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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

Stepping Into Harm's Way

November 18, 2001

On Nov. 5 at about 8:30 p.m., 72-year-old Refugio Martinez was walking the two blocks from his weekly Bible study class to his home when he was struck and killed by three cars as he crossed busy Orangethorpe Avenue in Fullerton. None of the drivers even stopped.

Martinez was as a husband, father and grandfather. Now he is also a statistic on police and coroner's logs, one of the 46 pedestrians killed in Orange County this year. With six weeks to go, including the dangerous holiday season when accidents and fatalities often rise, already there have been more pedestrian deaths in 2001 than in any of the last four years. Last year, for example, there were only 34 fatalities.

Most of the cities in the county have had at least one pedestrian fatality. Generally the larger cities had the most. In Huntington Beach, six pedestrians have been killed. Anaheim and Garden Grove have logged four each.

Santa Ana, which has been one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians, has reported seven fatalities in each of the last two years, but has only two deaths this year. Perhaps that city's vigorous education and enforcement efforts are finally taking hold.

The problem of providing safer streets in an urban county grows more difficult as more cars and more pedestrians are added to the mix every year. In too many areas the blocks are too long, the streets too wide and crosswalks too far apart. All those factors have been cited in studies on pedestrian deaths and injuries.

But the dangers--and death toll--can be better controlled if drivers are more attentive, ease up on the gas pedal and give pedestrians the right of way. And pedestrians should use crosswalks, and common sense, when they step off the sidewalk into harm's way.

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