New push to make neighborhood streets in Texas slower, safer
There is a new push to make neighborhood streets safer in Texas. Vision Zero Texas is working with lawmakers to bring the "default" speed limit on residential streets down from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.
The Austin-based group also wants the state to allow cities to use even lower speed limits when necessary. Right now, the city must meet cumbersome requirements to reduce speeds to 25 mph. The city can only reduce speeds to 20 mph in designated areas like near school or playgrounds.
Representative Celia Israel, D-Austin is drafting a bill that would address those two issues, giving municipalities more control.
Jay Blazek-Crossley with Vision Zero Texas is hopeful the bill will have bipartisan support. "Every 1 mile reduction in average speed on a street, you get a 5 percent reduction in crashes," said Blazek-Crossley.
Blazek-Crossley said the only minor pushback is from drivers who are concerned that lower speed limits would make them late.
Kathy Sokolic hopes her family's tragic story will help change some of those opinions. Sokolic's nephew, Ben, nearly died after being stuck by a truck driving 30 miles per hour in September of 2016. Ben suffered broken bones, a bruised heart and lungs and a severe brain injury, requiring constant care. "He struggles a lot, doesn't speak, doesn't eat, doesn't move much," said Sokolic. "Dealing with my nephew is really a living nightmare for my family, and no one else should have to go through this. It's terrible."
There is also an effort to change the way neighborhood streets are designed. According to Blazek-Crossley, wide streets encourage faster driving. Adding sidewalks or changing the design of a street can help to slow drivers down. "Kids aren't allowed to roam and be kids because the whole transportation network around the house is too dangerous for them, and parents are scared," said Blazek-Crossley.
A similar bill had bipartisan support and passed in the Senate Transportation Committee in 2017, however it did not get a full vote on the House or Senate floor.