by Leah Shahum November 19, 2020 in Families for Safe Streets, News

Uniting to Stop Preventable Traffic Violence

World Day of Remembrance Events Urge Safety Over Speed

Imagine city, state, and federal leaders having access to a proven vaccine for a public health crisis that took the lives of more than 1.3 million people worldwide each year. Yet, for some reason, they did not utilize it to the fullest extent. Instead, they focused on encouraging personal responsibility to try to lessen the damage, while looking past the influential, higher-level strategies that only they could institute to ensure health and safety.

This is the experience for many who gathered across the globe on the 25th annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims to memorialize loved ones lost to preventable traffic deaths. More U.S. communities than ever participated on November 15, 2020, to urge local, state, and federal leaders to shake off the widespread complacency toward more than 1.3 million lives lost – and many millions more deeply impacted – in traffic crashes around the world each year. This includes an average of 40,000 traffic deaths in the U.S. each year, with a disproportionate number of people killed while walking and biking.

Following is a collection of World Day of Remembrance events and calls to action led by local communities in their push for Vision Zero, safe mobility for all. From Charlotte, North Carolina to Tampa, Florida and St. Paul, Minnesota to Tempe, Arizona activities included candlelight vigils, online memorials, public displays of shoes representing those lost, memorial walks & bike rides, and more.

Members of the New York City chapter of Families for Safe Streets commemorate all people who were killed in traffic crashes. There are already 200 New Yorkers who were killed since the beginning of 2020, each represented by a pair of shoes displayed as part of their memorial and call to action. Source.
Martial York lays flowers in remembrance of close friend Norman Tanner during World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims outside San Francisco’s City Hall. Photo: Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle.
Family and friends pray during the vigil for Saixiang Lin at St. Vincent Street and Summerdale Ave. in Philadelphia, PA. on Nov. 14, 2020. Photo by Elizabeth Robertson.
“I have to live with this for the rest of my life. I didn’t choose to do this,” Stephanie Vasquez said at the press conference in Los Angeles, CA. Stephanie had to have her leg amputated as a result of a hit-and-run traffic crash in 2019. Source.


Doing What Works to Save Lives: Safety Over Speed

World Day of Remembrance organizers across the country called on leaders to utilize the proven strategies that will stem the epidemic of traffic violence, particularly by prioritizing safety over speed.

More than 45 communities have committed to Vision Zero, acknowledging that they can make changes to advance their goal of zero traffic deaths or severe injuries. It is an undeniable scientific fact that lower speeds and roadways designed for lower speeds reduce the occurrence and severity of crashes.

In our cities, where we encourage walking, biking and transit as ways to combat climate change and benefit our communities’ health, why are we designing streets and setting speed limits that literally kill, when we have a choice to do better. It’s a choice of prioritizing safe mobility or allowing slightly faster but substantially more perilous conditions.

On this year’s World Day of Remembrance, members of Families for Safe Streets were joined by community advocates and Vision Zero champions within the public and private sectors to unite their voices for change. In remembering sons, daughters, parents, grandparents, friends, co-workers, and classmates lost to preventable traffic crashes, we call on leaders to recognize their responsibility to prioritize life over speed and convenience (or, what is more likely, over perceived speed and convenience).

“Families for Safe Streets members from across the country remembered their loved ones who were killed and seriously injured, poured out their hearts, and demanded that our local, state and federal leaders act with urgency to end this preventable public health crisis. We know the price of failed leadership — forty thousand Americans dead and millions seriously injured, year after year, for the past 100 years. The US is rated as one of the most dangerous high-income nation in terms of traffic safety. These are not just statistics. Each number is a life lost like my 12-year-old son, a family shattered, and a community left grieving.”

—Amy Cohen, Co-Founder, Families for Safe Streets

Several events organized by Families for Safe Streets preceded Sunday commemorations, including a Faith Leaders’ Forum, a Twitter Town Hall, an art workshop, a storytelling forum (the video recording guide here), and a webinar about managing speed for safety. More info here.

Michelle DuBarry and her children at a Gresham intersection on Sunday. They held a photo of Seamus, their 22-month old son and brother who was killed while walking in a north Portland crosswalk in 2010. Photo: Oregon Walks. Last week, Portland, OR, installed temporary displays to recognize the impact of traffic violence.
In Montgomery County, MD, advocates remembered Jose Flores Amaya in a small gathering and simple memorial. A driver struck and killed him on Shady Grove Rd at Briardale Rd in Derwood on November 2, 2020. Source.
Nashville Chapter of Families for Safe Streets has decided to create and install pedestrian memorials in each location in which a pedestrian has died in 2020. Source.
Signs prepared by street-safety activists of New Haven, CT. Earlier this year, the 20 is Plenty campaign was launched in New Haven. Photo source.
Nearly 600 people in New Jersey are killed annually in traffic crashes. Advocates of Vision Zero gathered in Metuchen, NJ, on Sunday to commemorate World Day of Remembrance. Photo by Ed Murray, NJ Advance Media for 
Shoe memorial in San Jose, CA. You can watch a video from the ceremony here.
In Pittsburgh, PA, the ghost bike was placed to remember 22-year-old Austin Fike who was hit and killed by a drunk driver in October of 2019. KDKA CBS Pittsburgh.
Three hundred forty-nine candles lighted along the Minnesota State Capitol steps symbolized how many lives were lost on Minnesota streets this year. Forty pairs of shoes representing the number of people projected to die before the end of the year. Source.

Denver, CO, has a Week of Remembrance: During the week of November 15th – 21st, Denver Department of Transportation & Infrastructure and Denver Streets Partnership will host a virtual Facebook event to honor victims of traffic crashes and their families, and reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principles of Vision Zero and making our streets safer for everyone, together.

Denver Streets Partnership Executive Director Jill Locantore lights candles in the window of her City Park West home for a World Day of Remembrance for people killed in traffic crashes. Nov. 18, 2020. Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

While many cities and states were not able to hold World Day of Remembrance events this year with pandemic conditions and other challenges, many worked to elevate the importance in their everyday work, including Eugene-Springfield (OR), Seattle (WA), Maine, and others.

Chicago, IL, Cleveland, OH, Kansas City, KS, Champaign-Urbana, IL, Austin and all Central Texas organized virtual conversations, ceremonies, and observance.


DC Families for Safe Streets created a virtual bulletin board where people can commemorate their loved ones. 

Made with Padlet


To honor the 10 lives lost on Tempe streets, the City of Tempe, AZ, has posted signs at the nine intersections where the fatalities occurred. Source.

Events were preceded by a video tribute from Zoleka Mandela, a global road safety advocate and the granddaughter of the late South African President Nelson Mandela. Zoleka Mandela lost her daughter to a car crash in Johannesburg at the age of 13. In this moving video, she speaks to the need for change, including prioritizing safety over speed, and lauds the work of Families for Safe Streets and other Vision Zero advocates.


Mark your calendar for the next World Day of Remembrance, which is held on the third Sunday of November (November 21, 2021), and please get involved to advocate for Vision Zero — safe mobility for all — for the next 364 days and beyond.

Join us in the call for safe mobility for all. Learn about and support the work of Families for Safe Streets, with 16 chapters in North America, and the Vision Zero Network, supporting local efforts nationwide. And please support your local and state advocates working for safety on your streets, sidewalks, and bikeways.

World Day of Remembrance of Road Safety Victims is an international event, recognized by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, which acknowledge traffic deaths to be a public health crisis – and one that can be prevented with strong leadership and investments in smart strategies.

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