AUSTIN (KXAN) — It was early Saturday morning when Daniel Joseph Rayos, 31, was driving his silver 2008 Nissan Sentra down Farm to Market 2222 when Austin police say he drifted off the right side of the roadway and struck the end of the guard rail head-on. He died at the scene. His death marked the 33rd traffic fatality Austin has seen in 2017 – it’s the exact same number of deaths at this time last year.
In an effort to curb the number of deaths that happen on Austin roads, the city council adopted a plan called Vision Zero in May of 2016. The goal is to implement various safety improvements for drivers, bikers, commuters, and walkers through the year 2025 to reduce the number of deaths to zero. While it’s one year into the plan, the number of deaths so far haven’t changed.
“We know those numbers will fluctuate year to year but this is really a long-term strategic approach to serious injuries and fatalities over time,” says Laura Dierenfield, division manager, Austin Transportation Department.
- On KXAN News Today, Kate Weidaw is LIVE at one of the dangerous intersections that have recently seen changes
Tuesday night the Austin Transportation Department provided its annual report card to the Urban Transportation Commission on what has been done to improve safety over the past year. As a result of the Vision Zero plan, the city has 28 miles of new or improved bike lanes, 68 new pedestrian crossings, 548 new ADA curb sidewalk ramps, improved access to 102 bus stops, and 14 miles of new or improved sidewalks completed in 2016.
Austin police have also stepped up their enforcement which has resulted in 117 drunk driving no-refusal nights and 753 citations for distracted driving. The department also extended no refusal weekends to include every weekend this summer.
“We’re looking at safety improvements for pedestrians, shortening crossing distances, making it safer for bicyclists, as well as for transit users making bus stops more accessible and making all turns safer for motorists,” says Dierenfield.
Three million dollars in improvements have been completed on Austin’s second most dangerous intersection, Lamar Boulevard and Rundberg Lane. New raised medians, crosswalks, and traffic light crossing beacons have been added.
Next up in the plan is to make engineering improvements to 28 intersections. In all, nine city departments work in conjunction to make improvements in an effort to meet the 2025 goal of zero deaths on Austin roads.