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Injury Crashes Involving Pedestrians Rising


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Santa Monica College
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Santa Monica, CA 90405
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By Jorge Casuso

January 16, 2024 -- Two homeless women killed in traffic collisions in the past month are part of a trend that is seeing more pedestrians hit by motorists in Santa Monica.

After a steep drop in 2020 due to the COVID shutdown, "injury causing crashes" involving pedestrians have spiked in the city, according to data from the Transportation Department.

Injury Causing Crashes

Crash counts show a roller-coaster-like trend -- with the number of pedestrians injured in traffic collisions dropping in 2015 to 73, then rising to 115 in 2018, before nosediving in 2020 to slightly more than 54.

By 2022, the number of injury crashes involving pedestrians had risen to 95. The data for 2023 have not been released.

The rise in serious injuries and fatalities that took place between 2015 and 2018 may have been due to cheaper gas prices that led to motorists buying larger vehicles, said Lt. Erika Aklufi, the Police Department spokesperson.

"Gas was a lot cheaper, and people were buying gigantic cars," she said. "A lot has to do with people driving cars too fast, and they're bigger."

The spike prompted the City Council in 2016 to adopt "Vision Zero," a policy meant to end all fatalities and major injuries among users of City streets in coming decades.

The policy focused on a three-pronged approach -- engineering, which resulted in a a sweeping re-design of city streets; education and enforcement.

But since 2020, the education and enforcement components of the effort have been hampered after many police officers retired during the COVID emergency, Aklufi said.

In addition, there has been "a push-back against armed officers making traffic stops."

Since much of the education effort takes place when drivers are pulled over, "when enforcement goes down, suddenly education goes down," Aklufi said.

In the seven police safety operations held by the Police Department between September 1 and December 31, 2023, five pedestrians were stopped and none of them were cited, according to SMPD data.

Under bill AB 2147, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2022, pedestrians are allowed to cross a street against a traffic light or outside a crosswalk without receiving a ticket.

Under the "Freedom to Walk Act," officers can cite pedestrians only if "there's an immediate hazard," according to Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), one of the bill's authors.

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