Glendale officials step up focus on pedestrian safety

The camera focuses in on candles glowing on a birthday cake. A young girl wants to wait for her grandfather to arrive to make her wish, but her mother encourages her to do it without him. The scene switches to an older man walking down the street carrying a pink balloon and a present.

As the man crosses the street, a loud crash interrupts the background music, the balloon floats away and the wrapped gift falls to the ground.

It’s a jolting scene, but if the city wants to stop pedestrian fatalities, officials have to influence drivers and pedestrians with endeavors such as a public service announcement that some may find shocking, said Glendale Police Chief Robert Castro.

“We are taking our gloves off and dealing with this issue,” Castro told the City Council last week. “We have to find ways to truly get people’s attention and, at times, reaching them on an emotional level.”

The public service announcement and other education efforts by the police department come after recent traffic fatalities. There have been 22 traffic fatalities since 2008 in Glendale, according to a city report.

Most of the fatalities were pedestrians. Of the 23 people killed in the 22 accidents, 11 were between 80 and 90 years old and five were between 50 and 60 years old. The majority were of Armenian descent.

In addition to tugging on heartstrings through the public service announcement, which has played on the city’s television channel, GTV6, and 29 Armenian television outlets, the police department has also ratcheted up enforcement.

Since January, police have issued roughly 4,700 traffic-safety citations and an equal number of warnings, Castro said. The department has placed mobile signs in high-fatality areas, such as the southern and western regions, which remind drivers to put down their cellphone while behind the wheel.

Officials are also doling out free items to remind pedestrians that they should follow the rules of the road, too.

The police department is distributing free yellow, reflective slap bracelets — reminiscent of the wristbands popular on school playgrounds in the 1980s and 1990s — and flashlights to protect those who walk at night.

The items, which can be picked up at the police department at 131 N. Isabel St., say “Look to Live” in multiple languages to remind pedestrians to watch out for themselves.

But it’s not just about what the city can do, Castro said, encouraging community groups to get involved in educating others about road safety. He added that the police department has trained 21 senior counselors in pedestrian safety. The department has also hosted a dozen community meetings to discuss traffic safety and more meetings are in the works.

Traffic-safety issues aren’t unique to Glendale, but the city’s response has gotten the attention of major cities throughout the country, Castro said.

“We’re getting calls from San Francisco and other cities who are having issues and asking us what are we doing,” he said.

The next traffic safety meeting is scheduled for June 5 at 10 a.m. in the Central Library auditorium, 222 E. Harvard St. The meeting will be in Armenian.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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