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California's pedestrians are safer with sidewalks

Californians have identified a troubling problem - roads without sidewalks can be deadly for pedestrians.

A Sonoma man was recently hit and killed while walking on Arnold Drive, in an area without a sidewalk. The 32-year-old was walking in a bicycle lane when he was hit by a 74-year-old man driving a Toyota Prius. The driver then crashed through a wooden fence and stopped in a resident's yard, where the pedestrian's body was found.

Residents are worried that the absence of sidewalks, combined with quickly moving traffic in the area, will lead to more pedestrian accidents.

Sidewalks May Prevent Pedestrian Fatalities

According to the Complete Streets Coalition, there are over twice as many pedestrian deaths on roads lacking sidewalks.

Pedestrians are not always allowed to walk in bike lanes. The California Vehicle Code states that pedestrians cannot use bike paths "when there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility." When a sidewalk is not available, though, California law allows pedestrians to use roads and bicycle lanes, as no other options are available.

Unfortunately, using bike lanes as walkways can have disastrous consequences. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, California had the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the country in 2010.

Drivers must take care to avoid pedestrian accidents, which often lead to fatalities or other personal injury, by driving within the speed limit and paying attention to their surroundings.

Pedestrians should also take proper precautions to ensure their safety. Clearly, walking on a sidewalk when possible is the best option. When sidewalks are not available, pedestrians should walk facing traffic to see oncoming vehicles and should refrain from "distracted walking," such as walking while texting.

Source: Sonoma Patch, "Pedestrian Death Raises Questions About Arnold Drive Safety," Alexis Fitts, May 25, 2012.

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