CrimeBeat Q&A is a weekly feature where reporters answers readers’ questions about local crimes and the law.

Why do electronic road signs on the side of Highway 101 say watch out for pedestrians? Is there a problem with people walking on the highway?

People walking on the highway is always a problem but it isn’t increasing nor is it rampant. The messages found on Highway 101 electronic signs were a part of a multiagency campaign to create public awareness during September for California Pedestrian Safety Month.

From Thursday to Sunday, electronic road signs on Highway 101 south by the Coddingtown Mall, Highway 101 north entering Cotati and others displayed the message “Watch for people walking on all roadways,” as part of the effort.

The monthlong awareness campaign comes just as the days grow shorter and people are more likely to be out after the sun sets, said Wayne Ziese, spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety.

The number of pedestrian fatalities in the state has increased in recent years. A total of 852 died after being struck by vehicles on California roadways in 2015; for 2016 the preliminary totals show 900 fatalities, the highest number in years.

There are many reasons behind the increase, Ziese said, and it’s not solely because people drive and walk while staring at their smartphones. More people are driving on California roadways at the same time more people are walking to work and finding other modes of transportation he said.

Sonoma County pedestrian injuries and fatalities for 2016 haven’t been compiled by the state yet, but in 2015, 95 pedestrians were injured after being struck by moving vehicles and seven killed. In 2014, there were 117 injuries and six fatalities.

California drivers and pedestrians share fault for accidents: 48 percent of the time it’s the pedestrians’ fault and 52 percent of the time drivers are to blame Ziese said.

Ziese notes that men between the ages of 45 to 48 comprise the largest percentage of pedestrians injured or killed, often with some form of intoxication involved.

As for people walking on roadways like Highway 101, roughly 22 percent of all pedestrian fatalities across the state happen on freeways and on-ramps, Ziese said.

In Sonoma County, pedestrian activity on Highway 101 comes in waves said Officer Jon Sloat, spokesman for the CHP in the Santa Rosa area.

While Sloat wouldn’t directly connect those waves with “trimmigrants” who travel to northern counties for the marijuana harvest, he did say the waves come when a large number of people try to hitchhike north, only to hitch a ride back south a few months later.

Submit your questions about crime, safety and criminal justice to Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or nick.rahaim@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nrahaim.

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