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Phoenix City Council to consider 'Vision Zero' after increase in traffic deaths

high-risk crash area
Posted at 9:33 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 13:49:34-05

PHOENIX — The Phoenix City Council will get an update on a sweeping road safety plan after the street department measured a dramatic increase in traffic deaths last year.

“We call 911 a lot,” said Bob Lachniet of the Fitness 4 Home Superstore at 16th Street and Camelback.

Lochniet’s business sits right on the corner of the busy intersection that’s attracted years of foot traffic but has also become a hot spot for vehicle crashes. He recalled a drunk driver once driving through his showroom a few Christmases ago.

He said the crash cost thousands in repairs to his store and product.

”I actually sit in my office and gauge the severity of the crash by the sound that I hear, we’ve had that many accidents on this corner,” said Lochniet.

The intersection in front of his store is one of three intersections found by the Maricopa Association of Governments to be a high-risk crash area.

The other two are 75th Avenue and Indian School Road and 19th Avenue and Southern Avenue.

Through the City of Phoenix road safety action plan, the intersections are slated see safety improvements like modernized traffic signals, more lighting, and updated cameras.

On Tuesday, the members of the Phoenix City Council will get an update on that plan from the street transportation department after a stark increase in traffic deaths last year.

During a November meeting, Director Kini Knudson said ”Phoenix is the worst city nationally when it comes to traffic fatalities” after reviewing statistics.

Unofficial data from 2021 puts the number of traffic deaths in Phoenix at 232, which represents a 24% increase from 2020. Looking at just pedestrian-related fatalities, those increased by 40% between 2020 and 2021.

The city will also consider adopting something that only one other Arizona city has implemented: Vision Zero – a campaign aimed to implement road safety policies to reach a goal of zero traffic deaths.

”Everyone has a role to play when it comes to traffic safety,” said TaiAnna Yee with the City of Tempe.

Yee says when the city implemented Vision Zero several years ago, the East Valley city used its policies to enact reduced speeds in certain school zones and more lanes in problematic intersections.

In Phoenix, a previous effort to join Vision Zero failed to receive enough votes, but the city council will consider it again on Tuesday.

ABC15 reached out to some of the council members who voted against it on Monday but didn’t immediately hear back.

If approved, Phoenix would be eligible for federal funding under the new infrastructure law and share a vision with over 50 other cities nationwide to reach zero traffic deaths.

“Vision zero, it’s no longer just a statistic. It’s more like this is a person that was affected, it’s not just this person, it’s their family and friends and everyone suffers from this loss,” said Yee.

The Road Safety Action plan is in a community input stage and urges riders, drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and all commuters to share their opinion on what can be done to make Phoenix roads safer.