How can Atlanta eliminate traffic deaths? Other U.S. cities that have adopted Vision Zero policies -- with the aim to eliminate traffic fatalities -- have taken the initial step of identifying where the majority of severe injury and fatal crashes occur on city streets, known as a “High-Injury Network”.
From 2014 to 2016, 75 people died and 872 were severely injured in collisions on Atlanta’s streets. These were crashes involving people in all modes of transportation.
Using data from the Georgia Electronic Accident Report System (GEARS), I identified the streets that account for the majority of severe injuries and fatalities to create a High-Injury Network for Atlanta (Click here for the Executive Summary).
Its purpose is to illustrate where to target future infrastructure investments to make the identified streets safer for all users.
- Less than 8% of Atlanta’s streets accounted for 88% of fatalities and 52% of severe injuries.
- Just 10 streets accounted for 1/3 of traffic fatalities and 1/5 severe injuries.
Atlanta's 10 Highest-Injury Streets
|Number||Street Name||# of Severe Injuries||# of Fatalities|
|1||Moreland Ave. SE||24||4|
|2||Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SW||24||2|
|3||Cascade Rd. SW||23||2|
|4||Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW||20||3|
|5||Hollowell Parkway NW||19||4|
|6||Campbellton Rd. SW||19||2|
|7||10th St. NW||19||0|
|8||Lee St. SW||15||1|
|9||Joseph E Boone Blvd. NW||14||2|
|10||Metropolitan Parkway SW||8||5|
High-Injury Network streets are not evenly distributed across the city. In fact, roughly two-thirds of the network is located west of Northside Drive or south of I-20.
A large portion of the network is concentrated in city council districts 3, 4, and 12, constituting 13%, 14%, and 16% of the entire network. This is respectively a swath of the city’s near west side, from Knight Park, Georgia Tech, and the Atlanta University Center to West End, Adair Park, and Oakland City.
The highest share of the High Injury Network are in NPUs E (12% of the entire network), M (8%), and B (8%) covering sections of the city that roughly follow Peachtree Street north from downtown, through Midtown to Peachtree Hills and North Buckhead.
On the whole, neighborhoods with High-Injury Network streets had lower median incomes, a larger share of Black residents, higher rates of walking and taking transit to work, and lower rates of vehicle ownership.
Atlanta’s recently adopted transportation plan shows that these same neighborhoods also have some of the lowest sidewalk coverage in the city. Less than 1 mile of the High-Injury Network is located in neighborhoods whose median income is in the top 20% of Atlanta neighborhoods. Two-thirds of the entire network, or approximately 80 miles, is located in neighborhoods whose median income is in the bottom 40% of Atlanta neighborhoods.
A guiding principle of Vision Zero is that traffic fatalities are preventable.
New York City became the first U.S. city to adopt a Vision Zero policy in 2012. Since then, traffic fatalities have declined, and last year the city recorded the lowest number of pedestrian fatalities since 1910.
Unfortunately, the same is not true in the rest of the country, including Georgia, where traffic fatalities have increased since 2011.
Research shows that slower vehicle speeds sharply reduce the likelihood of fatality in the event of a collision. Engineering solutions like reducing vehicle lanes and complete street conversions along with enforcement solutions like installing red light cameras and lowering speed limits have all been shown to reduce vehicle speeds.
To make Atlanta’s streets safer, we know what to do and where to do it, the question is whether city leaders have the will.
John Saxton is a member of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. He is a recent graduate of the Georgia Tech School of City and Regional Planning.