APD initiates new safety strategy to lower pedestrian fatalities


Julia Bunch

A woman illegally crosses Guadalupe Street at the 34th Street intersection Friday afternoon. Pedestrian deaths make up about 50 percent of all traffic fatalities in Austin.

Alex Niver Raisch

An increase in pedestrian-involved automobile fatalities has produced a new “three-pronged” strategy by the Austin Police Department to prevent these incidents by using education, engineering and enforcement.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo addressed alarming new statistics of pedestrian-involved automobile fatalities this year on Wednesday and outlined new initiatives he hopes will counteract these numbers. Pedestrians involved in these fatalities have increased nearly 29 percent during the past 12 months. Nineteen of the 40 fatalities involved pedestrians, and over 30 percent of them took place along I-35 Highway and its frontage roads.

Ely Reyes, an APD lieutenant, said APD will apply the new three-pronged strategy in the upcoming months. These initiatives are part of APD’s Pedestrian Enforcement Safety Team, which was founded October 2011. The main goal of this program is to protect pedestrians by focusing on pedestrian-related automobile accidents.

“We are doing media interviews and handing out information on flyers explaining the laws related to pedestrians and vehicles in relation to pedestrians,” Reyes said.

APD is also handing out more tickets for violations in certain areas. The APD is utilizing Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety, a program that uses crime data and data analysis to pinpoint prime locations. Locations are also based on auto-pedestrian crash history and complaints from citizens, he said.

Reyes also said the third part of the strategy involved the roads themselves.

“We are also working with City of Austin Transportation and TXDOT to implement engineering changes to help reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities,” he said.

Another strategy now in effect is “Operation Summer Sundays,” which was implemented June 24 and will be in place until Sept. 1. It targets the most dangerous day of the week for these fatalities, Sunday night, by increasing enforcement from 6 p.m. Sunday night to 6 a.m. Monday morning.