A City of Surrey campaign aimed at reducing the number of traffic fatalities and injuries to zero made some serious in-roads toward that goal during its first year.
Shabnem Afzal, road safety manager and leader of the Vision Zero Surrey gave council-in-committee a review of 2019 on Monday.
Each year an average of 20 people are killed on Surrey’ roads, and 12,000 are injured. Every hour someone is injured, every month a person is killed, and crashes in Surrey combined make for a $1 million bill daily. Moreover, every year the number of injury-related collisions in Surrey is increasing by three per cent.
“Obviously this is not a good picture and that’s why we took the bold step to go towards Vision Zero,” Afzal said. “We need to reverse this trend.”
So what’s been and being done? Research, evaluation, education, and crunching crash data. Also, targeted enforcement, speed humps, traffic signals, improved street lighting, signal timing changes to give crossing pedestrians a seven-second “head start.”
Afzal said the city needs to build transportation systems “that are forgiving of human error.” Speeding is a critical element to tackle, she noted, as clearly the faster you go, the more difficult it is to stop quickly, and make rapid decisions.
Eighty per cent of Surrey’s fatal and serious-injury collisions are at intersections, and 65 per cent of collisions are happening on five per cent of local roads. “We know where we need to focus our resources in order to have the biggest impact on reducing these injury collisions.”
Afzal said distracted driving is the biggest problem. “Speeding and impaired driving are secondary.”
The program was launched in February 2019, with the help of RCMP, Fraser Health Authority, Surrey school district, ICBC and “numerous other partners.”
Since then, its organizers hosted a BC Vision Zero “summit.”
“We really wanted this to be a B.C.-wide movement, and we’ve been very successful.”
A monthly action team meets toward achieving the goal of a minimum 15 per cent reduction in fatality and injury collisions.
Nine of Surrey’s top 50 crash intersections have been redesigned with safety upgrades, Afzal noted. “It’s quite a feat to accomplish that in one year,” she said, and they’re on track to do 50 intersections within next five years.
The nine are King George Boulevard and 128 Street, 96 Avenue and 152 Street, 88 Avenue and 152 Street, 88 Avenue and 128 Street, 80 Avenue and 120 Street, 76 Avenue and King George Boulevard, 64 Avenue and King George Boulevard, 64 Avenue and Fraser Highway, and 72 Avenue and 128 Street.
“The year ahead, we’ve got further engineering improvements planned for further high-collision intersections, and we’ll be putting in things such as fully-protected left-turns because we know they are really effective in reducing serious injury collisions.”
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said, “I think it’s a tremendous achievement.” Councillor Laurie Guerra echoed that.
“I think what I’m most impressed with is that these small, simple, common-sense changes make such a huge impact, or have such huge benefits,” she said.
Other key accomplishments achieved through Vision Zero in 2019 include the installation of 33 speed humps, 11 traffic signals, 36 left-turn signals, and flashing lights at 13 crosswalks.
Also, 450 traffic sign improvements were also completed in 2019, vehicle speed data was collected at 335 sites, The Surrey RCMP, and Surrey Crime Prevention Society volunteers, contributed over 3,400 hours to road safety initiatives, more than 2,300 resident concerns were investigated and responded to, and 6,100 reflectors were distributed.
Scott Neuman, the city’s general manager of engineering, noted in a report to council that Surrey has “begun
the journey to ‘Zero’ by enhancing internal processes and using evidence-led decision making and RCMP data has identified a 23 per cent reduction in fatalities on Surrey streets from 2018 to 2019.”