Known for its rich history and cobblestone streets, Boston has earned the nickname "The Walking City" and rightfully so. Bustling public transport systems sprawl across the city, and crosswalks are often full of commuters, tourists and residents. But in recent years, the state capitol has proven to be a danger for pedestrians, and legislation is moving to change that by lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour.
Pedestrian accidents are serious business, with the Governors Highway Safety Association reporting that, nationally, 2,368 people on foot were killed in traffic in the first 6 months of 2016. While the reduction of five miles per hour seems rather miniscule, the risk of a pedestrian sustaining a fatal injury by a vehicle decreases from 20% with the limit set at 30mph down to 12% when vehicles are traveling at 25mph. To give the law more teeth, the city plans to institute fines that tack on ten dollars per mile per hour overage in addition to the regular cost of a speeding ticket. The violation will also be reflected on the drivers' license.
State roads remain unaffected by the change, as do any roads that have a sign posted enforcing a different speed limit. The mayor's goal is to focus on Boston, identify the causes and main areas in which pedestrian fatalities are the highest, and wipe out the death toll entirely by 2030. A task force named Vision Zero, backed by the Boston EMS, Police, and the City of Boston itself, seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities.
Roughly 1279 people required EMS due to a pedestrian or cyclist crash in 2014, and 73% of those pedestrians were injured from simply crossing the street. While specific high-traffic and high-crash areas are targeted as a priority, the government is also analyzing pedestrian fatalities and attempting to identify other causes for these tragedies - 74% of them happened at non-intersection locations.
The Goals of the Vision Zero Project:
Taking initiative on the front against speeding and negligent driving, the Vision Zero project is a multi-tasking enterprise aimed at curbing and eventually eliminating pedestrian fatalities. They aren't just limited to addressing the speed limit; they acknowledge that negligent driving in Boston has more than one cause and aim to hold drivers accountable for their actions.
Along with reducing speed limits, Vision Zero wants to:
- Build safer streets, including installing cameras and modifying streetscapes to be more pedestrian friendly.
- Reduce distracted driving, initiating education on the harsh facts of habits that can lead to crashes and worse.
- Engage citizens in a city-wide conversation about speeding and how the lowered speed limit can reduce fatalities
- Emphasize the goal of eliminating pedestrian fatalities by 2030.
While it is refreshing to see a major US city take initiative against dangerous driving, Boston has a long road ahead of itself. Speeding and distracted driving are two of the leading causes of crashes in the US, with pedestrians being the most vulnerable group out of them. For walkers in the city, every crosswalk is a danger zone. To keep pedestrian and motor vehicle fatalities on the decline, every Boston driver has to make a commitment to the efforts the city is trying to make to ensure the roads are safe for everyone traveling them - and those who don't need to be held accountable for the injuries they cause.