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Achieving Vision Zero, Reducing Traffic Fatalities Using Data

City of Durham

Durham, NC

The City of Durham has made significant progress towards its Vision Zero goal - eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries - by quantifying the impact of the built environment on road safety.

Topics Covered

Open Data
Civic Technology
Fiscal Uncertainty
Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety


Initial: 12 Thousand USD


Public Private Partnership

Project Status

Operational since 2018

Gov Champion

Transportation Department & Innovation Department

Problem Addressed

The City of Durham and Durham County staff addressed their “Vision Zero” challenge to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries at the 2018 Innovate Durham.

Innovate Durham is a 12-week partnership program that turns the City of Durham and Durham County into a lab to test new ideas, products or services. Through the program, private sector partners get access to staff, data and facilities to assist with making Durham more efficient and encourage a culture of innovation at the City and County.

Cities like Durham currently rely on intuition, anecdotal evidence, and/or case studies to inform their decision-making with respect to choosing what design interventions to plan, approve, and fund. Durham’s Vision Zero website notes that streets "must be designed to protect us when we err." Additionally, the Vision Zero program's stated purpose indicates that "designers and users of the roads share responsibility for the safety of all road users" and that Vision Zero is a "strategy for designing a safe transportation system."

The City recognized the need for a new way to tackle the Vision Zero challenge as they did not include holistic urban design interventions in their strategy to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries.

Solutions Used

The Innovate Durham Vision Zero program identifies urban design dimensions that threaten pedestrian safety and provides recommendations to inform the city's Vision Zero strategy.

The City selected State of Place to analyze the role of urban design on road safety to provide an evidence-based rationale for a more holistic, design-centered approach to Vision Zero, as well as establish a data-driven framework by which to integrate urban design interventions.

The Innovate Durham Vision Zero program goals involved: 1) quantifying the impact of the built environment on the probability of collisions, injuries, and fatalities; 2) identifying the most critical urban design dimensions impacting safety rates; and 3) providing high-level urban design recommendations to inform the City's Vision Zero strategy and street safety interventions.

The city quantified the empirical link between the State of Place Index - which measures walkability and place quality - and Durham's traffic safety. Data collectors and Durham-based community members collected urban design data for nearly 300 built environment features across 362 traffic collision hotspots in the city.

The final analysis demonstrated that a one-point increase of the State of Place Index reduced the odds of a collision by 12.3% on average. Additionally, seven key urban design dimensions all impacted the likelihood of a collision by as much as a 26.5% reduction in odds of traffic collisions for every one-point difference in the SoP Index.

These urban design dimensions include: 1) parks and public spaces; 2) perceived crime safety; 3) pedestrian and bike amenities; 4) traffic safety; 5) density; 6) form; and 7) proximity to destinations. The City can use these findings in their Vision Zero Action Plan to prioritize urban design strategies most likely to reduce collisions through specific interventions and maximize the bang for the buck in their capital improvement budgets.



Evidence-based quantifiable link between urban design quality and traffic collision outcomes impacting pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.


Urban design quality benchmark and profile for 360+ traffic collision hotspots.


Actionable data to model scenarios to maximize quality of place and road safety.

Who Should Consider

All Vision Zero cities as well as any city that prioritizes road safety to protect pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

Last Updated

May 12th, 2022

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