By Niki Cervantes
December 9, 2014 -- With holiday crowds increasing, Santa Monica police on Saturday will have extra officers patrolling areas where traffic collisions are most frequent, police officials said.
Officers will be on the lookout for violations by drivers, bike riders and pedestrians that can lead to “life changing injuries,” said Sgt. Rudy Camarena, a police department spokesperson..
“Special attention will be directed toward drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in cross walks and similar dangerous violations,” he said.
“It works. It’s about awareness, education and enforcement,” Camarena said.
Santa Monica police have investigated 874 fatal and injury collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists during the last three years, according to the department’s website.
California leads the nation in bicycle and pedestrian deaths, both state and federal officials have determined.
In Santa Monica, officers also will be watching for such violations as pedestrians crossing the street illegally or failing to yield to drivers who have the right of way, Camarena said.
Bike riders will be stopped and ticketed if they fail to follow the same traffic laws that apply to motorists, he said.
The department has mapped out sites over the last five years where pedestrian and bike collisions are most frequent, along with the violations that have led to the accidents. Police did not specify those locations.
Camarena reminded bicyclists to always wear a helmet, noting that those under 18 are legally required to wear them. He also said pedestrians should cross the street only in marked crosswalks or at corners.
The department’s Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operation is part of a $330,000 federal grant received last month. It comes at a time when the popularity of bicycling is surging nationwide, as are the number of accidents involving cyclists.
A recent study by the National Traffic Safety Administration found 726 “pedalcyclists” – those riding non-motorized bicycles, tricycles and unicycles – were killed and an additional 49,000 injured in crashes in motor vehicle traffic.
Total cyclist deaths were 682 in 2011, according to the report. Cyclist deaths accounted for slightly more than 2 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the agency.
That total was 1.5 percent in 2003, the data shows. Total injuries among cyclists also increased.
Meanwhile, a Los Angeles Times analysis showed hit-and-runs between cars and bicycles jumped in the region’s crowded roadways.
In fact, Santa Monica was one of a handful of cities and neighborhoods were such accidents were concentrated.
The analysis showed a 42 percent surge between 2002 and 2012 in such run-ins in Los Angeles County. During the same period, more than 5,600 cyclists were injured and at least 36 died in hit-and-run accidents, the Times found.