A Santa Rosa man who suffered severe head injuries after being hit by a car in a Santa Rosa crosswalk is the latest victim in a series of Sonoma County vehicle-pedestrian crashes that have killed three people and hurt many others.
Joseph Dailey, 63, who was in critical condition Tuesday at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, is the latest person struck in a crosswalk in a string of high-profile accidents since December. The crashes caused three deaths, including a Rohnert Park toddler, a 24-year-old Santa Rosa man and a longtime Cloverdale resident.
Police departments across Sonoma County are responding with a combination of strategies. Petaluma and Santa Rosa are adding and improving crosswalks. Rohnert Park conducted a study on pedestrian safety. And several agencies have stepped up traffic enforcement aimed at catching errant drivers and pedestrians.
Law enforcement leaders echoed a sense of frustration because street safety ultimately comes down to individuals paying attention and following the law.
"There are no magic bullets here," Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said. "We all share responsibility."
Last year in Petaluma, 29 pedestrians were hurt in 26 vehicle crashes, Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons said. Of those, a dozen of the accidents <NO1><NO>were the pedestrians' fault, he said.
In response, Petaluma police officials adopted several strategies to prevent crashes. They pinpointed problem intersections and poured officers through the area to focus on illegal cell phone use while driving and speed enforcement.
"We also were working with our traffic engineers to see if there were improvements to be made with the crosswalks and intersections," Lyons said.
The efforts have paid off, Lyons said. Police have responded to three vehicle-pedestrian crashes in as many months, he said.
"We feel good," Lyons said. "We're going to continue with our enforcement efforts."
Santa Rosa police officers also have publicized an enforcement crackdown and have passed out brochures to remind people to obey traffic laws.
"When more tickets are written it does change the behavior," Schwedhelm said.
Rohnert Park officials are reviewing a study the city commissioned on pedestrian safety after a toddler walking with her mother was killed in a crosswalk on Dec. 1.
Rohnert Park officials paid Santa Rosa-based W-Trans Inc. $15,800 to conduct the study, which looked at citywide vehicle and pedestrian traffic and existing traffic signals. City Manager Gabe Gonzalez said he is reviewing a draft of the report, which he plans to bring to the council in June.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said prosecutors will decide in the next few weeks whether they will file charges against the driver, Kaitlyn Dunaway, a Sonoma State University freshman.
"Regardless of what the decision is, we hope people pay close attention when they're driving and also when they step off the curb," Ravitch said.
Most of the crashes involve poeple in crosswalks, a fact many police officials said underscores the need for pedestrians to be just as aware of their surroundings as drivers.
"Pedestrians believe, &‘I'm in a crosswalk, I'm safe'" Schwedhelm said.
But all parties must be cautions, he said, "It's a shared responsiblity."
Details are still sketchy on what happened at 9:50 p.m. Monday in Santa Rosa, when Dailey was crossing Fifth Street in a crosswalk at Mendocino Avenue about a block from Old Courthouse Square.