The Austin Transportation Department has officially announced that any and all drivers who are accused of failing to yield in crashes that involve injuries will now have to appear in court rather than simply paying a fine.
Previously, those drivers who had been accused on failing to yield and causing bodily injury were able to simply pay a ticket either online or at the Municipal Court by visiting a ticket window located at the building.
A report from the city states that drivers cited by the Austin Police Department for failing to yield and causing bodily injury must now appear in court in order to have a prosecutor officially review their case. According to city officials, fines for failing to yield and causing bodily injury could potentially reach up to $4,000; however, this is only if the injury is found to be extremely serious.
The director of Austin Transportation had the following to say regarding the announcement:
“Failure to yield is one of the top four contributing factors in serious injury and fatal crashes in Austin. Last year, failure to yield was a contributing factor in 16% of fatal and serious injury crashes. Crashes of all types caused by failure to yield forever change the lives of the people involved, as well as their family members and friends.”
This new change is being implemented as part of the Vision Zero program, which was initially launched in 2016 and is designed to focus on impacting the behavior of drivers that can potentially lead to either serious injury or death. The overall goal of the program is to help drastically reduce the number of deaths on the streets by the year 2025.
The chief of the Austin Police Department had the following to say regarding the program:
“Someone is killed in a traffic crash in Austin every five days. We can do better. Speeding is a cause in one in four of each of these crashes. Pay attention to the posted speed limits.”
The city’s Transportation Safety Officer also had the following to say in regards to the Vision Zero program as well:
“Its goal is to reduce serious injuries and fatalities we see on our roadways to zero. We’ve seen a lot of different cities and countries take a comprehensive approach like this towards transportation safety. Nobody’s reached zero that has a comparable situation as Austin, but they’ve seen significant reductions – 50, 60% over a period of decades. Understanding that the higher the speeds, it impacts the outcome of the severity of injuries of those crashes.”
Additionally, the Austin Police Department is currently speaking with Austin Energy in order to determine ways to increase pedestrian lighting as well.
In terms of the upcoming fiscal year, there are $1.4 million and a total of four positions budgeted under the transportation department for the Vision Zero program. Additionally, there is an additional $1.4 million that has been allocated to reimburse the Austin Police Department for enforcement costs that are related to the program itself.
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