In San Jose, California, the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths rose to a 15-year high in 2013. With 26 deaths, it’s the highest total the city has experienced since 1997. It’s also the highest number of such fatalities of any city in the Bay Area. Though these incidents have led to a cry for increased traffic policing, San Jose officials say the rise is not so easily explained or curbed.
In 2013, San Jose traffic-related pedestrian deaths included a three-year-old boy, struck in a crosswalk while in a stroller. The victim, young Elijah Alvitre, was honored earlier this month during a candlelight vigil held by 50 San Jose residents.
One San Jose local, Omar Torres, documented the dangers of the crosswalk where Elijah died prior to the boy’s death. Torres said, “To be brutally honest,” he was “not surprised” by the accident. Dangerous pedestrian crossings are “everywhere” throughout San Jose, he says. It’s up to San Jose residents, Torres says, to make city streets safer.
A San Jose mother of two says that traffic-related pedestrian deaths seem like they’re happening “every week.” She says it “is not right that we have kids dying in the streets.” Like other San Jose residents, she feels the police could be doing more to “crack down” on motorists who drive dangerously.
In response to such calls, the head of San Jose’s traffic investigations unit, Sargent Matt Christian, says it’s not that simple. Christian points out that most pedestrian deaths share common factors. Most died while attempting to cross high-traffic areas at night and usually not at a crosswalk. This, he says, is not something police can control. Another San Jose official says that pedestrians and cyclists need to be aware that while vehicles are easily spotted at night, they may be less visible to motorists.
Christian also says modern technology may be to blame. With cellphone and mobile electronic use on the rise, motorists in San Jose and throughout the US are more likely to face distraction while on the road. Though these devices are not going away, Christian says that drivers need to “start focusing.” Just “one split-second of not paying attention,” he says, “can change your life forever.”