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Reacting to 42% Jump Year-to-Year in Traffic Injuries and Fatalities, Transportation Department Changes Approach to Road Safety

Published on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 | 5:34 am

A view of a damaged car after a driver struck and killed a pedestrian on Washington Boulevard in October, 2020. [Photo by RMG News]
The Pasadena Department of Transportation presented plans to address rising pedestrian fatalities in the city by transitioning to an approach known as the “Safe System”  during Tuesday’s Municipal Services Committee meeting.

The ‘Safe System’ refers to an approach to road safety first adopted in Sweden in 1997 and known as “Vision Zero.” Its goal was zero traffic deaths and held that even one death on a transportation system is unacceptable.

“The DOT has historically taken a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary approach to road safety and while traffic collisions have consistently decreased, pedestrian fatalities have not and that is unacceptable,” Transportation Director Laura Cornejo said. “The ‘Safe System’ approach represents both a practical and a philosophical shift on how we address road safety.” 

Joaquin Siques, deputy director of the DOT, said there were 67 injuries and fatal collisions in Pasadena in 2021. 

Of this figure, there were 8 fatalities resulting from traffic collisions. Six of those fatalities were pedestrians. 

In 2020, 47 injuries and fatal collisions were recorded in Pasadena. 

The DOT’s current traffic safety approach includes engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. Spokespersons said the department found that while this program has been effective at reducing collisions within the City, pedestrian fatalities resulting from traffic collisions continue to increase.

The ‘Safe System’ refers to an approach to road safety first adopted in Sweden in 1997 and known as “Vision Zero.” Its goal was zero traffic deaths and held that even one death on a transportation system is unacceptable.

“It’s reactive to collision trends and it lacks a comprehensive and consistent approach,” Siques said of the approach. “Because of these challenges, we’re transitioning to the “Safe System Approach.” 

“The Safe System Approach aims to eliminate fatal and serious injuries for all road users. It does so through a holistic view of the total road system that first anticipates human mistakes and second, keeps impact energy on the human body at tolerable levels.” 

The Safe System approach is anchored on these elements: Safe Road Users, Safe Vehicles, Safe Speeds, Safe Roads and Post-Crash Care. 

Rather than preventing crashes, the approach seeks to prevent death and serious injuries and rather than improving human behavior, the “Safe System Approach” is designed for human mistakes and limitations. 

While the traditional approach focuses on controlling speeding, the new approach focuses on reducing system kinetic energy and while the traditional system asserts that certain individuals are responsible for street accidents, the new approach aims to share responsibility among the system users, the managers and others. 

Instead of reacting based on crash history, the new approach proactively identifies and addresses risks, said Siques.

According to Siques, the Fiscal Year 2023 budget includes an allocation to implement a comprehensive safety campaign under the new approach. 

Part of the new approach is the proposed Roadside Memorial Program which seeks to memorialize the victim of a fatal crash while at the same time raising the awareness of traffic safety to motorists. 

Because of the fatalities involving unhoused pedestrians, Siques said safety programs under the new approach will expand to have a greater focus on reaching the unhoused population, in coordination with the Pasadena Police Department Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation (HOPE) Team and Pasadena Outreach Response Team (PORT).

Vice Mayor Andy Wilson expressed concern about the number of fatalities in the city and lauded the DOT for identifying the homeless population as a focus of outreach efforts on pedestrian safety. 

“We are saddened by the fact that half our fatalities could be our homeless residents,” Wilson said. “This is the first time I have seen that population identified as a target audience for pedestrian safety.” 

“I think it’s nice to see us coordinate with HOPE and PORT which are very unique to Pasadena,” Councilmember Felicia Williams said. “I’m hoping we can get more funding and more resources into HOPE and PORT.” 

Moving forward, the DOT will continue to pursue grant funding for the programs under the “Safe System Approach.” It will also provide annual updates to the Municipal Services Committee. according to Siques. 

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