Thanks to a $140,000 federal grant, the San Francisco Police Department will be stepping up traffic enforcement efforts in 2013. SFPD plans to focus on some of the city’s most vulnerable areas, including schools and senior centers, cracking down on traffic violations that threaten pedestrian safety. Drivers failing to adhere to pedestrian safety laws will be slapped with a $155 fine.
The new focus on reducing vehicle speeds is part of a coordinated effort between SFPD and the Department of Public Health. The two organizations are working together to help create a safer environment for pedestrians, and a large part of doing that means making sure people stick to the speed limit.
One critic of the initiative was quick to point out that the enforcement seems to be placing the onus on drivers while letting pedestrians off the hook when it comes to possible safety infractions. In addition to calling the new program “one sided,” the critic goes on to write, “nowhere is it mentioned ticketing pedestrians who jay walk, or cross on a red light. Put part of the $140,000 to use against ticketing something other than cars.” However, the complaint sounds more like a bitter motorist than a legitimate argument.
No one is saying pedestrians shouldn’t adhere to their own set of safety guidelines, but that doesn’t change the fact that vehicles still need to operate within the speed limit, stop at crosswalks, and obey traffic signals. And, it’s pretty well accepted that a vehicle poses a much greater threat to a pedestrian than the pedestrian does to a car.
Putting the federal grant money toward enforcing safe driving behavior is likely to have the largest impact on pedestrian safety since, as director of the Public Health Department Barbara Garcia points out, “Research has shown that adhering to speed limits reduces injuries and deaths, especially among seniors and youth who are at high risk.”
Although the SFPD has yet to detail specific deployment strategies, the additional traffic enforcement is slated to begin early this year.