Survivors of Traffic Violence Remember

Families urge city leaders to say "crash" not "accident" at this year's World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

Julie Mitchell, one of the founders of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, talking about her son Dylan, who was killed while riding his bike in the Mission. Photo: William McLeod
Julie Mitchell, one of the founders of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, talking about her son Dylan, who was killed while riding his bike in the Mission. Photo: William McLeod

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Forced indoors because of the Bay Area’s smoky conditions, families of traffic crash victims assembled at the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Public Library on Sunday for the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

“In the spring of this year, a close friend of mine, Candi Duazo, succumbed to a crash at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Victoria Street in the Ingleside District,” said Estelle Oloresisimo, President of the Fil-Am Friendship Network, and one of the speakers at the events. “She was an active community leader who donated generously to causes that make a difference in people’s lives.”

Oloresisimo pointed out that Duazo was 80 years old. “Based on public statistics, senior citizens are four times more likely than people under 65 to be killed in traffic crashes. This problem is getting worse every day and this is not just in the United States… it’s happening around the world,” she said.

“When we first started planning today’s event, we didn’t expect to hold it indoors,” said Cathy DeLuca, Walk SF Policy and Program Director, referring to the smoky conditions that compelled them to cancel what is normally a walking event. “Unfortunately, what we can anticipate are deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic crashes. Every year in the United States, 40,000 people are killed in traffic crashes.”

She also pointed out that millions more sustain life-altering injuries. Speakers at the event also stressed that the deaths and injuries are not “accidents”–they are the inevitable outcome of deadly street designs, speeding and other irresponsible driver behaviors, and a lack of traffic enforcement.

Photo: William McLeod
Photo: William McLeod

My son’s death was no accident and it’s a slap in the face calling it that, because it implies that there was no way to prevent it. His death was completely preventable, if the driver had only taken an extra second to look before making that turn or if the streets were designed for bike safety,” said Julie Mitchell, a founding member of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, seen speaking in the lead image. “Let’s stop calling them accidents and start calling them what they really are–preventable crashes.” Mitchell’s son Dylan was killed in 2013 while biking at South Van Ness Avenue and 16th Street. He was 21 years old.

San Francisco appeared to make significant progress in reducing fatal crashes in San Francisco in 2017. But the city backslid a bit this year, with 19 fatalities in San Francisco as of October–two more than in 2017, when 17 people were killed.

Data Source: Motor Vehicle Death Reports, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner 2018, and SFPD Reports
Data Source: Motor Vehicle Death Reports, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner 2018, and SFPD Reports

Meanwhile, San Francisco only has five years left to meet its Vision Zero goal of zero severe and fatal traffic crashes by 2024.

“4.5 million people were injured seriously enough to require medical attention. That is just in our country. If we had that many deaths and injuries from any other transportation vehicle–buses, airplanes–there would be an outcry. Well, this is our outcry,” said DeLuca.

  • jcwconsult

    It is hard to debate with someone who knows so little about the realities of traffic safety engineering.
    85th limits produce the smoothest, safest, most predictable traffic flows, with low speed variance, minimal aggressive driving, minimal passing, and few conflicts between vehicles that take the attention of drivers away from the rest of the environment.
    Pedestrian demand buttons with properly long crossing times on wide streets are a BIG pedestrian safety item in some places.
    Many streets can have some speed reductions with inexpensive lane painting and between lane pedestrian warning markers.
    You really don’t get this, but the for-profit city officials do. Speed cameras deployed with enough numbers and frequency to actually lower most drivers speeds would issue almost no tickets so they would be a HUGE cost center. Cities deploy speed cameras only in numbers that assure profits. If you had ever sat in on the “free money” pitch to cities by the for-profit ticket camera racket companies, you would “get it”.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • fdtutf

    It’s hard to debate with someone who knows nothing and cares nothing about pedestrians’ needs and the conditions they’re subject to.

    85th limits produce the smoothest, safest, most predictable traffic flows, with low speed variance, minimal aggressive driving, minimal passing, and few conflicts between vehicles that take the attention of drivers away from the rest of the environment.

    And they are deadly for pedestrians. The factors you cite mean that motorists may be more likely to pay attention to pedestrians, but the higher speeds mean that motorists have less time to see and react to pedestrians, and that pedestrians are more seriously injured when they are struck by motorists. So it’s not even a wash; it’s worse for pedestrians.

    Pedestrian demand buttons with properly long crossing times on wide streets are a BIG pedestrian safety item in some places.

    Beg buttons are only an improvement when added to intersections without pedestrian signals. Otherwise they either leave the situation no better or worse, or they make it worse. Pedestrians should always get a WALK signal during signal phases when it is safe for them to cross. At all intersections.

    Many streets can have some speed reductions with inexpensive lane painting and between lane pedestrian warning markers.

