By Michael Howell
The Hamilton City Council, at its May 17 meeting, agreed to adopt the Hamilton Community Transportation Safety Plan (CTSP). The plan is the result of a $40,000 project funded by the Montana Department of Transportation which contracted with Camp Dresser and McKee to prepare it.
“Transportation safety is much more than fixing a road or writing more citations,” it states in the plan’s executive summary, it “has to be a multi-faceted, coordinated effort that includes education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical services in order to be most effective.”
The planning process was focused on data analysis and community input, with regard to identifying safety goals, reviewing and analyzing crash data and reports, identifying problem areas and concerns, and choosing areas of emphasis and strategies for action. Besides the city administration and department heads, representatives of the Police Department, the fire and school districts, the Montana Department of Transportation, and the Highway Patrol participated in the process.
Based on crash data, “the trends include high incidents of older and younger driver crashes, high incidences of inattentive and careless driving and multi-vehicle crashes.” The analysis resulted in identifying emphasis areas that included identifying vulnerable users, user behavior and problem locations.
Vulnerable users of the city’s transportation grid identified for emphasis included older drivers, younger drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. User behavior that was identified included alcohol and drug impaired driving, use of safety devices such as seat belts, and the problem of distracted driving. Problem locations, the plan states, were well identified in the city’s Transportation Plan and are scheduled to be addressed under that plan.
For each of these emphasis areas a “champion” was identified to lead “a team of stakeholders” in implementing strategies and tracking progress to achieve the overall goals of the plan. Special projects manager Dennis Stranger, Hamilton Community Development and Planning Department, was chosen to champion the emphasis on vulnerable users. Hamilton Police Chief Ryan Oster was chosen to champion the user behavior issues, and the issue of problem locations was placed in the lap of Keith Smith, Director of the Hamilton Public works Department.
“An implementation plan has been developed,” it states in the plan, “for each emphasis area that includes potential action steps for implementation, the stakeholder groups needed for successful implementation, the resources needed to implement the strategies, timelines and performance measure to determine success.”
Some interesting data that the safety plan relies on is illustrated in graphs throughout the document.
Figure 1 shows the “Drivers by Age” of crashes recorded during the five-year period of 2005 to 2009. It shows that Hamilton has a significantly higher percentage of people over the age of 65 being involved in car crashes in the city than in the county or in comparable communities. It also shows that Hamilton is right up there with the county and other comparable communities with a spike in 15- to 19-year-olds being involved in car crashes, especially in summer. As a result, educational programs may be clearly aimed at these two age groups in the city.
Figure 4: Contributing circumstances involving the driver shows that inattentive driving, careless driving and failure to yield right of way, in that order, are the major contributing factors in car crashes in the city, followed by tailgating and improper backing up. Educational programs as part of a safety plan would focus upon these contributing factors.
Figure 5: DUI arrests in Hamilton from 200 through 2009 shows a rise in citations that reflects a diligent enforcement effort on the part of the city police that may have achieved some positive effect as citations then begin to drop. Law enforcement will be a key component of any safety plan.
Data also shows that a majority of crashes in Hamilton are multi-vehicle crashes. It shows that there is a higher percentage of collisions with fixed objects than there is for collisions with animals. These percentages are also much greater in the county than in town.
A big part of the strategy involves education of the driving public. Dennis Stranger voiced concerns about the community development and planning department having sufficient funds to do the kind of educational efforts needed to address the problem of older and younger drivers as well as educating bicyclists and pedestrians. He suggested that the Public Works Department was better suited and better funded for that kind of education program.
The Council voted unanimously to adopt the safety plan.
In other business, the Council:
• noted that an attempt to craft a dog leash ordinance was quashed in the Committee of the Whole and would not be considered by the council;
• waived the restrictions of the burning ordinance that prohibits open burning in the city limits at the request of Riverside Christian Center to dispose of the remnants of old cottonwood trees that have been cut down;
• contracted with Jeff Minckler for Labor Relations services.
By Michael Howell