Columbia looks to limit traffic deaths through "Vision Zero" policy
COLUMBIA – The city of Columbia is looking to take new steps to save lives. The "Vision Zero" project looks to eliminate traffic fatalities by the year 2030 in Columbia.
"No loss of life is acceptable. It's preventable, so therefore, it's unacceptable," said "Vision Zero" project manager and Assistant to the City Manager Heather Cole.
"Vision Zero" involves three main components: education, enforcement and engineering. The city hopes to come up with ways to better educate drivers, have better enforcement of current laws and create new laws and new road safety features to minimize collisions and fatalities.
The City Manager's office is currently forming an action plan to present to the Columbia City Council in May. In the hunt for solutions, the office reached out to Columbia residents at three meetings in late February and March, with a different component emphasized at each meeting. The final meeting will be Monday on the topic of engineering.
People at the meetings worked together to brainstorm and provide Cole's team with ideas. At the Mar. 8 meeting on enforcement, people recommended solutions involving cell phone usage laws, speed limit reductions and the need for the Columbia Police to enforce the laws more strictly.
Cole said her team is also looking at targeted advertisement campaigns, as well as greater education for new drivers. She said one of the suggestions from the Feb. 28 meeting on education was that a Columbia Public Schools offering driver's education course to students. The completion of a driver's ed course is not currently a driver's license requirement in Missouri.
At the March 6 Columbia City Council meeting, the council approved a memorandum of understanding with the PEDNET Coalition, a group that advocates for the safety of non-automobile traffic, to pursue "Vision Zero" through 2019. The PEDNET Coalition will fund the project in 2017 with a $25,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health.
"This little bit of money helps relieve some of the strain of financial strain that city may be having, and will allow them to give their staff the time to focus in on 'Vision Zero,'" PEDNET Coalition Assistant Director Lawrence Simonson said.
The next two years are expected to cost the city $20,000 annually, according to Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala. He said the money for the program will come from the budget process.
The council voted to adopt "Vision Zero" at the Dec. 19, 2016, meeting, making Columbia the 22nd "Vision Zero" city in the U.S. and the first in Missouri.
"Public safety is paramount when it comes to local governance. I think it's one of the most important things that we can do," Skala said
"Vision Zero" started in Sweden in 1997 and greatly reduced traffic collisions and fatalities since its inception. Because of its success, New York City became the first U.S. city to adopt the policy in 2014. According to the city's website, it had the fewest fatalities in its history in 2016.