Tiana Savaikie: Pedestrian deaths

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Every two hours a pedestrian in the United States is killed in a vehicle-related accident, and a pedestrian is injured every seven minutes. In addition to that, 68 percent of bicyclist fatalities occur in urban areas.

The growing community in the Santa Clarita Valley will benefit in many ways if speed limits on main roads are lowered and traffic lights are properly synchronized.

There have been at least five news-reported traffic collisions at locations along Newhall Ranch Road or Bouquet Canyon Road since July 16, 2015, one of them involving a pedestrian.

My brother, Wyatt Savaikie, was that pedestrian. He was killed at Bouquet and Seco Canyon Road.

While walking along Bouquet Canyon Road, my father, Mike Savaikie, and I always commented on the danger of the high speeds drivers employed. I didn’t think I would ever be affected by it — until I was.

Wyatt was just walking to the gym, crossing at the same crosswalk we had crossed many times before.

Now I want to do something about it so no more families have to feel the pain we do. Both of these roads go through residential areas, as well as back up to many schools, parks, and senior apartments. The farthest school, Valencia High School, is located just a 1.7-mile walk from Newhall Ranch Road.

The speed limit on both Newhall Ranch Road and Bouquet Canyon Road ranges from 45 to 50 miles per hour, but majority of people seem comfortable driving faster than that limit.

Our deputies will not pull someone over driving as much as miles per hour over the speed limit — unless that person is driving erratically, according to an anonymous Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.

Santa Clarita’s population grew by 17.5 percent from 2000 to 2010; that was almost twice the growth experienced in all of Los Angeles County.

The results of an analysis, the 2001-2010 Data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), indicated that the overall annualized age-adjusted pedestrian death rate was 1.58 deaths per 100,000 population.

This year, the population in Santa Clarita is 219,611 residents. By the year 2035, the population of the city is forecast to be 239,000.

With growing population come more vehicles, as well as more pedestrians. Santa Clarita’s population is relatively young in age, with 28 percent under the age of 18.

There are many studies arguing that a higher rate of speed does not increase the number of accidents, but most studies do not provide solid evidence.

The purpose of lowering speed limits in Santa Clarita is not only to drop accident rates, but to lessen the risk of death. Higher vehicle speeds increase the likelihood of a pedestrian being struck by a car and the severity of the injury.

An example of how speed affects severity of injury and risk of death is shown in a study done by the Human Impact Organization. The study states that at 20 miles per hour, nine out of 10 pedestrians survive. At 30 miles per hour, five out of 10 survive. And at 40 miles per hour, one out of 10 survive.

Considering those statistics, the rates of speed on our main roads throughout Santa Clarita are not survivable for pedestrians and bicyclists involved in an accident.

At 50 miles per hour, Wyatt did not have a chance.

The community cannot prevent every mistake made by a driver, but we can make it so the mistakes have a lesser chance of taking a life.

Larger cities such as London, Portland and New York have already made the change, and they are seeing results.

New York City implemented the Vision Zero initiative by Mayor De Blasio to reduce pedestrian and driver deaths, which reduced the speed limit to 25 miles per hour in November 2014.

Traffic fatalities are said to be down 27 percent due to the law as of March 2015.

The community of Santa Clarita is very family-oriented, with a large percentage of youth who attend schools and play at parks along these roads.

We are supposed to be a planned family community. We spend money on lots of schools, parks, and other family venues — yet we do not protect families on our own streets.

The speed limits are too high especially since our streets have lots of curves due to our natural topography, and many of the roads are right next to homes, parks and senior citizen communities.

It is our job as a community to watch over the children, the elderly, and all other pedestrians, as well as bicyclists, and to take necessary measures to ensure safety.

People think it won’t happen to them or their loved ones — until it does.

If we fight to drop the speed limits, and synchronize the traffic light cycles, we can prevent further fatalities.

It was a simple accident, one I myself could have made, one anyone else could have made. It could have been anyone’s accident, but it didn’t have to be fatal.

Tiana Savaikie lives in Saugus.

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