Lined up in a half circle outside City Hall on Nov. 19, the more than 60 pairs of shoes represented the lives lost on Austin roads this year. Local leaders and transportation safety advocates joined with the family members of those lost for Vision Zero ATX's third annual Day of Remembrance Vigil – to call for a regional approach to address the dangerous state of Central Texas roads. Austin Police Chaplain Rick Randall, who lost his son in a pedestrian accident more than a decade ago, delivered the opening prayer: "Our prayer tonight, God, is that not one other person would have to be part of this fraternity."
Harnessing the community's collective grief proved a major theme of the event, which is tied to Vision Zero Network's World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Austin has lost 63 people in crashes this year – not far off of last year's total of 77. Nationally, Vision Zero Network organizers estimate that 40,000 people lose their lives each year in road deaths across the country. Thousands more will struggle to recover from devastating injuries; more than 400 Austinites suffered injuries in traffic crashes last year.
This month has been particularly devastating when it comes to traffic fatalities. On Nov. 11, a crash in North Austin ripped apart the Latulippe family, who were visiting Austin from the West Coast. Nancy and her 14-year-old son Jackson died on the scene, while husband Scott died from his injuries less than a week later. They leave behind daughter Kiera, who is 10 years old. (The other driver, Guy Brasted, faces two counts of intoxication manslaughter.) At least four others have died this month from auto accidents. They represent just some of the recent additions to a community that desperately wants to keep new members from being added.
Mayor Steve Adler addressed the assembled, highlighting groups like Vision Zero, Bike Austin, Walk Austin, and Families for Safe Streets Central Texas. "Remembering brings us forward to action, because remembering is not enough," he said. "If we want to do honor and tribute to those that we remember, then we have to turn it into action." Families for Safe Streets Central Texas, a subgroup of Bike Austin, is comprised of families in the greater metro area who have lost loved ones to traffic violence and unsafe road conditions. They, along with Vision Zero's local and state organizations, hope to push the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization into taking the reins of a regional effort to address the issue. "Adopting a Regional Vision Zero Plan means life or death for many Texans and without a regional plan, we lack a shared agreement to combat our highest transportation priority of putting an end to traffic deaths," said Carson Chavana, Bike Austin's organizing director. "This is a powerful way we can communicate to our community our collective determination to ending all traffic fatalities."
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