Santa Rosa police will increase traffic enforcement of pedestrian safety laws and will target schoolchildren with education programs in the wake of yet another accident involving a car hitting a teenager.
"We need to be proactive and create some message to the schools immediately," said Rafael Rivero, the Santa Rosa Police Department's community outreach specialist. "The main message is that a crosswalk is not a shield and you still have to use common sense anytime you step into the street."
Police issued reminders Friday that motorists and pedestrians must exercise caution on city streets as 14-year-old Jennifer Daisy Huey of Santa Rosa was hospitalized with head trauma injuries. Huey was struck Thursday evening while crossing West Steele Lane by a driver who apparently did not see her.
Sgt. Doug Schlief said Huey and another teen, Rafael Otero Jr., 15, were crossing between Northcoast Street and Apple Valley Lane toward Coddingtown when she was struck by a Ford Taurus. They were not in a crosswalk when the eastbound sedan driven by Santa Rosa resident Catherine Bickel, 49, came upon them, police said.
The girl was thrown onto the car, rolled up against the windshield and then was hurled back down to the street, Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Jack Piccinini said. She was taken to a Santa Rosa hospital and then to Oakland Children's Center, Schlief said.
The incident came just 24 hours after two Maria Carrillo High School teens were struck, one seriously injured, in a Calistoga Road crosswalk and three weeks after Santa Rosa High School sophomore Michelle Cordova died of injuries suffered when she was struck in a West College Avenue crosswalk at Link Lane.
Presentations in classrooms and school assemblies will increase as a result of renewed awareness that pedestrian safety must be emphasized as much as bike safety has been in recent years, Rivero said. He is drafting postcard-sized material that will be distributed to students listing safety measures.
"We've got tons and tons of not just kids but maybe average pedestrians crossing the street, just not looking, very, very distracted with their telephone equipment, music, iPod, whatever," Rivero said. "And they are not taking a few seconds to look around."
The effort comes as a three-year state grant for the city's bike and pedestrian safety program is scheduled to end in the fall. Rivero said pedestrian education will emphasize hand signaling drivers when entering crosswalks, wearing bright or light-colored clothing and shoes and carrying flashlights or reflective items.
Rivero said police department traffic officials are discussing plans to stage special enforcement actions later this month and in March to deliver warnings directly to motorists who may be ignoring pedestrian safety.
Schlief said police already were noticing a change in the number of pedestrian fatalities before the new year began.
The city had 77 car versus pedestrian collisions in 2007, 69 in 2008 and 67 in 2009. Three of the 2009 accidents involved fatalities, but none were recorded in 2008 or 2007.
Of those accidents, 17 in 2007, 13 in 2008 and 11 in 2009 involved pedestrians under the age of 15.