Senate Transportation Committee: Subcommittee Studying Pedestrian Safety
June 18, 2001, Richmond
Following these remarks, the subcommittee was briefed on techniques for improving pedestrian safety by a senior transportation engineer with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. He said there are basically four ways to improve pedestrian safety: better transportation planning, better traffic engineering, better transportation facility operation, and better traffic law enforcement. Specifically, he recommended:
The engineer also endorsed use of "photo enforcement" of speed limits and expanded use of "photo red" enforcement of traffic light signals. Appropriate use of these techniques, he felt, is "as close as we can come to a vaccine'" against pedestrian deaths and injuries.
A planner with the Arlington County Department of Public Works, told the subcommittee about Arlington's "4E program" for pedestrian safety, emphasizing engineering, education, enforcement, and encouragement. He also pointed out that the county was particularly focusing on safety of school-age pedestrians through its Safe Routes to School Program. This program, he explained, had the twin goals of getting more children to walk to school (to save parents time, promote cleaner air through reductions in automobile use, and promote healthful exercise) and providing sidewalks, pedestrian trails, and other facilities that provided for separation of pedestrians from highway traffic. Senator Whipple wondered whether it might be possible to set aside a portion of highway construction funds for local pedestrian programs such as Safe Routes to School in localities across Virginia.
The chairman of the Arlington County Transportation Commission and a member of the County's Pedestrian Advisory Committee asked to address the subcommittee, not as an expert, but as the parent of young children. He suggested that the fact that 40 percent of traffic fatalities in Arlington are pedestrians should be sufficient evidence of the need to target specific highway construction resources to projects aimed at improving pedestrian safety. Specifically, he urged the elimination of vehicle turning lanes at highway intersections. Traffic engineers know what needs to be done, he concluded, what is needed is the money with which to do it.
Following these three presentations, representatives of other groups and agencies with an interest in the general issue of pedestrian safety made brief statements:
The meeting concluded with a brief discussion about what the subcommittee might include in its agendas for future meetings. The items mentioned included a review of relevant developments in other states; further consideration of ways to reduce illegal passing of stopped school buses; additional information on VDOT's various "traffic calming" techniques; ways to facilitate use of highway construction money for pedestrian safety, particularly the construction of sidewalks; the desirability of clarifying Virginia's pedestrian laws without making substantive changes; providing for the placement of "yield to pedestrian" highway signs at unmarked crosswalks; and a briefing on DMV's pedestrian project for Northern Virginia.