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Wednesday, Jan 02 2013 11:00 PM

Pinpoint, curb trends in deaths of pedestrians

By The Bakersfield Californian

Traffic deaths of pedestrians rose again in Bakersfield last year, with 17 people losing their lives after being struck by vehicles on local roadways, according to a Californian analysis published Wednesday. That's up from 15 deaths in 2011 and 10 in 2010. We hope this will be the year that City Hall takes a deeper look into what's behind so many fatalities. While several agencies respond to and investigate pedestrian deaths within the metro area, the city is in the best position to review the information and begin to look for trends.

Certainly, there are cases where pedestrians are at fault, or where blame is hard to find. In one case, an 11-year-old autistic boy bolted into traffic, a situation no one could prevent. But one prominent situation that arises in news accounts and coroner's reports is drivers who flee the scene of accidents. In six of the 17 cases in 2012, the driver fled or tried to leave the scene. In 2011, eight of the drivers involved in 15 pedestrian deaths fled the scene. Only a few have been apprehended.

The family of Brandon Weaver was shocked to learn the hit-and-run driver who killed the 30-year-old father of two could face a maximum of just four years in prison.

It's hard to know what would help prevent pedestrian fatalities -- or at least stem the rising tide locally -- but we won't know anything until someone takes a deeper look at the local data. Might stiffer sentences for hit-and-runs do the trick? Would more sidewalks, crosswalks and better lighting help? How about making it easier for undocumented immigrants to get a license? A new California Department of Motor Vehicles study has found unlicensed drivers are three times as likely to cause a fatal car crash than legal drivers. To stop 2013 from becoming another year of rising fatalities, city leaders should take the initiative to look into these fatalities.

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