Guest article: Want safer streets? Ask for them

Guest article: Want safer streets? Ask for them


Memorial for 10-year-old boy who was struck and killed by someone driving on East Burnside at 162nd in Gresham yesterday.
(Photo: Cory Poole)

This essay was written by Portland resident Tony Jordan. He wrote it before yesterday’s tragic crash on East Burnside that resulted in the death of a 10-year-old boy.

Traffic violence is a big problem. More than 30,000 people die every year on American roadways with many many more injured or maimed. The cost of this carnage is tremendous, nearly a trillion dollars a year in social economic harms.

So what do we do about it?

Several cities have adopted Vision Zero policies but progress is slow and people are still being killed in NYC, Portland, San Francisco, and pretty much everywhere else.

Advocates are organizing and lobbying for safer streets, separated bikeways, slower speed limits, more enforcement, and more education. We’re getting better at asking our government for solutions.

But maybe we’re asking the wrong people and, perhaps, the wrong questions. I think we need to be more introspective. Who is driving these cars when they collide with people and ruin lives? We are driving. Our friends are driving. Our co-workers and family members are driving.

We need to ask ourselves and our loved ones these questions. We need to answer them honestly and think deeply about the answers.

Ask yourself…

– Am I committed to minimizing traffic violence?
– Do I ever drive when I’m sleepy?
– Do I ever drive when I’ve had a few drinks?
– Do I ever use my smart phone while I’m driving?
– Do I ever drive when I’m on medications or drugs that could make me drowsy, cloud my judgement, or slow my reactions?
– Do I keep driving when the sun is in my eyes and I cant see?
– Do I have poor night vision, but I still drive at night?

If you find yourself answering yes, then ask yourself why? Is it worth the risk to others? Is it worth the risk to yourself?

Ask your family and friends…
– How are you getting home tonight?
– Should you get a second drink? Aren’t you driving?
– Could you put your phone down while you’re driving?
– Are you driving at or below the speed limit?
– When was the last time you drove drunk?
– When was the last time you drove distracted?

It’s a bit awkward, but it shouldn’t be awkward for the person asking the questions. It should be awkward for the person not taking their responsibilities seriously.

We all need to step up, push ourselves, and ask these questions. Maybe you’re not an activist, maybe you aren’t attending rallies or writing letters asking officials to do something. But you can ask yourself and the people you know these questions and you can save lives too.

— Tony Jordan, @twjpdx

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