Surgeon’s Exhaustive Research Helps Shape SF Pedestrian Safety Policies

Dr. Rochelle Dicker. Photo: UCSF

We now know the economic toll and other important statistics about pedestrian injuries in San Francisco thanks to the exhaustive research of a San Francisco General Hospital trauma surgeon and her team. Dr. Rochelle Dicker, who is featured in a profile today on UCSF’s website, set out to conduct an analysis of the direct medical costs resulting from “auto-versus-pedestrian” collisions in San Francisco between 2003 and 2008.

The study, released last year, examined the cases of 3,619 pedestrians who were injured by drivers (of which 26 percent were admitted to the hospital) and found that pedestrian injuries resulted in $74 million in medical costs over that five-year period, of which about $56 million was paid by public funding through Medicare or MediCal.

“People getting hit by cars make up 22 percent of all trauma cases in San Francisco. That’s an extraordinary statistic, and we only know it thanks to Dr. Dicker and her staff. Their data can help prevent these tragedies,” said Elizabeth Stampe, the executive director of Walk San Francisco.

In the UCSF piece, Dicker — who as a surgeon treats pedestrians who are injured — says she refuses to call crashes involving autos and pedestrians accidents because “an accident implies there is nothing we can do about it. Like it’s an act of god. But an injury or crash implies that there is something we can do to potentially reduce risk and prevent harm.”

Dicker’s research, which also provided some critical numbers on where the most pedestrian injuries occur in San Francisco (District 6: Tenderloin, SoMa), is now often cited by advocates and city officials who are working to make the streets safer.

“As a prevention researcher, I have an opportunity to take my experiences and try to address the root of the problems,” she told UCSF News Service. “I wanted to figure out a way to get attention to pedestrian safety and hopefully affect policy.”

That goal is being realized as Dicker’s research is informing the development of the city’s first-ever Pedestrian Action Plan, which is currently being drafted by San Francisco’s Pedestrian Safety Task Force.  You can download the short version of her research here [pdf]).