    This is the first time I’ve heard you say this, and I’d like to hear more detail about how this would work.

    You really don’t get this, but the for-profit city officials do. Speed cameras deployed with enough numbers and frequency to actually lower most drivers speeds would issue almost no tickets so they would be a HUGE cost center. Cities deploy speed cameras only in numbers that assure profits. If you had ever sat in on the “free money” pitch to cities by the for-profit ticket camera racket companies, you would “get it”.

    In a narrow perspective, they would be a huge cost center. The overall cost of excessive automobile use to society would decrease significantly. Cities would save money on police and rescue services because there would be fewer crashes for them to respond to.

    You just don’t want high levels of enforcement because you want motorists to be able to drive as fast as they wish.

  • jcwconsult

    Smooth, even, predictable traffic flows are a key to safety for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle occupants. The Michigan State Police and MDOT have corrected limits to the proper 85th percentile levels on over 300 segments of state and US highways – including the urban segments where highways pass through big cities and little villages. NONE have ever had to be rolled back for poor safety results. Pedestrians on north/south roads who cross arterials & collectors at proper crosswalks and don’t dart out into traffic lanes have no more risks when the north/south traffic is at 40-45 versus when it is at 25.

    Having pedestrian walk signals at every cycle when you get one pedestrian every 4 or 5 light cycles is an idiotic loss of capacity. Pedestrian demand buttons can be programmed to give generous crossing times at intersections where pedestrian traffic is low. I cannot believe you don’t get this.

    Narrower lanes tend to slightly slow the fastest traffic. Putting the usually-yellow pedestrian warning bollards about 2 feet high between lanes at crosswalks makes the lanes look narrower and tends to slightly slow the traffic. It also STRONGLY identifies crosswalks. These are even better when combined with rapid flashing beacons & similar signals.

    You really don’t get how and why most cities that use speed cameras deploy them at rates to insure high profitability. When the cameras are profitable, it is certain proof they are not really working to slow traffic.

    I want drivers to be able to legally drive at the safe and comfortable speeds based on the actual engineering of the streets and highways in both urban and rural settings. Having roadways engineered of XX mph but posted at XX minus 10 to 15 mph is NOT about safety, it is about predatory for-profit enforcement rackets that no one should tolerate at all. There is one collector in my town posted at the 1st percentile speed with 99% above the limit including garbage trucks, police vehicles, school buses with kids aboard, and all the normal commuting & shopping traffic. The road is posted at 25 and was under county control 15+ years ago and posted at 40. The most recent speed studies show an 85th speed of 38, so it should be posted at 25 and would have very high compliance.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • fdtutf

    Smooth, even, predictable traffic flows are a key to safety for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle occupants.

    Smooth, even, predictable traffic flows do not benefit pedestrians, except possibly marginally in an indirect way. What I hear you saying is that if motorists are allowed to proceed at the speeds they want, they won’t get as pissed off and are less likely to end up in a crash. What you should hear me saying is that such motorists don’t belong on the roads. Motorists who can’t (or more likely, won’t) obey traffic laws do not belong on the roads.

    Having pedestrian walk signals at every cycle when you get one pedestrian every 4 or 5 light cycles is an idiotic loss of capacity.

    I think you need to reread what I wrote: “Pedestrians should always get a WALK signal during signal phases when it is safe for them to cross. At all intersections.” If it is safe for pedestrians to cross during a given signal phase, there is no valid reason not to provide a WALK signal. If there are no pedestrians, motorists are not delayed; if there is one pedestrian, there is no reason to require that pedestrian to wait an additional signal cycle before crossing. That pedestrian’s travel needs are not less important than those of motorists.

    Your bias is showing very clearly here.

    I want drivers to be able to legally drive at the safe and comfortable speeds based on the actual engineering of the streets and highways in both urban and rural settings.

    Yes, you’ve made it abundantly clear that you want motorists to be able to effectively set their own speed limits without regard to the needs and safety of other road users. I don’t think you’ve ever quite spelled it out this explicitly, though, at least not that I’ve seen, so thanks for that.

  • jcwconsult

    We should quit on the reasons 85th limits are safer for pedestrians because you clearly do not understand the principles and the realities.

    Pedestrian walk signals when there are no pedestrians, particularly at wide intersections with dedicated left turn lane signals, seriously lengthen the cycles, reduce capacity and delay motorists for no valid reason. Go study one such intersection and the differences are obvious.

    You are welcome to the reasons for 85th limits which tend to be the safest and most efficient for collectors, arterials and highways. If ACTUAL speeds are required to be lower for valid or invalid reasons, they must be achieved with engineering changes and a willingness for officials to accept the negatives as well.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • fdtutf

    Thanks. Your biases are increasingly impossible to ignore.

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