Two pedestrians struck by vehicles in 24 hour period, one dead another injured

A law enforcement officer walks into a fatal crime scene involving a pedestrian and at least one vehicle on Sierra Highway Monday night. Samie Gebers/Signal

This week, two pedestrians were struck by vehicles traveling along Sierra Highway in a 24-hour period.

On Monday, 15-year-old Desiree Renee Lawson was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Sierra Highway just south of Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. The call for the incident came in at 8:40 p.m. and, as of Wednesday evening, no suspects were in custody.

The following night at 5:39 p.m., a pedestrian was struck and injured on north Sierra Highway and Via Princessa. According to authorities with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, the individual did not cross the street at a designated crosswalk location when they were hit by the vehicle.

During 2016, the Signal reported on a total of eight pedestrian-related traffic collisions along Sierra Highway. Of the reported incidents, all occurred at night and several ended in pedestrian fatalities.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, pedestrian deaths occur in approximately 22 percent of all traffic fatalities in California.

A large number of Santa Clarita Valley’s pedestrian-related incidents occur along the stretch of highway controlled by both the state and the city; however, the city and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works have no current plans to update crosswalks or lighting along the roadway.

“We have nothing in the works for Sierra Highway,” said Carrie Lujan, communications manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

Lujan said potential improvements to the highway will occur “probably in the next year.”

Until then, city officials and law enforcement officials are encouraging motorists to practice safe driving and pedestrians to stay alert when crossing the street.

Sgt. Scott Shoemaker of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said the road would not be as dangerous if pedestrians and drivers followed the rules of the road.

“It’s two-fold. The motorists need to slow down a little bit, pay attention to the road and not be distracted by cellphones or other things in their cars. Look to the left and right to make sure pedestrians are not crossing the street,” Shoemaker said.

“The pedestrians need to use crosswalks as best they can when they’re available. If they’re going to be walking at night it’s helpful if they wear lighter clothing or reflective clothing.”

Shoemaker said drivers and pedestrians also should not be impaired or distracted while traveling along roadways.

Earlier this year, city officials launched a campaign to promote safe driving titled “Drive, Focus, Live.”  The website covers everything from distracted driving to school zone safety and encourages residents to take a pledge to practice and encourage safe driving.

“There is a big push with the schools to get people to take the pledge,” Lujan said.

The overall goal of the program is to remind community members of traffic laws that are already in place.

According to the DMV’s 2016 California Driver Handbook, “pedestrians have the right-of-way in marked or unmarked crosswalks.” However, they must still abide by the rules of the road and not suddenly leave the curb or cross into the path of cars that “creates an immediate hazard.”

The California Vehicle Code states that drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing the roadway in marked or unmarked crosswalks at intersections, but notes that pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles at any other part of the roadway.

“A lot of factors into it,” Shoemaker said. “People need to try to follow these things to make it a safer place.”

Accidents this year

This week’s accidents were not the first reported pedestrian-related incidents along Sierra Highway.

On April 11 at 9:51 p.m., Jose Manuel Mendoza, 51, was struck and killed by a vehicle on Sierra Highway in front of College of the Canyons’ Canyon Country campus when he attempted to cross the street at a location that was not an intersection or crosswalk.

Two months later on July 25, Darla Hagenson, 53, of Canyon Country was struck and killed by a car at 8:45 p.m. on Sierra Highway near Sierra Cross Avenue. The woman reportedly ran into traffic to rescue her dog after it got away from her on a nighttime walk.

Then, a month later on Aug. 21, a 51-year-old man was struck by a hit-and-run driver before 9 p.m. on Newhall Avenue at Sierra Highway when he was walking across the street.

This fall on Nov. 7, Patti Rhode, 49, of Valencia was struck and killed by a sedan on the 17000 block of Sierra Highway near the Backwoods Inn Restaurant at 6:19 p.m.

Twelve days later, a 2015 Ford Transit van stuck a 79-year-old man attempting to cross Sierra Highway near Agua Dulce Canyon Road at 8:17 p.m. The vehicle saw the pedestrian at the last moment and swerved to the left, striking the pedestrian in the head causing major head trauma.

These reported incidents do not include the many collisions resulting in injuries or fatalities along the state and city controlled stretch of highway that traverses through the outskirts of Santa Clarita.

Safety Tips

Pedestrian Safety

  • Cross only at designated intersections and crosswalks along roadways
  • Make eye contact with drivers whenever possible before crossing the street
  • Wear lightly colored or reflective clothing at night and brightly colored clothing during the day
  • Stay alert and avoid distractions by not wearing headphones or using cellphones when crossing the street
  • Always walk on sidewalks or, if a sidewalk is unavailable, walk on the far side of the road facing traffic
  • Avoid alcohol consumption when walking along roadways as it impairs decision-making skills, physical reflexes and other abilities

Driver Safety

  • Look out for pedestrians at all times by scanning the roads and looking all directions
  • Follow posted speed limits, especially in areas of heavy pedestrian traffic
  • Always use lights and signals properly
  • Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and slow down before approaching a crosswalk
  • Do not pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk
  • Do not drive under the influence, distracted or impaired

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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