San Jose's alarmingly high traffic fatalities cause for concern among city leaders, residents

San Jose traffic accident investigation.

In San Jose, statistically, there’s a greater chance of death as a pedestrian or motorist, than from homicide.

"Yeah, I’ve almost been hit a couple of times just crossing. Some people don’t even pay attention to you, your life. They think it’s a freeway," said Steve A., a pedestrian who scrambled across Senter Road. He trapped midway on the island due to heavy, speeding traffic.

Wednesday, city leaders gathered on the corner of Senter Road, near Phelan Avenue -- a stretch of street that’s had two fatal collisions -- to tout efforts to increase safety measures.

"We’re here because amid this pandemic, we have been suffering from an epidemic of traffic fatalities in our city," said Mayor Sam Liccardo, (D) San Jose.

So far in 2022, there have been 21 people killed in traffic accidents on the 2,800 miles of streets in the city. A quarter of those deaths have occurred on White Road in East San Jose. 

An additional death happened Wednesday when police said a solo vehicle traffic collision happened at N. 11th and Santa Clara streets at around 5:30 p.m. The driver was declared dead at the scene. 

"I cannot tell you how alarmed I am by the tragic deaths we have been experiencing here," said city council Dist. 6 representative Dev Davis. Added Maya Esparza, who represents Dist. 7 on the council, "These aren’t numbers, these are people they have families and neighborhoods."

Other people have suffered severe injuries and broken bones, as did Cameron Finley while crossing Brokaw Road last September, in the crosswalk and with a green light.

"He hit me on the left while I was looking right. Didn’t even see it coming. Next thing I knew I was tumbling through the air and then, ah, landed in the middle of the street," said Finley, who wore two casts, and was in recovery from the accident for three months.

City leaders said they’ve ramped up a three-point "Vision Zero" initiative approach to reduce traffic collisions. Seventeen so-called problem corridors are targeted for improvements. They’ll get more visible cross walks, highlights around traffic signals, and protective barriers for pedestrians and cyclists.

"The city council also adopted in the budget an additional $6M so that we can continue to do this on other high priority safety corridors," said John Ristow, the San Jose Transportation Dept. director.

Officials hope education programs and more police traffic enforcement officers will also produce change.

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Later this month, Mayor Liccardo travels to Sacramento to push for passage of Assembly Bill 2336. It would fund a pilot program to install license plate camera readers in four cities around the state, including San Jose, where speeding is a problem. The cameras would generate notices to registered vehicle owners letting them know their vehicle was speeding. The first notice would be a warning, and after that, incremental fines would be levied.

Mayor Liccardo said installing LED lighting throughout the city will also make a difference, as 70% of collisions occur at night.

Officials concede, there are no statistics that show successes, as the COVID pandemic skewed traffic pattern numbers. But, they believe better behavior and engineering will go a long way in reversing the current trend.