Now that the holidays are behind us and we are settling in to our normal routines, I would like to take some time to discuss pedestrian safety concerns here in the city of Gustine.

Pedestrian crashes and the resulting deaths and injuries are a serious problem on our nation’s roadways. In 2004, 4,641 pedestrians were killed in traffic-related collisions, representing 12 percent of all roadway-related fatalities (National Highway Safety Administration statistics). In urban areas, pedestrian deaths typically represent 25 to 40 percent of traffic fatalities. Approximately 70,000 pedestrians were injured on roadways in 2004, and many of these were severe injuries. These numbers have climbed since then.

Although the efforts to reduce pedestrian crashes has gained increasing priority among state and local agencies, as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), more efforts and programs are needed to develop and implement effective strategies to reduce pedestrian-related injuries and deaths.

Current pedestrian safety literature reveals a variety of risk factors that influence pedestrian crashes and their severity. For example, pedestrian crash risk increases on wide roadways (four lanes or more) with high motor vehicle speeds and volume. Intersections are more difficult to cross when pedestrians encounter wide crossing distances, a wide turning radius, multiple turning lanes or traffic controls that are confusing or complex. Other high risk factors include drug/alcohol use by motorists and pedestrians, lack of nighttime roadway lighting, and the lack of walkways along roadways. Older pedestrians are much more susceptible to serious or fatal injury because of their frailty, while young children (particularly males ages 5-9) are more likely to be struck by a motor vehicle after darting into the street (Campbell Report, 2004).

Certain roadway design features can contribute to unsafe behavior by pedestrians and motorists. For example, excessively wide roadways encourage higher speeds. High volume roadways such as State Route 33 lack marked cross walks at regular intervals, which can contribute to pedestrians crossing the street at unsafe locations, particularly those who cannot or will not walk to nearby crosswalks or intersections that are marked or signalized.

The Gustine Police department recently became aware of pedestrian safety issues taking place on State Route 33 at the Jensen Road intersection. Young children as well as adults, have been seen crossing this busy state route at this location. This intersection is not regulated by a traffic control device nor is there a marked crosswalk. Pedestrians crossing at that location create a high risk factor for the individual(s) and the motoring public as well. Such behavior is also in direct violation of the California Vehicle Code and is an infraction.

Please become an active partner with us, your police department, in minimizing the risk for potential traffic-related pedestrian incidents. Pedestrians, please wear light-colored clothing when walking at night and carry a flashlight if possible. Always cross at controlled intersections and monitor your children closely. Motorists, drive defensively, only use hands-free devices, watch for pedestrians, always expect the unexpected, and always obey the posted speed limit, especially in areas with limited visibility.

Milt Medeiros is the Chief of Police in Gustine.