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Pedestrian Death Toll Rises as S.F. Adopts 'Vision Zero'

The SFMTA may want to curb pedestrian fatalities on San Francisco city streets, but does it have what it takes to actually institute real change? The 'Vision Zero' plan, which the city has just adopted, seeks to eliminate pedestrian and cyclist deaths altogether by 2024. It's a lofty goal, to be sure, and one that everyone can jump on board with. But what needs to happen in order for the initiative to be a success?

Just Tuesday, there was another fatal accident in the Sunset district. One pedestrian was killed and three were injured in a crash near the intersection of Sunset and Yorba street in broad daylight, around 11 a.m. A local resident, 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon, was killed and three passengers inside the vehicle were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. An eyewitness said that Berenzon appeared to be in the crosswalk at the time of the accident. This was San Francisco's second pedestrian fatality of 2014.

The crosswalk that Berenzon was in has flashing lights that are supposed to alert drivers to the fact that a pedestrian is crossing the street. In fact, after San Francisco sustained the highest number of pedestrian fatalities since 2007, the SFMTA recently put flashing signals in several crosswalks along Sunset. It is not clear why the flashers failed to alert this driver.

I have seen many cases where the City has not recognized the need for enhancements at crossings but it is disheartening when they do take warranted steps but the drivers still fail to be attentive.

This accident is one example of why zero accidents is not a viable goal. But thank you to the City for recognizing the need to solve the pedestrian accident problem in San Francisco. The rates are off the chart. It is of course inevitable that no matter how many safety improvements the SFMTA puts in place over the next decade - be it blinking lights, audio warnings, barriers, parking regulations or something yet to be determined - there will always be a distracted or reckless driver who manages to hit and kill someone. But if the City does focus on the problem much progress can be made.

As a pedestrian and cyclist accident attorney in San Francisco, I admire the city for making such a weighty commitment to public safety. But it's going to have to be a team effort. The SFMTA needs to improve our streets but drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all need to do their share as well. San Francisco is a big city with a lot going on at any given time. Pay attention when you are out and about. Be careful, and don't take anything for granted. Expect that last driver to try to squeeze through the changing or already red light. Anticipate the right turning driver does not see you stepping into the crosswalk. Truly share the lanes with motor vehicle traffic if you are a bicyclist and with bicyclists if you are driving a motor vehicle. Let's do our part to reduce these tragic accidents.

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