Busy California Cities Could Consider Congestion Charges to Prevent Collisions

In 2003, the city of London took an unprecedented step to try to make its roads safer. It imposed a congestion charge for driving on busy roads in the city center during certain hours. It is a change that has had many positive impacts.

While a personal injury lawyer knows that congestion charges during city centers might be a tough sell in the United States, the data from London shows that this might be one out-of-the-box way to prevent auto accidents in Vista, Del Mar, Hillcrest, San Diego and surrounding areas.


Advocates of the congestion charge plan in London argued that most of the costs of using congested roads were external costs. The charge would force drivers to internalize them and make more careful and informed choices about whether they wanted to use roads in the city center during busy hours. The hope was also that making the change would help to bring down the number of traffic deaths, as well as reduce congestion and increase the speed and ease of travel.

A report from three economists from the Management School at Lancaster University shows this hope has largely panned out. There was a significant reduction in traffic accidents in the congestion zone, while many of the things that people were worried about did not come to pass.

The report showed that around 400 fewer motor vehicle collisions occurred in the congestion zone after the charge was imposed.

When comparing traffic accidents with ongoing trends, this means there was approximately a 38 to 40 percent reduction in collisions in the area. This was a far greater reduction in traffic crashes than the reduction of vehicles driving within the congestion zone.

With regard to serious collisions, there were around 46 fewer major collisions and approximately four to five fewer fatalities every single year since the charge was instituted. This means many people’s lives have been saved over the past decade, and many more lives are likely to be saved in the future.

One big concern was that the congestion charge would simply move the danger, because people would redirect into spillover zones rather than paying the charge. This did not materialize. Surrounding spillover zones were compared to control cities. This comparison revealed that the crash rate was around 13 to 14 percent less in the spillover zones around the London congestion zones as compared with in these control cities.

There was also a concern that people would just drive more during the time when they were not charged, thus increasing the accident risk outside of the times when the charges were in effect. This did not occur either, as compared to control cities, there was no increase in collisions at the time when the charge wasn’t in effect.

The death and accident rate declined not only for vehicles subject to the charge, but also for bicycles, motorcycles and taxis that did not have to pay. There were 12 percent fewer collisions in these types of vehicles than in control cities.

Clearly, the congestion charge has been a success. Of course, it remains to be seen whether anything like that would ever be suggested or adopted in the United States.

Contact a Vista, CA personal injury attorney after your motor vehicle accident. Call the Law Offices of Ronald B. Laba today at 866-434-1577 or visit serving Del Mar, Hillcrest, San Diego, and surrounding areas.


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