Pedestrian fatalities have been the number one cause of death in Santa Monica for many years.
In 2008 motorists killed three pedestrians, and the incidence of this type of traffic fatality increases between Thanksgiving and New Year’s according to the Santa Monica Police Department. Lieutenant Kathy Keane told the Mirror that around the holidays people are rushing around to buy gifts and attend holiday functions and can become careless in their driving and as pedestrians (i.e., jaywalking)
The number of traffic accidents causing injuries to pedestrians from the beginning of January 2008 until November 30, 2008 was 106.
Keane also mentioned that sometimes “pedestrians can have a false sense of security” when they use a crosswalk that they shouldn’t have. They assume that once they have entered the crosswalk motorists will automatically stop for them. Even though this is the law, in reality this is not always the case. She stressed that it is important to be a “defensive pedestrian and make sure a driver sees you before you start walking.” She also wants pedestrians to remain vigilant at all times.
SMPD has been conducting stings for drivers who don’t stop or yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. The department also enforces the city’s jaywalking laws, particularly in cases that are blatant or causing a hazard. They pay close attention to trends and do outreach to seniors at Wise Senior Services to teach them about better driving habits and pedestrian safety.
The Mirror also spoke with the City of Santa Monica’s Transportation Planning Manager Lucy Dyke. She stated that the city has tried different types of technologies including flashing crosswalks as a way to deal with uncontrolled intersections. Uncontrolled intersections are defined as intersections that don’t have traffic lights. She also noted that it is “hard to use statistics to evaluate what technology works best.”
People react to crosswalk treatments differently and different technologies are appropriate in different places, but none of the technologies can overcome inattentiveness by drivers or pedestrians. Dyke emphasized that “most tools that are utilized at unmarked crosswalks help motorists and pedestrians make a connection” that can be lifesaving.
The city has installed or is installing in-pavement flashing crosswalks at 17 different locations citywide. Over time the city has found that these flashing crosswalks are not as reliable as other traffic signal equipment and they are very expensive to maintain.
Keane urges everyone “during the holidays to take a deep breath and not to be in such a hurry.”