California ranks 9th for pedestrian deaths in the US

A national study released Tuesday says California ranks in the top 10 for the number people struck and killed while walking. Pedestrian deaths have gone up nationwide, and in San Jose, 21 people have been hit and killed so far this year.  

People being struck and killed by cars isn’t just a California problem though it ranks at #9 in the country. The intersection of Senter and Tully roads, has become one of the most dangerous spots for pedestrians in San Jose.  

"The biggest issue is that we prioritize automobile movement, even in our cities," said Anurag Pande, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor.   

Smart Growth America found that in 2020, nearly 18 people a day were struck and killed while walking in the United States. Their research shows that pedestrian deaths are up 62% since 2009, after years of showing improvement.  

"On our city streets we don’t have crosswalks for about a half mile. What does that encourage? That encourages people to sort of jaywalk and walk on mid-blocks, they cross the streets on mid-blocks. That creates danger, and you can’t really blame the pedestrians," Pande said.   

Pande says local leaders must commit to changing the way people drive in cities and create a system that makes it safe for everyone, including pedestrians and bicyclists. In San Jose, District 7 has seven of the city’s most dangerous corridors.  

"Then in 2020 during the pandemic, in response to some really heartbreaking accidents, we put aside about a million dollars into a quick build program, and it took about five months. We put in some quick builds to protect cyclists, to protect pedestrians that really made a difference but frankly, it’s not enough," said Maya Esparza, San Jose City Council member for District 7.     

Quick builds include things like adding plastic barriers and painting intersections. San Jose will receive a $10 million state grant to continue improving its streets. The latest report also highlights that Black, Native Americans and people in low-income areas, are at higher risk of being struck and killed while walking.  

"Parts of the city that have been under-invested for a long time, there’s a direct correlation to accidents, to really people losing their lives, because of inequity," Esparza said.   

Esparza says getting better street lighting is also a huge priority in District 7. She says the city is starting a lighting audit this month and San Jose will apply for other state and federal grants.