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Rising Pedestrian Death Toll Studied

Safety: Participants at session discuss ways to reduce Valley fatalities, which have nearly doubled since 1999.

April 24, 2002|STEPHANIE STASSEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A mix of city and community leaders met Tuesday to discuss ways to reduce the escalating number of pedestrian deaths on San Fernando Valley streets.

Last year, 40 people died crossing Valley streets, compared with 25 in 2000 and 21 in 1999, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. "It's an alarming increase, but there's an awful lot we can do about it," Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss told the gathering of 150, which included pedestrian-advocacy groups, as well as police, school and transportation officials.

Those attending the brainstorming session during the annual Valley Traffic Summit at Airtel Plaza Hotel discussed a variety of ways to combat the problem, including street improvements, education and enforcement.

The methods included the repainting of some crosswalks in a ladder pattern to increase their visibility, installing pulsating strobe lights at others to alert motorists of pedestrians, and placing crosswalks in the middle of long blocks to discourage jaywalking, said John Fisher, assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

In areas with a large elderly population, some crosswalk signals are being reprogrammed to give walkers more time to get across the street before the signal changes. Efforts also are underway to educate walkers in hopes of changing bad habits that contribute to fatal accidents.

Officials showed a video of pedestrians who narrowly avoided being hit by vehicles as they stepped out of the crosswalk. The video also showed schoolchildren who were nearly struck by cars after their parents dropped them off in the middle of the street.

"The kids think it's OK [to cross a street illegally] because their parents let them do it," Officer Troy Williams told the gathering.

The Department of Transportation has distributed brochures on pedestrian safety and held seminars to teach the public how to safely cross the street.

The LAPD has scheduled stings to cite motorists who endanger pedestrians. Since January, 2,000 motorists have been ticketed as part of the program, Sgt. Roger Archambault said.

For nearly a year, LAPD Deputy Chief Ronald Bergmann, the Valley Bureau's new commander, said he has been trying to get funding for more laser guns, the high-tech version of the radar gun. The Los Angeles Police Foundation has agreed to pay $130,000 for 40 laser guns if the city did the same. The City Council has yet to approve the funds.

"This is a very, very important tool for traffic enforcement," Bergmann said.

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