A recent study by WalletHub.com ranked Seattle among the 10 worst cities in the United States for drivers. To make the city safer for all road users, the Seattle City Council has proposed a plan to reduce downtown speed limits to 25 miles per hour by November.
Proposed Speed Limits Part of “Vision Zero”
These reduced speeds, like those facing Seattle drivers, are part of the “Vision Zero” movement, which hopes to completely eliminate traffic fatalities by 2030.
While the proposal focuses on downtown Seattle, other areas like Uptown, South Lake Union, Chinatown, First Hill, and Capitol Hill would also be facing the 25 mph limit.
Limits in residential areas around town could drop even further, from 25 mph down to just 20 mph.
The city plans to implement these changes between 2016 and 2020.
How will this help keep Seattle residents safe?
A recent article in The Seattle Times put the reasoning behind the city council’s decision into plain view: “Overwhelming evidence confirms lower vehicle speeds make it far less likely that a pedestrian will die or suffer severe injuries in a crash.”
New York, after implementing lower speed limits in 2015, saw the lowest amount of pedestrian deaths on record (134 that year), according to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.
In addition to helping keep pedestrians safe, the new speed limits will also help lessen the severity of a car crash.
It is a well-known fact that higher speeds lead to greater impacts and worse injuries. While severe injuries can happen in lower-speed collisions, a lower speed limit would help to diminish the probability of serious injuries.
While saving lives should be reason enough to get the community to abide by the reduced speed limits all over the city, it may be more difficult than the City Council had hoped.
Why Seattle Could Have Difficulties Implementing New 25 MPH Limits
While the city plans to post signs of the upcoming change in speed limit, the sad fact is that speed limit signs are not always effective in changing drivers’ actions, especially when those drivers have become accustomed to certain speed limits.
Enforcing these new limits will be especially hard since Seattle’s 60-officer traffic enforcement unit is just not large enough for the city.
So, unfortunately, it could take some time for the city to be able to truly implement the limits.
Even if they do, there is not a 100 percent certainty that the change will save lives. While the statistics from New York City show promise, some believe that the city is just wasting resources and money.
Mark Jacobs, a traffic engineer and consultant in the Seattle area, said that the bigger concern is from drunk, distracted, and reckless drivers.
Even if it does not make a huge impact, it will be helpful in keeping Seattle roads safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.