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Sunday didn’t just bring a time change, it meant more drivers and pedestrians are sharing roadways in the dark. In the past, those circumstances have helped make this the most dangerous time of year to be a pedestrian.
San Diegans are most likely to be hit by cars between September and January, according to a 2014 pedestrian safety study that looked most at collision data between 2008 and 2012.
The report doesn’t list a specific reason for the trend, but suggests it could be connected to earlier sunsets, when commuters are driving home in the dark. As you can see, most collisions happen during evening rush hour.
A common fight in this conversation is whose most often at fault – drivers or walkers. This study provides an answer: drivers.
To a degree, where people get hit by cars comes down to numbers. The busiest and most population-dense neighborhoods are also where the most collisions occur. These community planning areas had the highest number of crashes: downtown, City Heights and southeastern (which includes Sherman Heights, Grant Hill and Logan Heights).
When analysts controlled for population, however, things changed: Midway-Pacific Highway, Barrio Logan and downtown had the highest pedestrian collision rates, per capita.
Controlling for population allows us to factor out some of the collisions that occur as a natural result of having more people on or near roadways. Then we see other factors that make roadways unsafe for pedestrians like sidewalks – or lack thereof – poor street design, lack of crosswalks or wide roads.
That’s where Vision Zero comes in, a plan put forward by a coalition of bike and pedestrian advocates trying to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025. The effort has three major prongs: engineering safer streets (more conducive to pedestrians and bikes), education and outreach and ratcheting up police enforcement.
Last week, the City Council passed a resolution urging the city to create a task force and a plan to eliminate traffic deaths.
Kathleen Ferrier, who has spearheaded the Vision Zero plan, said the changes can’t come soon enough. There’s been at least one fatality or serious injury every month this year, for a total of 20, she said.
In October, a driver struck and killed 15-year-old Johnathan Cortez, who was hit while he was riding his skateboard. The driver killed Cortez just after dark near 54th Street in El Cerrito – along one of the most dangerous corridors for pedestrians.
“We don’t see many trends in traffic collisions,” said Ferrier. “A lot of it is random. But these are two of the trends we do see,” she said, referring to the place and time the driver struck Cortez.