Sunday, September 02, 2018

San Francisco needs a Collision Investigation Squad

Jonah Markowitz: The NY Times

I read the NY Times, but I had never heard of New York City's Collision Investigation Squad that's featured in a story in today's edition (The Silence That Falls After a Hit-and-Run).

Here in San Francisco, Mayor Bloomberg's Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, was praised extravagantly by "star-struck" Ed Reiskin and Leah Shahum after Sadik-Khan spoke five years ago at a Bicycle Coalition function in the city. 

Sadik-Khan was lauded for expanding a system of bike lanes in New York City, but oddly neither Reiskin nor Shahum has ever mentioned the idea of a Collision Investigation Squad for San Francisco (like you never hear any city official talking about that 2012 UC study on cycling accidents in the city. Makes you wonder how serious the city is about safety on city streets.)

That special investigation squad puts a name on what I've been advocating for years for San Francisco: the city should do an in-depth investigation of every injury accident that happens on city streets.

Which is what New York's Collision Investigation Squad was designed to do:

Crash investigations provide invaluable information for the city Department of Transportation, helping identify roadways in need of redesign or other safety measures, officials said. The Collision Investigation Squad’s forensic work provides evidence for prosecuting drivers; when the squad does not investigate, local district attorneys rarely bring a case. And the Police Department uses the findings to identify locations that merit increased traffic enforcement. “It’s crucial information about what happens at particular crashes,” said Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner. “Were there roadway engineering elements? Were there driver behavior elements? Are we seeing patterns?”

Exactly! The city does some of this in its annual Collisions Report (pages 15-24) when it examines problem intersections. 

But why not do that for every injury accident with a team specially trained for the job?

One major obstacle is the advantage that not doing that gives the SFMTA and Public Works. Without doing that analysis, they can now simply lump all accidents under the "collisions" term required by the Vision Zero campaign.

They can then pretend that every injury accident and traffic fatality on city streets requires another job-creating "improvement" project of questionable safety value. Then they brag about all the safety "improvements" they're making by listing those projects.

It also allows city officials to demagogue shamelessly about tragic accidents that have nothing to do with street design: see Masonic Avenue and the Nils Linke lie.

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At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

Oh Rob, you know as well as I do that there's no need for investigations, data and pattern-discovery when you have religious faith. Our City Hall KNOWS exactly where the "high-injury corridors are" and they are certain that every collision is "preventable" through street re-design. As the Holy Koran reminds us, there is no additional divine wisdom forthcoming. New York is wasting its time.

Besides, they are so understaffed at the SFMTA that they couldn't possibly find personnel to staff an accident investigation team!


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