AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hill Law Firm in San Antonio compiled data from the Texas Department of Transportation, presenting their rankings of the most dangerous intersections in Texas. Four of the top 10 are in Austin.
Their data shows that urban areas where a lot of people are moving to and visiting are seeing a rise in pedestrian deaths.
Of the intersections listed in the report, Trinity and East Seventh streets in Austin was ranked as the most dangerous for pedestrians in Texas. The ranking takes crash severity into account, weighing fatalities and incapacitating injuries the heaviest. Other Austin locations in the top 10 include West Fourth and Lavaca (4th), North Lamar Boulevard (7th) and Interstate 35 and Rundberg Lane (10th). San Marcos also makes an appearance on the list — at third — for Hopkins and South Guadalupe streets.
Jason Williams, who considers himself homeless, goes to Seventh and Trinity every day to receive services, and also sleeps on the streets nearby. Williams said he has seen pedestrians hit in that area, as well as closer to I-35. In fact, Williams said he was hit by a vehicle just weeks ago between near Sixth Street and I-35.
“To my surprise a SUV backed up on me, and I was unconscious. He panicked because he saw that I was still alive and he rolled over me and said I was in the wrong, and he took off,” Williams said. “And I was in a daze and I had to make a police report on that one.”
He now says he walks with extreme caution in the area, but because Williams has no car and needs the support services downtown, he continues to walk there.
“I would like to see more people just paying attention and staying on their Ps and Qs,” Williams said.
Justin Hill, an attorney behind the firm that compiled the report, said that high-traffic areas like spots near Sixth Street in Austin stood out.
“So for example in Austin, you have a lot of tourists in the area or party-goers in the area where you have a big [pedestrian crash] problem, and in San Antonio the same, you have the Riverwalk area where a lot of people come down and maybe aren’t as familiar with the area,” Hill explained.
“I think most of the data was as expected, but it was still sort of alarming to put it on the map so you can really see the concentration,” he continued. Hill’s firm deals with many people involved in serious crashes, so they analyzed this data to pinpoint where the highest risk areas are.
“We see a lot of that, specifically with pedestrians as it relates to car accidents,” Hill said. “You usually don’t have people who get hit by cars who aren’t injured, they’re usually pretty serious injuries and serious accidents.”
In Austin, their firm identified 9 high-risk areas in Austin, in addition to the downtown locations the report also noted riskier spots in north and northeast Austin.
These pedestrian concerns have already been on the city of Austin’s radar. For the last year the Transportation Department has been preparing the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan.
“We have really a system-wide issue of high speeds, long crossing distances, things like that where we could look to make improvements,” said Joel Meyer, pedestrian coordinator for the Austin Transportation Department.
As part of this plan, the city has been doing its own studies and surveys about local intersections, looking to find out which spots are most “high risk” and are most in need of improvements.
“Pedestrians make up around 30 percent of our fatalities in Austin and we do want to focus on them a lot,” said Meyer, adding that pedestrians and cyclists are more vulnerable to injuries and fatalities than other types of crash victims.
Meyer said more people are walking and using transit in Austin as the city grows. Austin already has a goal called “Vision Zero” which aims to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from traffic deaths. Meyer sees improving pedestrian safety as an important part of that vision.
“We realize that its a long road ahead, but I think we’re making a lot of progress through all our different departments and across the city to really make good on that goal,” he said.
People walking around Austin may start to see some changes already. The city will begin presenting their plan, the projects that come out of that plan will be funded by $2.2 million in grants, early this year. That money will go to completing and updating putting countdown timers at all 700 plus signals in the city, as well as installing pedestrian hybrid beacons and audible pedestrian signals.
Additional money for these changes will come from the 2016 transportation bond. Meyer said they aim to have all these changes complete by the end of 2018.