6 people hit by cars over a weekend days after Salt Lake City officials called for safer roads

School had not started at Hawthorne Elementary early on January 13 when a truck hit two young children on their way to class.

The children who were hit at a crosswalk on Friday suffered life-threatening injuries, police said. she were two of six people hit by a car in Salt Lake City over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, just days after Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced a new partnership to prevent road violence.

One person who was hit, a 31-year-old man, died, police said. The driver who hit him left the scene of the accident. In a statement Thursday, Mendenhall called the spate of wreckage “heartbreaking”.

“Everyone should feel safe when moving around our city, whether they walk, pedal or drive,” the statement said. “But the reality we face is that some drivers are not taking responsibility, and the scale of street violence underscores the need for urgent, conscious action to make our roads safer.”

The road safety partnership, which Mendenhall announced just days earlier, on Jan. 11, included the non-profit “Vision Zero” campaign with a goal of zero road fatalities by 2035.

But the announcement was just that — the city isn’t part of the program yet; To join, officials must first enact a set of security requirements that they hope to meet by the fall.

“All of these incidents of vehicular violence should make it clear that our city is in crisis and requires major changes from city leaders,” Sweet Streets, a local organization campaigning for safer mobility options, said in a statement this week.

What does reaching Vision Zero status mean?

Mendenhall’s statement on Thursday echoed sentiments from May 2022, when within an hour three people were attacked and killed on the Wasatch frontline, including Libbie Allan, a 23-year-old pregnant woman who died after a driver suspected of having a disability drove her and her child into Sugar House had approached.

That accident happened about four blocks from where the two children were injured near Hawthorne Elementary last Friday.

Shortly after the accidents in May, the city set up a Safe Roads Task Force, which met twice in the past year. That task force is currently being reworked into a “Vision Zero” task force to meet a requirement for the city to participate in the nonprofit campaign, said Salt Lake City Transportation Director Jon Larsen.

This year, the Vision Zero task force will meet quarterly and work with other agencies, including the Utah Transit Authority and the Utah Department of Transportation, to develop a broader road safety action plan.

“We’re not an official Vision Zero city yet — we’ve just expressed intent, and so once [complete the action plan], then we can officially apply for Vision Zero City status,” said Larsen. “Every time you coordinate across jurisdictions and agencies, it just takes more time and effort.”

In addition to establishing the Vision Zero task force – which must engage with the community – and creating this action plan, the city must also conduct a dangerous road analysis before it can officially participate in the campaign.

Participation in this campaign means Salt Lake City qualifies for certain federal grants that require Vision Zero status and officials can access resources and strategies shared across the Vision Zero network — which currently includes Denver, Austin, Seattle and about 40 more includes communities.

Specific Actions

Meanwhile, Sweet Streets advocates are hoping for sustained funding for “Vision Zero,” which includes putting safety measures first this year.

In particular, they would like to see the city phase out four-lane roads like 2100 South because they can be so dangerous, the organization said in a release.

The city already has a people-first approach as it works with UDOT to analyze local intersections with traffic signals, Larsen said. For example, this analysis takes into account changes such as pedestrian crossings limiting left turns or the introduction of “leading pedestrian intervals” that give pedestrians about a five-second lead over cars when crossing an intersection.

Larsen would also like to see red light cameras, which he says would “undoubtedly save lives”. Red-light cameras are currently illegal in Utah for privacy reasons, but a bill legalizing the devices was introduced in the legislature this week.

“In the past, every time you looked at the traffic light system, the focus was on optimizing the system for vehicle traffic flow,” Larsen said. “Even if it’s not optimal for traffic flow, if it’s optimal for safety, then we want to do it.”

And Larsen believes there are many more initiatives possible this year after officials lay the groundwork in 2022, including hiring four new employees to deal with safety issues and reviving the habitable roads program .

“We value people who are willing to engage with us and are patient,” Larsen said. “We know it’s a big mountain to climb. And we will continue to work on that until we get to the point where people dying and seriously injured on our roads are a thing of the past.”

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2023/01/20/6-people-hit-by-cars-1-weekend/ 6 people hit by cars over a weekend days after Salt Lake City officials called for safer roads

Justin Scaccy

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