An increase in the number of collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists has the local office of the California Highway Patrol warning people to proceed with more caution while on Stanislaus County roads.
For the period of June 1 through Aug. 20, 2013, the Modesto-area CHP investigated 15 traffic collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists. In these crashes, two bicyclists and four pedestrians were killed, said CHP spokesman Officer Eric Parsons. For the same period last year, no pedestrians or bicyclists were killed.
“The Modesto Area CHP reminds all residents of Stanislaus County to use caution when walking or riding bicycles and to watch out for them when driving an automobile,” Parsons said. “When riding a bike, always ride with traffic, not against it.”
It’s not just Stanislaus County that is seeing an increase. After decades of fewer pedestrians being killed in traffic crashes, deaths have risen nationwide the last two years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Officials believe the rise in the number of pedestrian deaths nationwide may be tied to “distracted walking” which includes texting, listening to music, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Always make sure your eyes are looking for potential dangers and when using headphones, leave at least one ear open to listen for vehicles on the roadway,” Parsons said.
Several of the bicycle and pedestrian involved collisions that occurred in Stanislaus County occurred during the evening hours. The Department of Transportation’s data shows that more than 70 percent of pedestrian deaths happen at night, with a third of the deaths occurring between 8 p.m. and midnight.
“Use extreme caution when walking or riding your bike during the hours of darkness,” Parsons said. “You can increase your visibility at night by carrying a flashlight and wearing reflective clothing.”
The Department of Transportation’s data also shows that three out of four pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, and more than two out of three happen at non-intersections.
“Use particular care when crossing streets or when walking close to the roadway,” Parsons said. “When crossing the street, even at an intersection, never assume motor vehicles will stop for you. Make sure all vehicles come to a stop before stepping into the roadway.”
Alcohol was involved in half of the traffic crashes resulting in pedestrian deaths nationwide. In one third of these instances, the pedestrian was determined to have a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit to drive.
“As a pedestrian, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs makes it very difficult to perceive and react to dangers pedestrians face,” parsons said. “Not only is it illegal to drive a motor vehicle under the influence, it is also illegal to ride a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
It is illegal to walk or bike along Highway 99 and Interstate 5.