I-Team investigates what's causing pedestrian deaths

In San Francisco stepping off the curb can be deadly, so the I-Team looked into what is causing the spike in pedestrian deaths.
March 3, 2014 6:14:14 PM PST
In San Francisco, simply stepping off the curb can be deadly. Five people have been killed walking on the streets of San Francisco this year. It is a tragedy unfolding at an alarming rate. The I-Team wanted to see what is causing the spike in pedestrian deaths. We spent months on the streets investigating the problem.

We've investigated the role that cars and bikes play in accidents. Now, we show you the mistakes people make while they walk that put them at risk for serious injuries.

The San Francisco Department of Health estimates two to three people a day are hit by cars, many of them are injured... others die.

The I-Team wanted to see what was happening, so we took our cameras to the streets. We watched again and again, as people crossed mid-block, raced against lights, pushed strollers out into blind spots, crossed streets with their heads down on their smartphones or just walked out into traffic without looking at all.

We saw Khedim Wagne nearly get hit by a car. He admitted he wasn't looking, "Yeah I know, in the city it's pretty much you keep your heads up and go straight."

Pedestrian Krystal Buttner said, "I can admit that have been texting and walking. Then I look up and I feel like an idiot because I almost get hit by a car."

Surveillance video obtained by ABC7 News shows just how fast it can happen. It was taken a couple weeks ago. A man walks out onto Van Ness Avenue into oncoming traffic. It was the last time he was seen alive.

Commander Mikail Ali heads up the San Francisco Police Department's efforts to keep pedestrians safe. He said, "Of those pedestrians who were killed last year, a third of them were identified as being the cause."

In the last seven years, 120 people have died and more than 5,600 have been involved in collisions mostly with cars.

"Our pedestrians definitely have to take a greater stake in their own safety," said Ali.

The department is cracking down on cars driving too fast and pedestrians who cross illegally. In fact, they've issued 43 percent more tickets this January over last.

The city health department is looking for long term solutions. It used police department data to track the most dangerous streets and intersections.

Perhaps not surprising, the most dangerous streets for pedestrians are also the city's busiest in terms of traffic. Most of the worst are downtown on stretches like 6th Street, South of Market and Geary in the Tenderloin.

"Six percent of our city streets contribute to 60 percent of where our severe and fatal injuries happen," said Megan Wier of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

She said an analysis of those accidents also sheds light on who is generally at fault. "Two thirds of the time, drivers are assessed to be at fault," said Wier.

The city will be investing $17 million over the next five years to improve safety conditions for people walking. It includes shortening the walking distances and slowing the traffic down at corners. The city just finished such a project on Cesar Chavez Street.

"We're all pedestrians," reminded Nicole Schneider. She is with WALK SF, a pedestrian advocacy group. She believes street improvements will help reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths.

"We often point fingers and I don't think it is helpful to point fingers. We are educating people and we also need to focus on the things that we know work. We know that street improvements work, so that's the main thing we need to spend taxpayer dollars on," added Schneider.

But even at those intersections designed to be safer, our cameras watched as pedestrians continued to make potentially dangerous mistakes over and over again.

"At the end of the day it really is quite simple," said Ali. "The rules of the road are there to protect human life and people have to adhere to those rules of the road. Whether you be in car, you're on a bike, or you're walking. If the light says red, do not cross the roadway."

To see an interactive map of dangerous streets in the city check out this website.

We want to raise pedestrian awareness. Help us by joining the conversation on Facebook or if you see a car or pedestrian doing something dangerous tweet your pictures and video using the hashtag #didntlook. Maybe together we can encourage drivers, cyclist and pedestrians to look up and look out for each other!

Written and Produced by Ken Miguel


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