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Bill to Reduce Virginia Roadway Fatalities Receives Little Support in Committee

Virginia legislators tabled a bill during the regular General Assembly session that pledged to reduce roadway fatalities. The move disappointed road safety advocates, but supporters say they’re still committed to advancing policies to protect pedestrians and drivers.

House Joint Resolution 100 was a commitment to the Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to end roadway fatalities by 2050 and cut them in half by 2030. The legislation received no support in a House subcommittee and died in the transportation committee.

On average two people died and at least 18 people were injured daily in Virginia traffic crashes in 2020, according to the bill resolution statement. Almost 850 people were killed in Virginia that year and over 110 were pedestrians. Nearly 7,000 people were seriously injured that same year due to traffic crashes and over 370 were pedestrians.

Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax and Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, patroned the resolution.

Vision Zero originated in Sweden in 1997. The program is a strategy to achieve a transportation system with no deaths or serious injuries, through policy, equity and improved traffic death reporting data, according to the initiative’s website. It has since been adopted in several countries and 51 U.S. communities as of August 2021, including Richmond, Alexandria, Arlington and Norfolk. The proposed resolution would have adopted the safety initiative for the entire state.

Traffic deaths and serious injuries can be eliminated by taking proactive and preventative measures such as proper engineering, enforcement, evaluation and education, the strategy states.

Richmond and Alexandria cities were early adopters of the Vision Zero plan in Virginia. Alexandria adopted its Vision Zero plan in late 2017. At least 1,000 residents, visitors, employees and business owners were active in the Vision Zero action plan process, according to the City of Alexandria website.

Alex Carroll manages street infrastructure and safety initiatives in Alexandria while working on Vision Zero with other partners such as the Alexandria Police Department. Alexandria’s team has completed education campaigns to inform people of their rights and responsibilities when using roads. They also provide monthly classes that incorporate Vision Zero training to city employees who drive city vehicles.

Vision Zero’s goal to end traffic deaths and injuries is ambitious, but the city is dedicated to the initiative, Carroll said.

“We’re committed to getting as close to that as we can,” 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 traffic safety,” Carroll said. “They’re all taking the lead from localities like Alexandria and Arlington and others as well as the federal government to integrate safety more into what they do.”

Over 30 high-visibility crosswalks have been installed in Alexandria, along with permanent crossing improvements and new signals at high pedestrian crash locations, according to a third year progress report by the Alexandria Families For Safe Streets group.

Bike Walk RVA, an initiative of the active lifestyle organization Sports Backers, is one of the organizations involved with Vision Zero in Richmond. Bike Walk RVA supports pedestrian and bicycling-friendly infrastructure through citywide projects, according to the program’s website.

Brantley Tyndall, director of outreach at Bike Walk RVA, said the resolution’s failure was disappointing. “It will be a setback to life-saving measures,” Tyndall said.

Sarah G. Taylor, the assistant city manager and legislative director of Alexandria, said she is disappointed that the bill died in committee, but thinks groups will continue to make progress.

Lawmakers passed other transportation safety legislation like Senate Bill 247 and House Bill 920, which advocates said are positive steps forward. 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 bicyclist.

“There’s not one bill. There’s not one law. There’s not one study. There’s not one thing,” Taylor said. “It’s what are all the things that we can put together that in combination make our roads safer for cyclists, pedestrians and vulnerable road users.”

– Faith Redd / Capital News Service

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