City eyes three-pronged response to collisions with pedestrians, cyclists

Deputies investigate the circumstances surrounding a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian in front of Saugus High School. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Santa Clarita celebrates its status as one of America’s safest cities, and a few years back, local leadership became aware of a problem facing communities everywhere: the roads remain a dangerous place for distracted drivers, cyclists and especially pedestrians.

In 2016, for example, more than 1,000 nonmotorists (138 cyclists and 867 pedestrians; 1,005 total) were killed in collisions in California alone.

California and Santa Clarita weren’t the exception to the rule.

Nationally, the number of pedestrian deaths for 2016 (5,987) was at its highest level in 25 years, according to the most recent data available from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Santa Clarita’s response was to bring together city leadership, its traffic engineers and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station to create a traffic-safety plan, according to Rebecca Widdison, management analyst with the city of Santa Clarita.

The traffic safety plan helped local leadership form a team, and the team eventually led to the  Heads Up campaign, which is part of a three-pronged effort by the group to address education, enforcement and engineering; education through the outreach campaign, engineering with the help of the city’s traffic team and enforcement through what the city calls “productivity,” or corrective actions by law enforcement officials.

In 2018, for example, productivity, or Sheriff’s Department measures to increase safety, such as citations for distracted driving, has increased 13 percent, and increased by 65 percent since the traffic-safety team was formed in 2016.

While there are still challenges, the partnership has made a significant statistical difference in almost all of the city’s most challenging intersections, according to Widdison.   

“Due to our successful partnership and collaboration between our City Council and our Sheriff’s Department and the hard work of our Santa Clarita motor deputies, in 2018 alone, total collisions were down 14 percent,” Widdison noted. “Since implementation in 2017, the number of our total collisions in Santa Clarita are down 24 percent.”

The five busiest intersections by traffic volume in 2017-18

  • Newhall Ranch Road and Bouquet Canyon Road
  • Soledad Canyon Road and Bouquet Canyon Road
  • Newhall Ranch Road and McBean Parkway
  • Soledad Canyon Road and Whites Canyon Road
  • Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway

The city released Monday a list of the intersections with the highest volume of traffic and the highest number of incidents in Santa Clarita, which is something the city monitors with its traffic engineers as part of an ongoing safety effort, Widdison said.

While the city works directly with the SCV Sheriff’s Station, it also called on drivers and those on foot and bicycles to help, too, especially in light of Heads Up, and furthering distracted driving awareness.

“We’re always looking at the data and as trends in our community arrive, our traffic team will meet to discuss them,” Widdison said. “April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and we want to urge residents to utilize crosswalks and pedestrian bridges whenever possible.”

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