(BCN) — San Franciscans may soon have an opportunity to engage with city departments directly after a traffic fatality, as Supervisor Dean Preston at Tuesday’s board meeting called for public town halls to be held after a traffic death.
Preston’s proposal came out in light of the seven traffic deaths that occurred in May alone in San Francisco. It would amend the city’s Vision Zero Traffic Fatality Protocol to require a public town hall within two weeks of a fatality, similar to those held by San Francisco police after an officer-involved shooting.
San Francisco has already had 15 traffic fatalities this year, nine of which happened to pedestrians. That is the highest year-to-date count in the last five years, the same as 2019.
Preston said in a statement that residents and advocacy groups are often left out of the conversation after a traffic fatality. The city’s current Vision Zero Traffic Fatality Protocol requires the Municipal Transportation Agency to convene a rapid response call with the city’s Department of Public Health and SFPD within a week of a traffic fatality.
However, the current protocol doesn’t include any public-facing disclosures or information, except for monthly reporting of the number and location of incidents on the Vision Zero website.
“A town hall will allow us to honor victims and raise awareness to prevent further traffic fatalities,” Preston said.
San Francisco adopted Vision Zero in 2014, a road safety policy that vows to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. Although the city has embraced strategies to create safer streets, such as limiting speeds and adding high-visibility crosswalks, the number of traffic tragedies continues unabated. Nearly 30 people died in traffic collisions in each of the last three years.
According to Preston’s aide Preston Kilgore, his office often receives questions and concerns from constituents when traffic fatalities happen.
“We get constituents … wanting to know how they can help and move traffic safety projects along faster,” Kilgore said. “They want details related to how the person passed away and what happened with the accident.”
In addition to responding to community concerns, such town halls would also allow the city to present the investigations they have done and improvements they will work on in the future, which is often behind the scenes.
Kilgore said he’s unaware of any other U.S. major cities that host town halls after traffic deaths through his research.
The proposal has been endorsed by other members of the Board of Supervisors and public agencies.
“The aftermath of a fatal crash leaves many questions, including details on the circumstances of the crash and what type of street design changes could have prevented the crash,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of the advocacy group Walk San Francisco. “Town halls would be a way to create a feedback loop for the public and for reaching Vision Zero.”
The proposal will go for a hearing sometime in July. Data and an interactive fatalities map can be found at https://sfgov.org/scorecards/transportation/traffic-fatalities.
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