SJ leaders continue to struggle finding solutions to stop city's record traffic deaths

Dustin Dorsey Image
Friday, December 9, 2022
SJ struggles to find solutions to stop city's record traffic deaths
San Jose leaders continue to struggle in finding solutions to stop city's record traffic deaths after 61st fatality recorded.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose has reached a grim milestone -- a record city leaders all hoped would never be broken. Wednesday night, the city's 59th traffic crash took the life of the 61st person on city streets.

After the latest death, sadness is not the only thing neighbors feel.

"So angry, so angry," San Jose resident Gloria Ploch said. "They just had a big prayer, vigil over here -- the whole family singing and everything. I was just in tears. It's just absolutely absurd."

San Jose's biggest problem claimed the life of one of the community's most influential leaders.

MORE: Video shows driver hitting grandma, toddler in SJ; neighbors worry about speeding cars on Halloween

San Jose police are searching for the driver of a gray 2012 Mazda 3, who is responsible for a hit-and-run that injured a 3-year-old and his grandma.

Maria Marcelo was leading a group in a traditional Oaxacan Christmastime celebration when a car hit and killed her along Little Orchard Street, according to her organization, Healing Grove Health Center.

Marcelo's death was the 61st traffic death in 2022, a record in San Jose's modern history.

"Any traffic fatality in our city is one too many," San Jose Police Dept. Public Information Officer Sgt. Christian Camarillo said.

"It's a sad day," San Jose Dept. of Transportation Public Information Officer Colin Heyne said. "It's a number that we didn't want to surpass."

MORE: EXCLUSIVE: SJPD steps into the crosswalk as pedestrian decoys for traffic safety

On Wednesday as SJPD employees acted as pedestrian decoys, we saw just how many drivers didn't stop for someone crossing the road.

We've heard similar messages from leaders following each traffic fatality in San Jose this year.

And despite efforts by the Department of Transportation to make streets safer, the deaths continue.

"Our streets have not gotten more dangerous as far as infrastructure goes," Heyne said. "They've only gotten safer. But this problem keeps alluding our grasp. The bad behavior on the roads, in particular, seems to be progressing faster than we can keep up with."

Handing out tickets would help keep drivers in line. But police insist they're under-staffed and too few cops mean too few tickets.

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"Sometimes citing people for traffic violations is what it takes to modify someone's behavior," Sgt. Camarillo said.

ABC7 News Reporter Dustin Dorsey: "Would more cops on the enforcement lead to less deaths you think?"

Camarillo: "We would hope so. Like I said, in years gone by, we had 50 officers out there. 50, 5-0. Today, we are at 13 or 14."

These are problems Mayor-Elect Matt Mahan will tackle when he comes into office.

MORE: 1 killed, 1 hurt after being hit by car on SF crosswalk; supervisor pushes for more safety measures

He's says the three E's -- enforcement, education and engineering -- have to be emphasized to get people to follow traffic laws again.

"These terrible tragedies do and should focus our attention on those most basic needs and safety is at the top of that list," Mahan said. "So, I'm confident that we can move the needle on this, but it's going to take time. This is about behavior change more than anything."

Mahan says he's planning to use technology, such as traffic cameras, to identify specific problem areas and then begin implementing improvements to make San Jose streets safe again.

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