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Bicycle Coalition

The Police Department recently took two important steps this fall to promote Vision Zero. These steps address two out of five asks made by Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia in its Serving Justice report issued in February 2019.

First: the PPD’s Police Foundation approved a grant for the Accident Investigative Division to purchase a Crash Data Retrieval System software/hardware to read “event data recorders” (black boxes) of motor vehicles involved in crashes.

Inexplicably, up to now, the Police Department’s unit in charge of investigating traffic crashes has not had this important tool.

Bicycle Coalition

In its ongoing meetings with the PPD and the DA’s office, this crash data retrieval system was a big and important ask from Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia. This tool will allow the PPD and DA’s office better evidence of how a crash occurred during their investigation, and could provide valuable data to engineers and planners when redesigning streets as part of Vision Zero projects. FSSGP considers this a big win.

Bicycle Coalition

Families for Safe Streets members meet with the Philadelphia Police Department

Second: the PPD is now maintaining a publicly transparent Fatal Crash database of crash fatalities and status of AID’s investigation. This database, on OpenDataPHL, is an important advancement that 1) documents traffic crash fatalities and victims in a real time fashion by AID and 2) provides information on the AID’s decision about whether to charge, not charge, give a citation or if the case is continuing to be investigated.  Note: This data is preliminary and is not expected to match or be used interchangeably with PennDOT crash data.

The PPD maintaining a public database was another FSSGP ask, and something we discussed at numerous meetings with the Accident Investigation Division. We believe it is important for all Philadelphians to have access to the the results of the worst kinds of traffic violence happening on their streets, daily. That’s why we started PHLtrafficvictims.org in the first place.

The newly available Fatal Crash database reveals that thus far in 2019, there have been 67 traffic fatalities that AID has investigated or are under investigation.  The takeaways from reviewing the information include:

  1. There have been 2 bicyclists killed so far; one in July and one in September.
  2. Three dirt bike operators have been killed
  3. Two pedestrians were killed by trains
  4. Of 24 bicyclists and pedestrians killed so far, 14 cases are pending and one driver has been charged.  In eight cases, no charges are being filed.
  5. Of 67 fatalities, 46% of the cases have resulted in no charges, 15% have resulted and charges and 34% of cases are pending.

Thirdly, as stated in the Vision Zero Year Two Update released on October 1st, additional training to improve communication with victim’s families and loved ones has been provided to all officers investigating traffic crashes.

We want to thank the Police Department’s Captain Overwise, Deputy Commissioner Dennis Wilson and Managing Director Brian Abernathy for being responsive to these requests from Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia.

 

Sarah Clark Stuart

Author

Sarah’s foray into trail and bicycle advocacy began in 2004 when she became involved in the “Free Schuylkill River Park” campaign to preserve public access to the Schuylkill River Trail in Center City, now known as Schuylkill Banks. Since joining the Bicycle Coalition in 2006, she has been a key player in the Bicycle Coalition’s key accomplishments: the $23 million TIGER trail-building grant; naming and building out the Circuit; lobbying successfully for legislation mandating the inclusion of bike parking in new construction projects; Philadelphia’s Complete Streets policy; and coordinating research and analysis of several reports on bicycling in Philadelphia.

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