It’s more dangerous than ever to go for a walk – at least when there are cars on the road.
A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association says pedestrian fatalities are up 22 percent from 2014 to 2016. The consultant who prepared the report called the increases “unprecedented.”
Sacramento is also seeing a rise in fatalities.
“We’re doing well. The number of collisions have decreased over the years, but we’re seeing more serious injuries and fatalities than we had before, so that’s unusual and we’re not sure about the reason why,” City of Sacramento Vision Zero project manager Jennifer Donlon Wyant said. Vision Zero is Sacramento’s commitment to achieve the goal of zero traffic fatalities by the year 2027.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association report, the rise in smartphone usage may be partly to blame for the increased number of deaths. The report called text messaging “a frequent source of mental and visual distraction for both walkers and drivers.”
Distracted driving was behind the accident that injured Sonya Lovine, who was struck by a driver while she was riding her bicycle in the crosswalk of a busy street.
“She wasn’t looking up, but I think she saw the cars moving, so she came into the crosswalk without looking up. I screamed,” Lovine said. “She didn’t hear me, and I landed on the hood of her car, and bounced back off.”
Lovine survived the accident, but walked away with a concussion and a sprained ankle, collarbone and shoulder. She has also dealt with post-traumatic stress related to the collision, which occurred in October 2012.
“Just in the last year, I feel like I’ve finally let it go and move on, and accepted it a little more. It was very traumatizing,” Lovine said.
Sacramento’s Vision Zero team will present recommendations to the city this summer. Advocates for safer roads for pedestrians and cyclists say there are a number of ways to make the streets safer, but say unsafe roads don’t affect all neighborhoods equally.
“Half of the collisions occurring in Sacramento are in disadvantaged communities along arterial roadways, but those account for only a quarter of the roadways in Sacramento,” Walk Sacramento Executive Director Kirin Kumar said.
By arterial roadways, Kumar and Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates Executive Director Jim Brown point to wide, high-speed roads that feed into highways. Brown singles out Power Inn Rd., Stockton Blvd., Florin Perkins Rd., and West El Camino Ave. as particularly dangerous roads.
As ideas are being discussed for making Sacramento safer, one local startup says it, too, has a solution that could help. Text to Ticket launched an app in January that would let passengers and pedestrians send videos of distracted drivers to law enforcement, who could then ticket drivers. Co-founder Jesse Day says it combines elements of red-light cameras and neighborhood watch programs.
“We want our citizens to feel safe, and if they see someone texting and driving, we want them to have the ability to report that themselves,” Day said. He said the company is currently in talks with Sacramento Police Department to have the agency start accepting videos from the app.
But before serious changes are made to the roadways, Lovine, the once-injured cyclist, says she wants to spread an important message to drivers.
“The temptation’s there. I’m just going to send a quick text. I’m paying attention to the road and I’ve got this. And that’s not true. It takes a really quick second to lose focus,” Lovine said.