It is commendable that "Special patrol effort targets crosswalks" was a featured headline in The Press Democrat on July 8. However, continuous innovation, infrastructure improvements, better lighting and signage would make our crosswalks much safer in the future.
Over the past 15 years, more than 76,000 Americans have been killed walking or crossing the street. Many crosswalks are poorly lit or pose other visibility challenges that were not touched upon nor addressed in this article.
Over two weeks in June, a team of law enforcement officers in Sonoma County focused on motorists' dangerous behavior toward pedestrians as well as pedestrians who ignore traffic laws. This concerted effort was brought about because motorists have killed 19 pedestrians since 2011 in Sonoma County. This includes 11 in the city of Santa Rosa, according to Press Democrat records referenced in the article.
One conclusion from this partially undercover crackdown and revenue-generating blitz is that "drivers aren't watching out for pedestrians, and pedestrians aren't watching out for drivers," according to the article. It is our experience from the crosswalk fatalities that our law firm has handled that there are other factors that have not been addressed adequately by the city of Santa Rosa or Sonoma County to reduce these type of crosswalk fatalities.
In one such case, our law firm recovered more than $300,000 from the city of Santa Rosa and PG&E for not properly lighting crosswalks at night after a truck struck and killed a young man in a Santa Rosa Avenue crosswalk at night.
I suggest the following list of common-sense and economically feasible improvements and upgrades for our crosswalks:
; Fluorescent cones and other reflective markings.
; Warning systems such as in-pavement flashing lights to alert motorists that pedestrians are using the crosswalk (similar to Petaluma's system).
; Rapidly flashing yellow lights that are clearly visible, day or night.
; Flashing edge-lit signs with high-intensity LED lights to command the attention of drivers.
; Solar-powered safety systems that would address nighttime visibility issues by illuminating crosswalks and approaches with LED lights in blinking signs and in-pavement LED markers.
Some skeptics say that high-frequency ticketing by law enforcement is done merely to generate revenue for cash-strapped cities and counties. The city of Santa Rosa has purposely turned off every other streetlight in many neighborhoods, purportedly to save money, but has this shortsighted-decision cost lives?
LED lighting is much cheaper to operate than conventional systems. It would save a considerable sum of money in the long run. It would also save the city future legal fees. But most important, LED lighting would save lives today.
It seems that the state Legislature and local law enforcement alike have only one tool in their toolbox, and it's the hammer. Why not invest in better lighting, more advanced infrastructure and other successful and innovative methods to save lives?
I believe it would be a better use of time and resources.
<i>Michael A. Fiumara is a personal injury and criminal law attorney and a resident of Santa Rosa.</i>