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Pedestrian Safety Task Force to release report

After months of investigation, the Mayor’s Task Force on Pedestrian Safety is set to release its final report on Friday. In the report, the task force recommends the city of Columbia should adopt a “Vision Zero” policy.

The report states that “Vision Zero influences road design, enforcement, and culture to bring about a marked reduction in crashes that lead to death and serious injury.”

Cities that have already adopted a “Vision Zero” policy include New York, Washington D.C. and Denver.

A dramatic rise in pedestrian deaths over the past couple years prompted Mayor Bob McDavid to form the pedestrian task force.

“All of the bad crashes have happened on high speed, high volume roads — going through areas that are building up,” said Ian Thomas, council member for the Fourth Ward and task force co-chair.

The report details education, engineering and enforcement recommendations.

The enforcement recommendations include reducing the posted speed limits on certain roads. The report cited studies that show pedestrian deaths double as the speed limit goes up from 20 to 30 mph.

Another enforcement recommendation is a city ordinance to ban all cellphone use while driving, meaning drivers couldn’t text or talk while behind the wheel in city limits. The task force said the ordinance would have a substantial positive impact on pedestrian safety. Currently, state law prohibits any driver under the age of 21 from texting while driving.

Thomas said pedestrian safety policy should also include education.

“Also educating both pedestrians and motorists about safe behavior such as not texting while driving and paying attention when you’re a pedestrian and you’re crossing the street,” said Thomas.

The report recommends “developing a comprehensive traffic safety education and communication campaign.”

The task force also recommends the City Council adopt a “One Percent for Safety Education” policy, which means that 1 percent of funding spent on road projects goes toward traffic safety education.

All the recommendations made by the pedestrian safety task force, such as an ordinance to ban cellphones while driving, would have to be approved by the City Council.

The task force will deliver the final report to the council on Monday.

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