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PD Editorial: Changing the collision culture

  • Erlinda Ponce, center, is comforted by family and friends during a vigil for her mother Maria Ponce who was struck and killed by a truck on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. 68-year-old Maria Ponce was hit at the intersection of South Cloverdale Boulevard and Healdsburg Avenue while trying to cross the street in a crosswalk. (Conner Jay/Press Democrat)

The anxiety of our times was on display in the face of Erlinda Ponce on the front page of Thursday's Press Democrat. The photo showed Ponce surrounded by friends during a vigil for her mother, 68-year-old Maria Ponce, who was hit and killed by a vehicle on July 7 in Cloverdale. In the picture, Erlinda is on bended knees in the street, deep in grief.

Unfortunately, such images have become too familiar in recent years. This was the third pedestrian fatality in Cloverdale alone over the past three years.

In December 2010, an 83-year-old man crossing North Main Street was hit and killed by a 17-year-old driver heading to school. The driver left the scene but was later arrested. Then in January of this year, an 87-year-old woman was knocked over and killed by a slow-moving car in a downtown parking lot.

Other cities have had similar tales. Santa Rosa has experienced two pedestrian deaths this year — both by hit-and-run drivers. One occurred in January when a 62-year-old Santa Rosa man was struck near Peterson Lane and Guerneville Road. In late February, a 64-year-old man from Pacifica was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking on Montgomery Drive near Spring Lake.

According to Santa Rosa police, during 2011 and 2012, there were 148 collisions in the city that involved pedestrians and vehicles. In 10 of those cases, the pedestrians were killed.

That's one of the reasons why Santa Rosa police, with support of other neighboring law enforcement agencies, launched a crackdown last month on jaywalking and unsafe driving. It was a much-needed campaign.

It's fair to say that we live in a time when drivers and pedestrians are more susceptible to distraction — from cellphones, iPods, etc. The result is more opportunity for accidents.

It's also fair to say that both drivers and pedestrians need to accept responsibility for the change that needs to happen. Santa Rosa police say that of the 10 deaths that occurred in 2011 and 2012, all but one involved intoxication and a pedestrian wearing dark clothing and walking at night.

If you're driving, keep your eyes on the road. If you're in the road, stay visible and keep your eyes on the drivers. Those simple rules won't stop all traffic fatalities. But they could help change this county's regressive culture of collisions.

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