How can we reduce minor traffic accidents in the neighborhood?

by Emily

Visitor Question: The craziest thing is happening around here. In the last couple of years we are having way too many fender benders in our neighborhood. So far all of the damage to vehicles has been fairly minor, and no one has been injured beyond maybe a bruise or two. But sooner or later, I fear that there will be a serious injury or that a crash may push a car up on a sidewalk where it hits a tricycle or something like that.

Most of the intersections have a clear indication of which direction is supposed to stop or yield. But we have so many cars and SUVs parked close to the intersection, overgrown bushes, wide evergreens, abandoned rental bikes, and so forth that sometimes it's hard to see. The police seem unconcerned, but my neighbor and I think this is a problem that needs to be solved before something serious happens. What can we do?

Editors Reply: Your concerns are well founded. It only takes one crash that ends up on the sidewalk just as a toddler is coming along to make for a tragic consequence of what seems like a minor irritation. I guess your police department wants to play the odds.

You mention several problems with intersection visibility. If cars are parking too close to the intersection, that is probably a violation of a traffic ordinance. See if that is the case, and if so, insist on enforcement. Find a sympathetic public official, which we can hope would be your city councilperson. If not, maybe your mayor or public works director would be more interested.

In the unlikely event there is no such ordinance, work with your council representative to get one passed.

You don't mention whether you have an active neighborhood association, but if you do, be sure to ask it to make some noise. I'm quite sure you and your neighbor are not the only ones who have noticed.

Likewise, overgrown shrubbery or trees that block visibility may be a violation of an ordinance. If so, ask for enforcement.

The bike shares and rental e-scooters are a bit more of a problem. If your city is large enough that the licenses or franchises for these businesses are valuable, maybe your city could put some pressure on the vendors to educate their customers on where to return the rented items. This will be pretty difficult to pursue though.

If you have a neighborhood association and it feels that it cannot get the attention of city hall on this matter, maybe it would be willing to start its own educational campaign in the neighborhood. A catchy slogan on some doorknob flyers, stickers given out at meetings or to the kids, or on every issue of the newsletter might heighten awareness that maybe you shouldn't park right on the corner. Maybe that rose of sharon bush you've been meaning to trim could be a killer. Maybe your evergreen trees were planted too close to the street to begin with, and now they are way out of control.

Become creative with your messaging, and we think you will get a fair degree of voluntary compliance, even if you cannot get any city hall enforcement of an ordinance.

Those are some ideas for increasing visibility at corners. Of course these do nothing to address speeding or general recklessness of drivers.

You may find that a reduction in the speed limit, or even the introduction of some speed bumps, would be helpful.

Some neighborhoods just haven't calmed down yet after the pandemic. Nearly deserted streets for several months seem to have emboldened really aggressive driving. And for that, we have no remedy.


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