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Pedestrian Fatalities Rising in the Valley

January 01, 2002|CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The weekend death of a 19-year-old man hit by a Metro Rapid bus is the latest in a trend of rising pedestrian fatalities in the San Fernando Valley.

Authorities say they do not know why Myron Wise ran in front of a bus, against a red light, Thursday night as it cruised through a Woodland Hills intersection. The Van Nuys man became the 38th Valley pedestrian casualty in 2001 when he died Sunday.

In four years, pedestrian casualties have been steadily decreasing in other parts of Los Angeles, but in the Valley the death toll has more than doubled from 17 in 1998 to 38 in 2001.

Much of that increase, officials say, can be blamed on pedestrians.

"People are jaywalking like crazy," said Capt. Greg Meyer of the Los Angeles Police Department's Valley Traffic Division. "It's completely out of control."

In the past, Valley pedestrians were at fault in one of every four traffic fatalities, police said. But those on foot are now at fault about half the time--either by jaywalking or crossing on a red light.

Wise ran into the path of the westbound bus about 10:20 p.m. Thursday as he was crossing Ventura Boulevard near Canoga Avenue.

Jose Ubaldo, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said he could not comment on the incident because it is under investigation. The bus driver, 39-year-old Mandep Sagoo, has been employed by the agency for nine years and is currently on medical leave, Ubaldo said.

Agency officials could not provide bus death and injury statistics, citing the New Year's holiday.

Neither Wise's family nor Sagoo could be reached for comment.

Officials recently launched an information and enforcement campaign to urge greater pedestrian safety and caution.

The Valley Traffic Division has been setting up more frequent operations to catch drivers who violate pedestrian rights. Officers are cracking down on jaywalkers and those who cross against a red light. At least one community group, the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., is planning an awareness program to help reduce pedestrian accidents.

"People need to take responsibility for their actions," Meyer said. "These are completely preventable tragedies."

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