‘Vision Zero’ polices create safer communities

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

Each year, more than 40,000 people are killed in the United States in vehicle crashes.

Last year, a record number of 43 pedestrian fatalities were documented in Hawaii, reflecting a dramatic increase from 15 in 2017. In 2018, there were 17 traffic fatalities in Maui County.

This year, Maui County has already suffered seven traffic-related deaths, five of which were pedestrian casualties.

Many traffic-related tragedies can be prevented by taking a proactive and preventative approach to roadway safety. “Vision Zero” is a philosophy that seeks to prevent and ultimately eliminate all roadway fatalities and serious injuries.

The Vision Zero approach recognizes people will sometimes make mistakes, so policymakers and traffic-system engineers need to implement policies and create environments that slow down vehicles to reduce the likelihood a human mistake will cause death or serious injury.

As chairwoman of the County Council’s Multimodal Transportation Committee, as well as a council representative on the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization’s policy board, I endorse Vision Zero principles to prevent traffic fatalities and injuries, particularly for the most vulnerable road users. These principles include Complete Streets policies, which reflect a commitment to design and operate streets in ways that provide for the needs of all users of the road, regardless of age, ability, income or mode of transportation.

In 2018, then-Mayor Alan Arakawa presented a Vision Zero proclamation in honor of a cyclist who was struck and killed on the shoulder of Piilani Highway. I intend to build upon the proclamation by introducing a resolution to support the creation of a Vision Zero Advisory Group, with the goal of developing an action plan with recommendations to the mayor and council on strategies to prevent traffic fatalities.

The Maui Vision Zero Action Plan developed by the advisory group may include data collection, education on driver and pedestrian safety, enhanced traffic enforcement and new engineering standards for safer roadways, intersections, sidewalks and paths.

I also believe the state and counties must collaborate to provide safe roads, as many fatalities occur on state highways. That is why I have been advocating for the passage of House Bill 757, which requires the Hawaii Department of Transportation and county transportation departments to adopt Vision Zero policies to prevent and eliminate traffic fatalities.

The bill also requires the State Highway Safety Council, in consultation with the counties, to review traffic policies, provide recommendations to prevent traffic fatalities and report to the Legislature.

For too long we’ve considered traffic deaths and injuries to be inevitable side effects of modern life. While often referred to as “accidents,” the reality is that we can prevent these tragedies by taking a proactive, preventative approach that prioritizes traffic safety as a public health issue.

* Yuki Lei Sugimura is chairwoman of the County Council’s Multimodal Transportation Committee. She holds the council seat for the Upcountry residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.