Editorials

Sacramento’s driving culture is deadly. Here’s how you can make our city safer

Sacramento is number one.

Usually, that’s good news, but not in this case: Sacramento is number one among California’s largest cities for killing or injuring pedestrian children under age 15 with our cars.

Sacramento’s poor driving record unfortunately extends even further, according to a story by Sacramento Bee reporter Tony Bizjak. An examination of eight years of data revealed that Sacramento leads the state as a danger zone for car-related injuries and deaths resulting from a combination of drinking, speeding, driving at night and hit-and-runs.

And in 2016, the latest year of data available, we had the highest per capita rate of alcohol-involved injury crashes.

Why? For one thing, Sacramentans drive the highest average miles per day of California’s largest cities. This, in part, reflects a systemic lack of available public transportation options.

Opinion

In addition, Sacramento lacks the resources to adequately enforce traffic laws. The Sacramento Police Department is still rebuilding its traffic safety “motor unit” after cuts during the recession.

But the personal choices we each make as drivers are the biggest contributor to Sacramento’s deadly driving culture.

“Other reasons may include growing pains among drivers not used to the area’s increased congestion, and aggressive or unsafe driving by frustrated motorists,” wrote Bizjak.

Every driver plays a role in deciding whether our streets are safe or deadly. Here are some basic steps every Sacramento driver can take to make our city safer:

  • Respect stop signs. Stop fully and completely. Allow pedestrians already in the intersection, or poised to enter it, to pass. Before continuing on your way, allow any cars that arrived at the intersection before you to go through. If you and another car arrived at the same time, the car on the right gets to go first.

  • Stop for pedestrians. There may be no stop sign, yield sign, white stripes painted on the road, or any signage telling you to give way, but you need to stop when you see pedestrians in the street or about to enter it.

  • Slow down. Speed kills. That’s why we have speed limits. In parts of town where people walk, see if there are any people who appear interested in crossing the street. Don’t hit them with your car.

  • Don’t block bike lanes. It’s not just rude. It’s dangerous. Sacramentans aren’t just hitting kids who walk – they’re also hitting kids on bikes, Bizjak found. Help protect bicyclists by keeping your car out of designated bike lanes.

  • Use the “Dutch reach.” Car doors that open suddenly pose a special threat to people on bicycles. To avoid “dooring” bicyclists, try opening your car door with a “Dutch reach.” Instead of opening your driver’s side door with your left hand, open it with your right. This forces you to look behind you as you open it to see if a cyclist is coming.

  • Don’t drink and drive. Take a car, call a sober friend or keep it super local by drinking at establishments within walking distance of your home.

  • Hide the phone. Texting while driving is tempting but deadly. Drivers distracted by their phones are every bit as deadly as drunk drivers.

In a nutshell: Follow traffic laws.

Of course, systemic changes are necessary to better prevent injuries and deaths on the road, and Sacramento is implementing some. The city launched its Vision Zero campaign in 2016 with a goal of improving traffic safety, and has already lowered speed limits near schools.

In the end, however, it comes down to us. Sacramento has a serious problem with dangerous driving. Can we find a way to slow down, be more considerate and finally grasp ⁠– before it’s too late ⁠– that getting to our destinations a few seconds early is not worth risking a life?

The online version of this story contains a survey seeking feedback from readers on traffic safety in Sacramento, and can be found at sacbee.com/opinion/editorials.

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