The Road to Zero

Last year, 102 people died on Austin’s roads, the highest number the city's ever recorded. No one has a clear answer as to why there was such a sharp uptick, but the city is working on finding ways to address the deadliest contributing factors.

Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

Last year, 102 people died on Austin’s roads. All this week, we’ve been looking at the plan in our series – the Road to Zero.

While we’ve heard the stories of victims and loved ones, we haven’t heard from those who respond to these deaths – in the minutes and days after. KUT’s Audrey McGlinchy spoke with three members of the Austin Police Department about their work and the toll it takes.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

This week, the Vision Zero draft plan moved through the city council’s Mobility Committee this week. The committee voted 3 to 1 to send it to the full council for final vote. If approved, it’s up to the Vision Zero task force and various city departments to make sure the recommendations become a reality. Not everyone is confident the lead department, Austin Transportation, can handle that responsibility.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

Francis Reilly is unique for an Austinite: he doesn’t have a car. He mostly rides his bike, but these days he mostly depends on the bus. To explain why, he met me at intersection of Wallis and Rollingwood Drives in Austin's Rollingwood neighborhood west of MoPac. 

“This is where I was hit by a landscaping truck about two years ago," Reilly says, as cars whiz by us. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./ KUT News

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zerowhich explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

Traffic fatalities are down nationwide, but new research shows those declines are mostly among highly educated people. If you have less than a high school diploma, the rate of death in a car crash has actually increased.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zerowhich explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

She had already started cooking the eggs and bacon.

Deborah Tatum, 49, was reaching for a can of biscuits when she learned her son was dead. Her daughter rushed into the kitchen, telling her a police officer was on the phone.


KUT

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

High speeds are one of the biggest killers on our roadways. As city officials tackle an uptick in traffic fatalities here in Austin, speed limits come up a lot.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Over the next few months, the Austin Police Department plans to step up enforcement of the city’s hands-free driving law, which prohibits talking or typing on a phone or other handheld electronic device while driving, without the use of a hands-free device.

To do this, police are using unexpected vehicles: Capital Metro buses.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

On January 13, 2015 at about 9:30 at night, 23 year old James Robison was driving his motorcycle on Riverside Drive toward downtown.

On the other side of the road, the driver of a Ford Focus had just gotten to Austin from Killeen. He and his passenger had come down to help a friend shoot a music video. They had put their friend’s address into a GPS app on his phone.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

Robert Lormond is standing on the corner of Ben White and Manchaca watching his friend, Jerry. Two police officers have stopped him.

“I called him across the street. I didn’t see a police officer and he jaywalked," Lormond says.

There are crosswalks on three of the four sides of this intersection, but Jerry cut across the road—the one side without a crosswalk and that's illegal.

Courtesy of Adrienne White

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zerowhich explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

When Adrienne White arrived home on Mar. 5, 2016, she found a note on her door from an Austin police officer that made her panic. 


Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

The city of Austin’s Vision Zero plan is heading to the full city council for final approval next week with the blessing of the city’s Mobility Committee, which voted to send the plan to the full council Monday.

Francis Reilly of the city’s planning department told the Mobility Committee that traffic deaths are a public health problem, like smoking or seat belt use.


Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

This is the first story in our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

One hundred and two people died on Austin’s roads in 2015 - the most ever recorded. More than 20 have met a similar fate so far this year. Nearly every death involved a car. Yet, in a city where 93 percent of households own a car, Francis Reilly does not. Reilly works in the city's planning office.