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Pedestrian Safety

Daly City Police’s Idea of Vision Zero: Ticketing “Jaywalkers” at BART

Daly City police officers recently targeted people crossing against the walk signal on John Daly Boulevard to reach the Daly City BART Station, just south of the San Francisco border, as seen in a KRON 4 "People Behaving Badly" segment last week.

Commuters crossing against the light when John Daly is clear of traffic are not known to be a major cause of pedestrian crashes. But DCPD's traffic sergeant told Streetsblog these types of operations are common and driven by collision data, though the data wasn't on hand.

Officer Rey Asuncion was seen in the segment apparently trying to scare violators into not running into a driver's path by describing a recent hit-and-run crash that killed an elderly man.

There was no evidence the victim in that crash crossed against a signal, and Asuncion's description contained several inaccurate details.

"About a month ago, we had a Chinese gentleman who got hit at an intersection in Daly City," Asuncion said in the segment. "He got struck at that intersection. The vehicle got away, and we have not found the driver, but unfortunately for that gentleman, he died right there at the scene."

Here are the known facts of the crash he was referring to, according to media reports and DCPD's traffic sergeant. On Highway 35 near Westridge Avenue on December 14 (four months ago), a driver hit and killed 77-year-old Daly City resident Jose Rosel in a crosswalk. The driver, 40-year-old Joro Petrovmoray, was arrested in February and charged with felony hit-and-run causing death. His vehicle was found an auto body shop where he allegedly sold it after the crash. He has plead not guilty.

DCPD Traffic Division Sergeant Matthew Fox acknowledged that Asuncion "might not be apprised of what detectives have done with that case... maybe he misspoke, but the message was to be safe along these corridors."

Officer Asuncion lectures crosswalk signal violators. Image: KRON 4
Officer Asuncion lectures crosswalk signal violators. Image: KRON 4

Fox said the "education" operation seen in the segment are part of DCPD's "data-driven approach" to improve pedestrian safety in the city ranked by the Office of Traffic Safety as the ninth-most dangerous among California cities of its size.

Fox said he couldn't immediately provide the data on the most common pedestrian collision factors, but that pedestrians crossing outside a crosswalk, and against walk signals, were among the top. The locations of targeted enforcement are primarily chosen not based on where crashes happen, but where the most people walk, namely "transit hubs."

"Wherever there's big foot traffic, we focus on those areas, mostly to change behavior," he said.

Forty-eight pedestrians were hit by drivers in Daly City in 2012, the latest year of data available on the OTS website. One of them was killed when a driver reportedly lost control of her minivan in a church parking lot and ran over a two women and 6-year-old Danielle Naval, killing her. Since then, there have been two pedestrian deaths, aside from Rosel's. Fox said an elderly woman was recently killed by a driver on Mission Street, presumably referring to a report [PDF] of a 65-year-old woman was hit on Mission at Citrus Avenue on February 25. The other fatality took place last year on Highway 280, when a man fled on foot after crashing his stolen car.

"San Francisco has Vision Zero -- we're right there with them," said Fox, referring to the SF Police Department's commitment to end traffic fatalities by 2024. "We're really trying to up our enforcement."

But DCPD's strategy doesn't seem to be driven by the same kind of rigorous data analysis behind the SFPD's "Focus on the Five" campaign, its primary means toward achieving Vision Zero. The SFPD has pledged to target its limited enforcement resources toward the top five collision factors that cause pedestrian crashes in SF -- all driver violations -- at the five most dangerous intersections in each police district. Still, more than two years after adopting the program, only one station is meeting its target.

Fox, meanwhile, said that because of the two recent elderly pedestrian fatalities, "We're really targeting the elderly a lot, too. That's one of our focuses to try to change behavior."

As for drivers' role in pedestrian crashes, he said, "We do the same type of enforcement with distracted driving," which "plays a big role, too."

"But a lot of times, the pedestrians who are outside the crosswalk and crossing the main thoroughfares, they're the ones in violation, and you can be a person driving down the street, and all of the sudden a guy runs in front of your car."

When asked about the surprisingly stark contrast between the data reported by SFPD and DCPD on the top violations that cause pedestrian injuries, Fox said "a lot of the pedestrians" who get hit but aren't killed are outside of a crosswalk. For those who are killed, "Unfortunately, it's hard to find out if they were in or not in the crosswalk, and it can't be re-constructed to the point where, were they in, or not in it?"

"It kind of starts with" pedestrians, he said. "But you're right, the other thing is there are distracted drivers that drive too fast, they don't stop at red lights, and we try to do that arm as well."

Only when asked if, in the eyes of DCPD's traffic division, pedestrian behavior was the primary cause of pedestrian crashes, and not driver behavior, Fox said, "Well, they go hand-in-hand."

"I think if we look at the scale, it's mostly going to be driver behavior -- not yielding to pedestrians, not slowing down at the crosswalk," he said. "It's hard to put a pinpoint on it -- there's a scale, they both have culpability. But if I had to say, I'd probably say the primary thing is mostly distracted driving. But there's some type of liability on behalf of pedestrians, who risk their own safety trying to get to work and not waiting for the signal, not waiting for traffic or cutting in between cars. I think it's really underreported, the pedestrian stuff, unless there's a major injury or a fatality, unfortunately."

"If I had to go on record, it's going to be the drivers, by far," he said. DCPD enforce driver violations "the same -- they just weren't KRON 4."

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