By: Celia Jackson-Coalition for Safe Driving Member
Milwaukee is long overdue for an intentional and comprehensive strategy to address traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The numbers of people impacted by the reckless driving is tantamount to a public health crisis. We need a city and county wide collaborative approach to keeping our streets safe.
One of the many suggestions that can be found buried in the Reckless Driving Task Force recommendations is Vision Zero. Vision Zero is a concept that began in Sweden in 1997 to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. It operates under the notion that traffic deaths are preventable and that even one fatality is too many. It has an inclusive and big picture approach to traffic management with a specific focus on safety. It encompasses a collaboration of city agencies, city residents and city leaders committing their energy and resources to work toward a common goal.
Over 35 cities around the country have adopted Vision Zero as a proven way to address the ever- increasing challenges of traffic safety. While some may call it a project, it is actually a strategy, an overall approach that incorporates systems, street design, traffic enforcement, traffic safety education and community engagement. It concentrates on the transportation system as a whole and not just individual behavior.
We all subscribe to the value of human life and consider it paramount. We must prioritize those who use the avenues and boulevards who are most vulnerable to the speeding vehicles that have become part of the landscape. Children, seniors and bicyclists are not able to fend off the dangers of fast-moving vehicles. We must create secure pathways to enable them to navigate the streets safely. The World Health Organization lists road crashes within its top ten causes of death. The Center for Disease and Control noticed an increase in deaths in Milwaukee due to car crashes. As a result, the Public Policy Forum generated a report noting that amongst African Americans the number of deaths due to car crashes has doubled within the last five years.
At some point we need to stop the hemorrhaging. (28 fatalities in the City of Milwaukee between February and July, 2020, a 29% increase from 2019 during the same time period ) We can’t continue to offer piecemeal attempts to address this concern. All of our efforts need to be collaborative, cooperative and transparent. It will require all of us, community, private sector, public sector, educators, law enforcement, insurance and all stakeholders to embark upon this challenge. Vision Zero provides a design for us to create an action plan that includes a diversity of voices at the table to realize a new possibility in traffic safety.
The Coalition of Safe Driving MKE recently sent a letter to Mayor Barrett advocating the use of money in the current budget to hire a Vision Zero Consultant/Coordinator to develop an action plan.
The City of Madison just announced that it is about to adopt Vision Zero. Maybe we can take a tip from our neighbors west of us.
The Coalition urges everyone to sign our petition urging the Mayor, the Department of Public Works, Alderpersons and County Supervisors to insist on hiring a Vision Zero Coordinator/Consultant to create a plan that overhauls our infrastructure in a way that reduces traffic injuries and fatalities and provides resources to implement a campaign of awareness focusing on traffic safety with a sense of URGENCY!