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Turlock developing strategies to improve traffic safety
A flower memorial marks the intersection of Lander and Bernell avenues where Kathryn Hays of Turlock was struck by a car and killed in October 2015. The Turlock Police Department reported an overall increase in collisions in the city for 2015, including two fatalities. - photo by Journal file photo

A study showing Turlock has a higher rate of traffic incidents, including fatalities and injuries, than other like-sized cities has prompted city officials to take a closer look at how people traverse the town and what methods could improve the safety on the roadways.

The California Office of Traffic Safety examined traffic reports from 2013 for 103 like-sized cities and ranked them according to the rates of occurrences. Turlock was ranked 31st for collisions that resulted in fatalities or injuries, with 365 traffic collisions. For collisions involving pedestrians, Turlock was 44th with 22 collisions. Turlock was 40th for collisions involving bicyclists with 28, and 42nd in collisions involving motorcycles, with 12.

“It is above average and that’s not where we want to be,” said Turlock City Engineer Mike Pitcock on Tuesday when he presented the traffic study information to the Turlock City Council.

More recently the Turlock Police Department reported an overall increase in collisions in the city. In 2015, there were 847 accidents in Turlock, an increase of 2 percent from 2014. The number of non-injury accidents was at 571, an increase of 6 percent from the year prior. There were 276 injury accidents in 2015, which is a 2 percent decrease from 2014. In 2015, Turlock saw two fatalities from traffic collisions, which is a 75 percent decrease from the year prior.

“It’s still two too many,” Pitcock said.

The majority of the collisions were a result of right of way violations, according to the Turlock Police Department’s statistics. There were 92 right of way violations cited in traffic collision reports, followed by 88 unsafe turning movements, and 85 unsafe speed citations.

The California Office of Traffic Safety awarded the Turlock Police Department a $69,000 grant in 2015 for a year-long program of special enforcements and public awareness efforts to prevent traffic related deaths and injuries.

Statewide the California Office of Traffic Safety study found a 6.9 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities, an 8.6 percent increase in bicyclist fatalities, and a 1.9 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities.

“It shows that society is pretty distracted with their driving,” Pitcock said.

The City’s engineering department also looked at the locations that were more frequently the site of collisions and found the intersection of Lander and Glenwood avenues had the highest occurrences. Other intersections with high rates of collisions were: Crowell Road and Monte Vista Avenue; Golden State Boulevard and Marshall Street; Fulkerth Road and Golden State Boulevard; Christoffersen Parkway and Walnut Road; Golden State Boulevard and Monte Vista Avenue; and Lander and Linwood avenues.

Pitcock said the engineering department will be looking at all the signals around town and trying to determine any patterns that could be adjusted to increase traffic safety. Already the City will be embarking on a revamp of the Fulkerth Road and Golden State Boulevard intersection that will include protected turn lanes. Protected turn lanes, which allows a left turn on the green arrow only, are also planned for Crowell Road and Monte Vista Avenue and Christoffersen Parkway and Walnut Road.

Pitcock explained that the signals with green arrows followed by a green ball help enhance traffic efficiency, but that it may be at the cost of traffic safety because some motorists are unclear that the green ball allows for a left turn only when clear.

“We are also looking at what we can do to educate people on this as well,” Pitcock said.

The City will be undertaking a Collision Reduction Strategy that will implement a multi-pronged approach to improving safety on Turlock’s roadways. One method will be the Four E’s — Educate, Encourage, Enforce, and Evaluate. The City is planning on partnering with the Turlock Unified School District to teach children about traffic safety and working with parents to learn what traffic challenges lay between home and school. The City also has plans for custom signs and message boards in trouble spots and increased enforcement efforts.

“We don’t want to do more enforcement, but sometimes it’s what people listen to,” Pitcock said.