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San Francisco’s 2012 pedestrian fatalities bring focus on safety

With a little under 20 pedestrian accident fatalities last year, San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee announced a plan is being drafted to improve pedestrian safety in the city. Expected to be finalized and implemented early this year, the plan hopes to reduce pedestrian accidents that result in serious injuries or death by 25 percent by 2016 with the goal of a 50 percent reduction in 2021.

Citing the Powell Street Promenade close to Union Square, the mayor said the widening of sidewalks there in an effort to reduce vehicular traffic in the area is one of the best examples of the city’s efforts to improve pedestrian safety. After joining other city officials at the site, the mayor said the city staff is challenged to make walking safer in the Bay City area. Part of the plan includes reducing the speed limit on some streets and improving certain intersections.

The city plans to use statistics and data to increase enforcement of existing laws and provide more education on particular areas deemed ‘danger zones.’ Deputy Police Chief Denise Schmitt said her department established a program called “Focus on 5” that uses city-gathered data to provide district stations with a list of five of the most dangerous and pedestrian accident-prone areas in each district.

Some of the more dangerous areas for pedestrians include busy thoroughfares like Van Ness Avenue, 19th Avenue and Market Street, which serve as highway off-ramps. The city’s goal is to save lives through educational outreach efforts by police which will focus on both motorists and pedestrians who are often distracted, like drivers, by their cellphones or other devices while out and about. The executive director of Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group, is pleased with the city’s plans.

The director hopes the city’s strategies will prevent hundreds of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. In 2011, 900 pedestrian accidents resulted in injuries and in 2012 there were 18 pedestrian accidents that resulted in a fatality. The latest accident was a 78-year-old man struck and killed by a motor vehicle on Market and Beal streets in early December. Perhaps the city’s efforts will also reduce the number of personal injury and wrongful death claims that result from these accidents.

Source: Bay City News, “Pedestrian Safety Initiative To Target Motorists, Distracted Walkers,” Dan McMenamin, Dec. 19, 2012

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