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The extension of the Norfolk Tide light rail system into the Virginia Beach community has been a contentious issue to say the least. Considering the already tight budget situation we find ourselves in, combined with the massive construction that would be required to make the light rail a reality, it’s understandable that residents are split on the decision.

A large part of the debate has focused on what the light rail could mean for development in Virginia Beach and the surrounding areas. In fact, the political action committee in support of the light rail, “Move Hampton Roads”, is making big strides in this direction. Development is certainly an important consideration, but one angle that hasn’t been talked about too much in all the debates is the positive impact that a light rail might have on traffic safety. It hardly needs saying that—like many vibrant communities—we have our fair share of traffic issues, brought about in part because of congested roadways. Common sense tells us that fewer cars on the road means fewer chances for accidents and injuries. And there is some data to back that conclusion up.

The non-profit organization “Light Rail Now!” has gathered data from a variety of federal traffic safety sources to paint a picture of how light rail travel compares to other forms of travel in terms of safety. Looking at numbers from 2002-2004 for motor vehicles, regional commuter rail, rail rapid transit, light rail transit, and motor buses, the organization found that across the board, public transit was safer that having more cars on the road. Just comparing light rail injuries and fatalities versus motor vehicle injuries and fatalities, the number for light rail injury and death is nearly 1.6 times lower. As we move closer to the referendum vote this fall, this safety information is worth considering.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC). The attorneys publish articles and edit the Legal Examiner for the Virginia Beach, Norfolk andNortheast North Carolina regions as pro bono service.

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