The state recognizes it as a problem of “crisis proportions.”
Last year, 813 pedestrians were killed on California roadways, and another 12,000 were injured – continuing a trend that has made our state the most dangerous in the nation when it comes to pedestrian safety.
According to the state Office of Traffic Safety, California’s pedestrian fatality rate is almost 70 percent higher than the national average. In 2015, pedestrian fatalities accounted for nearly 25 percent of all roadway deaths in the state. This is unacceptable.
In response, the California State Senate and the Office of Traffic Safety designated last month as “California Pedestrian Safety Month” to raise awareness and decrease the number of deaths and injuries among pedestrians.
While this dedicated awareness month is needed, it is the ongoing commitment of leaders at all levels of government to invest in safer streets that will truly make the difference. In the last five years, Orange County agencies have successfully competed for more than $55 million in federal, state and local grants to improve walking and biking infrastructure. This is a great start to the longer-term investment that is needed.
Orange County is not alone in its growing commitment to more active forms of transportation and safer streets. In 2016, the Southern California Association of Governments adopted a regional transportation plan that will invest more than $13 billion in active transportation by 2040, over six times what was proposed in their 2008 plan. These investments will have a lasting impact on the health, safety and economic vitality of our communities.
But, what can we do today to prevent the senseless loss of life on our streets? A good start is to know the rules of the road, slow down, and acknowledge our shared responsibility in making streets safer for all. Considering that 38 percent of trips in Southern California are three miles or less, we should expect and respect that people are using our roads to walk and bike.
Ongoing education and awareness efforts, such as OCTA’s “Brake the Cycle” campaign and the Southern California Association of Governments’ “Go Human” campaign increase awareness and provide useful tips to keep us all safe.
I encourage everyone to keep these safety tips in mind:
- Slow down. Drive the speed limit or less. Be alert for people walking, on bicycles, in wheelchairs or on skateboards.
- Stop for people in crosswalks. Every intersection is a crosswalk, even if it’s unmarked.
- Allow at least three feet when passing people on bikes – it’s the law in California.
- When there isn’t enough room for a bike and car to safely ride side-by-side, bicyclists are allowed to use the entire lane for safety. Change lanes and pass only when it is safe to do so.
- Look twice for people walking or biking before you make a turn. Always come to a complete stop before making a right turn on red.
- If another car is stopped at a crosswalk, you should stop, too. There may be someone crossing that you can’t see.
- Be alert. Put your cell phone away, keep your eyes on the road, and watch for people walking and biking.
- Cross at the corner and use crosswalks when they’re available.
- Look both ways even if you have the right of way. Make eye contact to be sure drivers see you.
- Wait for the “Walk” signal before crossing. For walk signals with countdowns, don’t enter the crosswalk if the hand is red.
- Always ride in the same direction as traffic flow.
- Be predictable by signaling your intentions, and only change lanes when safe to do say.
- Wear a helmet (children under 18 are required to do so under state law).
- Stop at red lights and stop signs.
- When riding at night, use a front and back light to make yourself visible.
- Slow down and take care around people walking on sidewalks and in crosswalks.
These safety tips, in addition to increased investments in safety infrastructure across the region, will help us reverse those daunting numbers.
More information on the Go Human campaign is available at www.gohumansocal.org and information on the Brake the Cycle campaign can be found here.
Michele Martinez is a Santa Ana City Councilmember and President of the Southern California Association of Governments.
Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.
Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org
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