Fatalities and injuries from traffic collisions are down sharply this year in San Francisco, with both categories on pace for their lowest annual total in over a decade.
Through the first week of September, there have been 13 fatalities from traffic accidents in The City this year, according to statistics from the Police Department. The figures reflect auto collisions with pedestrians, bicyclists or other drivers. If the current pace continues, San Francisco would end the year with 19 traffic-related deaths, a 36 percent drop from last year’s total of 30.
This year’s drop in fatalities and injuries involving accidents has come despite four deaths this month. On Sept. 1, two elderly women were struck by motorists, with both eventually dying from their injuries. On Sept. 4, two young men were killed in a head-on collision on Lake Merced Boulevard.
Three years ago, 41 people died in traffic-related accidents, and in 2003 The City recorded a decade-high 45 deaths. Since 2001, the previous annual low for traffic deaths was 26 two years ago.
Injuries from traffic collisions are also on pace for record lows. Through the end of August, the Police Department recorded 2,372 injuries from traffic incidents, a total that would put The City on pace for 3,562 for the year. The lowest annual injury tally in the last 10 years came in 2009, when 3,676 were recorded.
While not down as dramatically as the other categories, pedestrian deaths are also low this year. With nine fatalities in 2010, the number of pedestrian deaths are on pace for 13 this year, a total that would tie 2008 for the lowest in 10 years.
“An underestimated benefit of the work The City is doing — from street improvements to the Bike Plan to Pavement to Parks — is greater awareness among drivers, pedestrians and cyclists that we all share the road,” said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Manish Champsee, president of pedestrian advocacy organization Walk San Francisco, attributed the decrease in incidents more to the economy than to city-led efforts.
“We typically see a drop during a down economy,” Champsee said. “People aren’t driving to work; instead, they’re staying inside more.”
Dean Taylor, a veteran inspector with the Police Department, said officers have increased enforcement on illegal pedestrian crossings, and efforts have stepped up to track down habitual drunken-driving offenders and haul them into court.
“We haven’t really been able to pinpoint what exactly has kept traffic deaths so low this year,” Taylor said.
Bill could lead to a safer intersection
The notoriously unsafe intersection at Market and Octavia streets — where a pedestrian was killed in a hit-and-run accident earlier this year — could be in line for safety upgrades.
A bill to allow camera enforcement of illegal right turns off Market Street has sailed through the state Legislature and is only awaiting final approval from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill, authored by state Assemblyman and former San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, would allow the cameras as part of a two-year pilot program to enforce the ban on right turns from Market Street to Octavia Street.
“Despite The City’s continuing efforts, there have been far too many injuries to pedestrians and cyclists due to illegal turns at Market and Octavia,” said Ammiano. “This pilot program will allow us to not only enforce existing law but to also understand what improvements are needed to ensure that all users of Market Street are safe.”
On May 28, 24-year-old San Francisco resident Emile Llewellyn was fatally injured by a passing motorist at the intersection, which has consistently made the list of The City’s five most dangerous crossings.
The governor has until Sept. 30 to pass Ammiano’s legislation into law.
2010 traffic fatalities
1. Jan. 6: Sloat and Forest View, pedestrian vs. auto
Victim: Feng Lian Zhu
2. Feb. 9: Ocean and Miramar, pedestrian vs. truck
Victim: Xiu Fang Huang
3. Feb. 19: Columbus and Vallejo, pedestrian vs. auto
Victim: Luis Armando
4. March 19: Fourth and King, pedestrian vs. truck
Victim: George Schaeffer
5. April 21: Mission and Beale, pedestrian vs. bus
Victim: Scott Whitsett
6. April 24: Quintara and 48th, motorcycle vs. auto
Victim: Nikolas Pavelic
7. May 28: Market and Octavia, pedestrian vs. auto
Victim: Emile Llewellyn
8. July 31: Folsom and 19th, pedestrian vs. auto
Victim: Roger Kardosky
9. Aug. 13: Masonic and Turk, auto vs. bicycle
Victim: Nils Linke
10. Sept. 1: Cole and Waller, pedestrian vs. auto
Victim: Joyce Lau
11. Sept. 1: Bacon and Bayshore, pedestrian vs. auto
Victim: Pui Gin
12. Sept. 4: Lake Merced Boulevard, auto vs. auto
Victim: Robby Macam
13. Sept. 4: Lake Merced Boulevard, auto vs. auto
Victim: Nick Sarmiento
Total traffic fatalities this year through Sept. 7:
9 Pedestrian fatalities
1 Bicyclist fatalities
2,372 Traffic injuries*
19 Projected traffic fatalities
13 Projected pedestrian fatalities
3,562 Projected traffic injuries
* Through Aug. 31
Traffic fatalities and injuries have declined this year from the past decade.
Total traffic incidents
Incidents involving pedestrians
2009 3,676 30 733 17
2008 3,827 26 805 13
2007 3,909 41 798 24
2006 3,742 32 743 16
2005 4,320 27 755 14
2004 4,133 37 743 20
2003 4,814 45 823 24
2002 5,189 32 888 18
2001 5,496 37 917 19
Source: San Francisco Police Department