Study: Minorities, seniors make up most pedestrian deaths

May 24, 2011 8:14:29 PM PDT
Oakland already has a reputation for its rough streets, and a new study out Tuesday shows just how rough they are, especially for minorities and senior citizens. They are being struck and killed more than any other group.

The cars on International Boulevard don't stop, not even for an older man and his grandson. As they blow by, one driver slams on his brakes, too busy on his cell phone to see the family crossing the street. This is the dance pedestrians do every day in this part of Oakland. They wait their turn, they take the chance, they stop, they start... they hope they don't get hit.

"Every week we have a scare," says Ramon Pena of Oakland. "Once a month we have collisions."

According to a national study out Tuesday, minorities and seniors are those being struck and killed the most. In California, African-Americans have an 80 percent higher pedestrian fatality rate than whites. Latinos are 97 percent more likely to be killed while walking.

In Oakland, more than 90 percent of all the pedestrians killed are minorities and more than a quarter are senior citizens.

"It could be that many of the neighborhoods that are home to racial minorities see less investment in pedestrian safety," says Jonathan Bair with Walk Oakland, Bike Oakland. "It could be that there are more pedestrians walking those areas."

Over the past decade there have been 47,000 pedestrian deaths around the country, nearly 7,000 in California, and nearly 700 in San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont.

Though the numbers have dropped in recent years, city leaders are faced with tough choices in difficult budget times..

"We just don't have the resources that we need," says Oakland transportation services manager Wladimir Wlassowsky. "We try to prioritize in locations that have the greatest need."

After seeing a man struck four years ago in a hit and run, Pena now has a life-saving strategy. "You have to be seen. You have to wave your hands because people don't stop."

It gives new meaning to the phrase "the mean streets of Oakland."


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