Here’s how San Jose plans to prevent traffic fatalities
Mayor Sam Liccardo speaks on a new plan to increase traffic enforcement to address the growing number of traffic fatalities. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    San Jose has plans to increase traffic enforcement in an attempt to address the rising trend of traffic deaths.

    Mayor Sam Liccardo announced a $6 million multi-prong plan Wednesday to increase safety projects such as street barriers for pedestrians, protective bike lanes, street lighting and automated signage and enforcement. This follows last year’s near-record number of traffic deaths, with 2022 set to exceed it, according to city data.

    “There’s no question that we’re moving completely the wrong way over the last year and a half,” Liccardo said, noting the renewed efforts would address the growing crisis.

    The plan also calls for more police officers dedicated to traffic enforcement, a unit facing 40% vacancy, Police Chief Anthony Mata said.

    San Jose has seen the number of people who died from traffic collisions grow higher each year since 2015—with the exception of the first year of the pandemic in 2020. San Jose was the fourth city in the nation to adopt the Vision Zero initiative to help address the growing crisis. Vision Zero focuses on data analysis to develop and launch safety programs in areas of the city that have seen a large number of traffic deaths.

    Despite the city’s efforts, San Jose recorded 60 traffic fatalities involving pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycles in 2021. It has seen 20 traffic deaths within the first three months of this year.

    “Every death on our streets is a tragedy. It is important to remember these fatalities are people with friends and family—not just statistics,” Councilmember Pam Foley, who serves as vice chair of the Vision Zero task force, told San José Spotlight. “Every traffic fatality is preventable. Getting to zero fatalities will require a multifaceted approach that incorporates enforcement, education and infrastructure.”

    San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata speaks on the need for more officers dedicated to traffic enforcement. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    Through San Jose’s Vision Zero task force, the city has collected comprehensive data and identified 17 corridors that are hotspots for traffic fatalities.

    Liccardo said the city will focus most of its efforts on those stretch of roads, which include White Road, McKee Road, Santa Clara Street/Alum Rock Avenue, Jackson Avenue, Capitol Expressway, Story Road, McLaughlin Avenue, King Road, First Street/Monterey Road, Senter Road, Blossom Hill Road, Branham Lane, Almaden Expressway, Saratoga Ave, Fruitdale Avenue and Hillsdale Avenue.

    These corridors accounted for 55% of fatalities and 38% of severe injuries in 2018, city officials said.

    Councilmember Maya Esparza, who represents District 7 with some of the most dangerous corridors such as Monterey and Senter roads, said the city has been working to prevent traffic deaths through protective road crossings and bike lanes. The plan calls for two expansive safety improvement projects on Monterey and Senter roads, but provides little detail.

    “We can make Senter Road and other streets in our city safer,” Esparza said. “I just wanted to point out: whether it’s sideshows or speeding, San Jose is stepping up.”

    Officials said there are zero deaths linked to sideshows in 2021 and this year so far.

    Councilmember Maya Esparza speaks on making streets in her district safer. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    With more than half of traffic fatalities happened during evening hours, Mata said the city is also looking into dispatching traffic enforcement officers during those hours.

    As part of the plan, the city wants to better educate drivers—especially male drivers who account for three quarters of all drivers involved in fatal crashes, according to city officials. The city will spend $50,000 on a phone app to monitor participants’ driving habits and show ways to improve the safety of their driving.

    “It will take all of us—whether you drive, use the sidewalk or ride a bike—to reverse this trend,” said John Ristow, city transportation director. “Slow down, stay alert and give a break to your neighbors on the road.”

    Liccardo will testify later this month in Sacramento in support of a state bill called the Speed Safety System Pilot Program, which would allow California cities to install and use speed safety cameras to detect and capture images of speeding vehicles.

    “Enforcement doesn’t have to happen the old fashioned way,” he said, adding the technology is already implemented in 14 other states.

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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