pedestrian collisions are due to drivers not yielding to people in the crosswalk, and speed is responsible for 10 times the number of pedestrian injuries as driving under the influence. Traffic speed is the strongest predictor of whether a person is seriously injured or killed when hit by a car.

Soon Professional drivers, from taxi drivers to Muni drivers, log thousands of miles each year and must be skilled at defensive urban driving in order to protect our most vulnerable road users. In accordance with the Board of Supervisor’s Vision Zero Resolution, the SFMTA has worked with City agencies, private companies, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and Walk San Francisco to develop and launch a new professional driver program. The program will educate drivers of large vehicles, certified City drivers, and taxi drivers on driving safely in complex urban environments. The training curriculum was developed in 2014 and will be finalized and released in 2015 as outlined in the Board’s Vision Zero Resolution.

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