Have pedestrian deaths put San Francisco in a state of emergency?

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Earlier this week, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Matt Haney introduced a resolution to the Board to declare a state of emergency in S.F. for traffic safety. After two pedestrian deaths in three days, Haney and other city officials and advocates said enough is enough.

 

A state of emergency, Haney argued, would prompt the city to take immediate action to improve traffic safety. Measures proposed include increased traffic enforcement, more red light cameras, speed safety cameras and lower speed limits. 

 

As of this month 21 people have died in traffic fatalities in San Francisco--14 while walking or biking. That's almost as many as all of 2018 and far short of the "Vision Zero" target the city is aiming for.

 

Jodie Medeiros of Walk SF told KPIX that increased enforcement alone will not improve safety. SFMTA told the news outlet it promised to speed up some of the improvement measures. They also plan to launch a campaign to remind drivers to slow down.

 

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority said car traffic has risen by 60% in the last five years. With that increased traffic comes increased accidents and fatalities without drastic measures.

 

What else can the City of San Francisco, its residents and its visitors, do to make its streets safer? I have a few ideas:

 

• City officials: Use lighted crosswalks, signs, colors and other LARGE, visible things that bring attention to crosswalks.

 

• Pedestrians: Make absolutely sure to make eye contact with upcoming vehicles. NEVER assume a vehicle will stop until you see their eyes AND they have started to slow down. After making eye contact and confirming the vehicle is slowing or stopped, cross with caution.  

 

• Cyclists: remember to follow the same rules as cars. Stop at stoplights and stop signs. Even if it's 5 a.m. and there's not a car in sight, slow to a crawl and look both ways. Many drivers, especially those who don't ride a bike, assume cyclists don't follow basic traffic laws but feel entitled to protection. Be a good example of safe cycling.

 

• Advocates: Keep rallying and fighting for change. Keep educating the public about the lack of traffic safety in S.F. and what they can do to improve traffic safety. 

 

• Citizens: Write your city supervisor and other city officials in support of measures to improve traffic safety. (And it goes without saying, follow the rules of the road.)

 

• Bike and pedestrian organizations: Because high school students will be the next new drivers, ask to give presentations at local high schools. Show students the importance of safe driving, biking, walking and scooter-ing.

 

• City officials: Use more "head-start" signals. These signals, already in use on Polk Street and other intersections, give bikes and pedestrians a head start to cross before the light turns green. In a New York City pilot program, the city's Department of Transportation saw about 20 fewer injuries at intersections with head-start signals compared to previous years without the signals.

 

Let's hope San Francisco implements new traffic safety measures quickly. 

 

We hope you always bike, walk, run or scooter without a scrape. But if you do end up in a serious accident, call our office for a free consultation.

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David G. Smith, Attorney At Law
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