La Jolla Jaywalkers Beware: Police step up pedestrian citations in hope of saving lives

By Ashley Mackin

San Diego Police Department (SDPD) launched the first of what will be many “unannounced” single-day Pedestrian Education and Enforcement Projects (PEEP) on March 7, in response to an increase in pedestrian-and-vehicle accidents.

During the PEEP detail, officers said they kept an eye out for distracted pedestrians and drivers — those looking down at a cell phone, iPod or other handheld device.

Officers issued a total of 328 citations involving pedestrians that day — 12 involved bicycles, 30 involved vehicles — and issued 81 warnings to pedestrians. Police did not break down the ticketing by area, so it’s unknown how many were written in La Jolla.

“Over the last couple of years, we have seen an unprecedented rise in pedestrian-related accidents within the city of San Diego,” said Assistant Lieutenant and Chief of Special Operations for SDPD Lawrence McKinney. “Many of these accidents (resulted) in fatalities. Through our research, we’ve found that many of these accidents are as a result of pedestrian violations. In order to address that, our traffic division has enacted the plan that went into effect this morning.”

Police report that in 2011, there were 14 fatal incidences involving pedestrians. In 2012, there were 20. Two of the 2012 fatal accidents were in La Jolla; one on Aug. 25 on Torrey Pines Road, the other on Oct. 13 on La Jolla Village Drive. In both of these accidents, the pedestrian was deemed at fault.

Lieutenant Steve Hutchinson confirmed a more recent spike, revealing that from January to February 2013 alone, there were 13 pedestrian-and-vehicle accidents. In 10 of them, the pedestrian was found to be at fault; six of those 13 accidents were fatalities and in five of those six, the pedestrian was at fault.

Of the fatal accidents, none occurred in La Jolla.

In the next PEEP, Hutchinson said citations would be issued for basic pedestrian violations, because “A $100 ticket will send a message. You’ll think about it later on.”

As to who would get a warning versus who would get a citation and fine, Lt. Hutchinson said it would be up to the officer’s discretion.

The two most egregious violations reported were the two most common: jaywalking and walking across a red light (see info box).

Hutchinson said people believe the pedestrian always has the right of way, but this is not true.

“The pedestrian does not always have the right of way,” he said. “That is a misnomer that we hear all the time. You (jaywalk) and you get hit, you are at fault. In any of these collisions, even though the pedestrian may not be at fault, they get hit by a car, they lose.”

The latest hit-and-run

One such pedestrian vs. vehicle incident happened on Feb. 6 in La Jolla. A 51-year-old victim was crossing La Jolla Boulevard at Westbourne Street about 6:20 p.m. when a dark vehicle struck him, said San Diego police. The driver of the vehicle didn’t stop and fled the scene. Police are working to identify the driver.

The vehicle was described as a dark gray SUV, similar to a Toyota 4Runner, possibly a 1998 to 2002 model. The license plate possibly began with 5D and had a G or 6 as the third item. The vehicle may have damage to the front right headlight.

Police are also hoping to speak with a woman in a red Range Rover who chased after the suspect vehicle after the crash. She never reported back to police, and investigators would like to interview her for details.

Anyone with information can call traffic detectives at (858) 495-7800 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477. Tipsters may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Pedestrian Violations

The two most common infractions committed by pedestrians: jaywalking and crossing on a red light. The fine for each is about $100.

■ Jaywalking: Walking in between two controlled intersections — an intersection controlled by traffic lights or signage. (That can include walking across the middle of the street between two intersections.)

■ Crossing on a red light: Entering a crosswalk when the crossing indicator is a solid, non-flashing red hand. (Entering a crosswalk when the hand is flashing is OK.)

“A lot of pedestrians look around, see no cars (and they think), ‘OK, I’m in a hurry, I’ve got places to go’ and they go. But it is illegal.” — Lt. Steve Hutchinson

■ Up next:

The corollary to this report is a story on what motorists need to know when pedestrian are in the picture. Watch for a La Jolla Light follow up in an upcoming issue.