BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — October is National Pedestrian Safety Month and according to California Highway Patrol and the National Road Safety Foundation, pedestrian deaths are increasing locally and nationally.
According to California Highway Patrol Bakersfield, the agency has investigated 20 pedestrian fatalities this year alone. In 2020, 15 total deaths were investigated.
“We’ve also seen an increased amount of injuries involving pedestrians so it is a very serious topic that unfortunately we have to deal with here in Kern County,” Robert Rodriguez with California Highway Patrol says.
Rodriguez says CHP is seeing more deaths and injuries in high-speed areas like highways and freeways.
“It's illegal for a pedestrian to be on a freeway but we are seeing a rise with pedestrians on the freeways and unfortunately they're getting hit and same thing with other roadways where the speed limit is a lot greater than a residential area so it creates more of a dangerous situation both for the pedestrian as well as for the motorist," Rodriguez says.
David Reich with the National Road Safety Foundation says distractions have a role in these accidents.
"People texting or on their cellphones while they're walking or biking and even listening to music or podcasts, earbuds, it just takes you somewhere else and you're not focusing on the task at hand which is walking or riding your bike," Reich says.
He adds that pedestrian deaths over the last few years have risen statewide and nationally.
“In California alone, 1,026 people, pedestrians were killed last year and that’s up a little bit from the previous year which was also over 1,000 people. Last year they rose almost 5%. 6,412 64-hundred 12 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes," Reich adds.
If you are walking on the sidewalk, law enforcement recommends pedestrians walk facing traffic so you can see cars coming towards you.
"If a motorist is going to maybe come off the roadway and onto the sidewalk or maybe if you have time to get out of the way," Rodriguez says.
To increase awareness of pedestrian and driver safety, last month CHP conducted a pedestrian safety enforcement operation in East Bakersfield and Oildale.
"We cited about 45 people for violating pedestrians right of ways. We also cited some pedestrians out there for not utilizing crosswalks," Rodriguez says.
The National Road Safety Foundation says the risk for walking at night is much greater than during the day.
"For pedestrians, of course, make sure you cross at a marked crosswalk. Don’t be distracted while you are crossing and when you're crossing make sure you’re paying attention, and the same thing with motorists while you're out if you are in a school zone or if you are in an area where you know there's an increased amount of pedestrian traffic, please be extra vigilant and just reduce your speed especially when traveling through those neighborhoods," Rodriguez says.
If you are walking at night, it's important to make sure you're seen by drivers. You can do this by wearing a reflective vest, bringing a flashlight or using the light from your phone.