Phoenix road safety plan paves new avenues of safety for motorists
By Alexia Mancia | Special to the Digital Free Press
It was a rainy Phoenix day when John Garcia says he saw his life flash before his eyes when he was run off the road by a distracted driver. Turns out, this was the second similar accident he would endure.
The number of traffic fatalities and crashes resulting in injury has increased over the years which has led Phoenix leaders to assemble a road safety plan, which prioritizes safe driving habits for all Phoenix roadway users.
“I have been involved in both motorcycle and car accidents,” said Mr. Garcia, who hails from Casa Grande. “Every time was due to a distracted driver.”
The city of Phoenix created an extensive plan, officials there say, which will further municipal efforts to provide safety improvements for those who call Phoenix home.
The plan will determine areas most impacted by collisions and implement resources to help reduce the number of car crashes. The plan aims to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Phoenix to zero by 2050.
According to High Injury Network, a map that highlights streets with high rates of deadly and injurious collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists, over the years 2016-’20, 5,473 motor vehicle crashes resulted in severe injury or death.
The state of road safety leaves many risks for Phoenix roadways users, motorists interviewed opine. Accidents can occur for many reasons, from lack of visibility to unsafe road designs or other drivers’ lack of caution, they say.
“The first time I was T-boned on my motorcycle by a young lady that was on her phone,” said Mr. Garcia. “The second time I was run off the road by a driver being distracted in the rain,” he added. “In the past 12 years of me riding, the accidents that I have witnessed or knew of, 90% of them involved a biker riding within the parameters of the law and being hit by a distracted driver, the other 5% were reckless bikers being overly dangerous and 5% being pure accidents.”
A view from Phoenix streets
Phoenix officials offer for the road safety plan to work, it has to be a community effort.
One Phoenix resident agrees.
“Everyone should practice road safety habits and always be cautious,” said Phoenix resident Efren Ontiveros.
Sharing the road with other drivers is not always easy for motorcyclists. Especially when drivers lack motorcyclist awareness.
Gilbert Garay, a Phoenix resident motorcyclist, said, “Drivers do not pay attention to riders, they are distracted with cell phones … I’ve had a lot of close calls,” he added, “Very little drivers are cautious … only the few that ride or know people that ride pay attention.”
Education is a major part of the plan, Phoenix city officials say. Promoting safe roadway user behavior is not only for people driving but for those riding transit, walking and bicycling.
“While riding it is always a constant challenge to understand what those around you will do next,” said Mr. Garcia. “You have to be sure that they see you and hear you.”
“When I see a distracted driver, on their phone, for example, I speed up past them to ensure I am no longer at risk of them hitting me or causing an accident that I could find myself becoming involved in,” Mr. Garcia added.
Community engagement is the key component of an actionable plan, city officials say. The input of those traveling Phoenix roadways is necessary to make city streets safer for everyone.
“I think that the investment in infrastructure is very much needed. More signs, lanes, lights, etc., is something that the city needs, and being able to have road hazards repaired, which at times take months, if not longer, to repair potholes, sand in roadways, missing signs, etc. I think that concentrating on these types of repairs will increase road safety altogether,” Mr. Garcia said.
Editor’s note: Ms. Mancia is a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.