Cheaper gas may not be the only reason to keep driving.
Recent data shows traffic collisions have dropped significantly in both the city of Davis and the state of California.
The city of Davis has seen a 52 percent decrease in the number of collisions since 2003.
A citywide crash report now includes 2007 data and Roxanne Namazi, senior civil engineer for the city of Davis, said the reported decreases may have a connection to more recent driving behaviors.
“Big reductions in traffic volume and the price of gas has something to do with [fewer collisions],” Namazi said.
Davis Police Department traffic sergeant Ton Phan said there are a lot of reasons for Davis‘ decrease in accidents. One of the many reasons includes increased enforcement. Davis police increased their two motor officers up to four motor officers and also added a police sergeant who focuses specifically on traffic enforcement.
“We do more enforcement,” Phan said. “When there is a lot of enforcement there are less accidents.“
Namazi and Phan both said other factors have increased safety on the roads for autos, bikes and pedestrians. Traffic calming measures, such as putting up speed boards that display the speed limit and a car’s actual speed, are very effective, Namazi said.
“Traffic calming efforts have been really successful,” Namazi said. “Speed boards are really successful. They have received really good feedback from the community.“
Engineering efforts where Fifth Street intersects with F and G Streets have improved traffic safety. Split-phasing allows only one direction of traffic to go at a time and has made this area safer. The addition of four red light cameras at intersections in Davis has also helped with the collision decrease, Phan said.
A third component is education. In 2006, Davis kicked off its Street Smarts program, educating traffic safety to a younger age group.
“We believe that [Street Smarts] is part of why collisions have gone down,” Namazi said. “The program changes attitudes and behaviors at a young age and gets kids involved.“
Education is a major component for road safety in Davis and in California. California Highway Patrol spokeswoman Jaime Coffee said collision decreases seem to be a combination of more enforcement and education.
“[CHP] likes to think more people are going the speed limit and wearing their seatbelt,” Coffee said.
In California, 2007 saw a decrease in highway fatalities. There were 1.18 deaths per 100 million miles driven, a drop from 1.27 in 2006.
“2007 was an all-time low,” Coffee said. “Numbers are numbers, but represent lives saved in California.“
CHP will continue enforcing laws and safety on the road despite successful statistics, Coffee said.
“Until it is down to zero, our job is not done,” she said.
Similar to reports from Davis and the state, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced record low highway fatalities in a December 2008 press release. The DOT projects almost a 10 percent decrease in highway traffic deaths nationwide for 2008.
Though Davis had only one auto fatality, the crash analysis reported that Davis experienced 121 auto versus auto accidents in 2007 compared to 158 accidents in 2006. It is difficult to speculate if Davis collisions will continue to decrease, but through a combination of measures, roads can be safer, Namazi said.
“We try to be proactive and always see if any areas need anything,” she said.
SASHA LEKACH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org