San Jose city officials stunned by this year’s 20 traffic fatalities pledged this week to update safety projects and enforcement measures this year and target future efforts to slow vehicle speeds and prevent accidents.
San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, Police Chief Anthony Mata, Councilmembers Maya Esparza and Dev Davis and Transportation Director, John Ristow, this week cited the alarming rise of collisions on San José streets.
“The tragedy of fatal accidents on our streets is a preventable consequence of high speeds that the city of San José is meeting with quick-build safety improvements and enforcement measures that will keep us all safe,” said Liccardo. “These projects and measures will equalize the road for everyone. However, it’s on each of us to consider and control our own behavior on the street.”
In San José over the past five years, 57% of all traffic fatalities happened during the dark hours of the day, with over 30% of those incidents caused by speeding, according to a city report. In 2021, on average, 10 to 12 collisions happened every day, amounting to nearly 345 crashes per month. 21 crashes resulted in victims who were killed or suffered serious injuries, according to city data.
The city identified dangerous intersections and corridors on 17 roadways throughout San José where over 55% of traffic fatalities and severe injuries have occurred, representing just 3% of the city’s entire road network.
The city announced this week it will focus safety improvement projects in these priority areas by spending $6 million towards lighting enhancements, new lane and crosswalk markings, bollards and soft-hit post barriers and lane width changes. Since 2012, the city converted 50,000 streetlights to LED, out of the city’s total 64,000, in partnership with PG&E. Ongoing improvement projects have recently been built or will soon be completed along White Road, Hillsdale Avenue, King Road, and Tully Road. The Senter Road project was completed in 2021.
Liccardo’s proposed city budget prioritized funding for safety improvement projects, automated speed enforcement, and the creation of a safe driver incentive app. Out of 17 priority corridors marked for quick-build safety projects, Liccardo called for deploying two, more expansive safety improvements, immediately on Senter Road and Monterey Road and two more along other high concern corridors and intersections.
The city will be using license plate reader cameras to identify speeding cars and send their owners, in the mail, notices about their speeding habits to encourage reduced speeds. The city will also put $50,000 towards piloting a phone app that would monitor participants’ driving habits and show ways to improve the safety of their driving.
“Senter Road was one of the most dangerous corridors in the City and when we, as a City, committed to improving safety on our roadways, Senter Road was on the top of the list to address,” said Esparza. “Through low-cost quick build projects implemented last year, Senter Road is much safer and traffic flows more calmly, and I am excited to fully implement the East San José Corridor Safety Improvement Project to further safety improvements for our communities along Senter Road.”
"I am alarmed that the level of traffic fatalities continues to rise in San José,” said Davis. “Just three months into 2022 we have already seen 20 fatalities, about half of whom were people just trying to cross our streets safely. This is unacceptable and we need to work together through engineering, education, enforcement, and personal accountability - to make our streets safe for all."
In 2021,the city completed several safety improvement projects, including:
- Placement of changeable digital message boards at high-crash locations;
- Deployment of traffic safety cameras, in partnership with SJPD, at the intersection of Monterey Road and Tully Road/Curtner Avenue;
- A quick-build safety improvements project along Senter Road;
- Upgrade of thousands of traffic signals to be more visible to drivers;
- Construction of low-speed frontage lanes to provide safe space for bicyclists, local traffic, and deliveries along 10th and 11th streets;
- Provide educational safety information, provide reflective vests and stickers, and install bike lights to keep unhoused residents safe in partnership with homeless service providers such as Martha’s Kitchen, Dignity on Wheels, and Life Moves.
“San José’s Department of Transportation has accelerated the way we build safety projects, invested millions of dollars in improvements, and significantly stepped up our outreach and education. But it will take all of us – whether you drive, use the sidewalk, or ride a bike – to reverse this trend. Slow down, stay alert, and give a break to your neighbors on the road,” said Ristow.
Ristow said the city is actively working on applications for grants through Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022-2023 State Budget for road safety improvement projects such as from the $100 million source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian safety projects, allocated through the Highway Safety Improvement Program, to reduce severe injuries and fatalities of vulnerable road users. Another $500 million is available for Active Transportation Program projects, which encourage walking and biking and increase the safety and mobility of road users who don’t drive.
City police assigned 30 officers to actively prevent collisions and ensure the safe flow of traffic. To address the current vacancy of 12 positions, the new city budget focuses on expanding the adequate staffing in the year ahead.
“We need to change driving behaviors and patterns and find solutions to minimize these tragic incidents that impact our communities,” said Mata. “By respecting the rules of the road and being courteous to one another we can make that change.”