Tucson plans to reduce traffic deaths

Traffic deaths in Tucson at all-time high

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Tucson city leaders are discussing a 40-point, five year plan to reduce traffic deaths. The plan includes education, engineering and enforcement.

The number of deaths has increased from 39 to 69 in five years, causing concern among law enforcement and city officials.

Moves in the past, such as education and enforcement, have not worked.

Last year, the city established a Traffic Safety Working Group to come up with a comprehensive list of ideas which may reduce the risk for pedestrians and motorists. That list can be found here.

Although some of the ideas are easy to implement and in place now, others are not.

“Data takes a long time to collect,” said Blake Olofoson, a city traffic engineer who will oversee the effort.

They will collect data at several points, apply it and see if it works.

Engineering takes time as well. Construction projects, such as Grant Road, can be engineered for safety but it takes years to determine if the engineering leads to a safer roadway.

Olofoson’s mother was killed in a car crash when he was young “so it weighs on me,” he said.

He feels he has a “personal stake” in the program’s success.

“For me it’s about safety,” he said. "So if we can get a message out there that is a culture of safety, that will put a dent in it."

The University of Arizona is working on a system which will better time the lights so motorists can go “from green to green to green, which will help stop red light running,” he said.

There’s always been a question whether the rise in pedestrian deaths is the fault of drivers or the pedestrians themselves.

He believes it’s both.

“Pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings, they need to cross at safe locations,” he said. “And drivers need to be aware, it’s a shared responsibility,”

Speed is also a factor. Engineers realize moving traffic is important but sometimes it bumps up against safety.

“We could raise the speed limit to fifty and people are going to die,” he said. "We could lower it to 20 and people would be okay but that’s not realistic."

He says there’s a balance but is not sure where that lies.

“I don’t have all the answers,” he said.

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