The city recorded its sixth pedestrian fatality of the year early Wednesday, equaling the number of deaths for all of 1998 and raising new concerns about traffic safety.
The latest accident occurred as a 41-year-old Orange man was crossing West 1st Street in an area that has seen numerous pedestrian injuries and deaths over the last three years. Santa Ana already has the highest pedestrian death rate in Southern California, and a three-mile stretch of West First Street has recorded six fatal accidents since October, 1995.
"It's an area where pedestrians feel that they have to go great distances to be able to cross the streets safely," said Diane Winn, part of a team of UC Irvine researchers who are studying pedestrian safety in Santa Ana.
City officials expressed frustration, saying the deaths are senseless and avoidable. But they said the city's 4-month-old program to reduce accidents is working and they do not see a need to introduce new initiatives.
"We just have to keep up the effort, and I have to believe that we will improve the situation," said City Manager David N. Ream. "If there were a logical physical improvement we could make, I'm sure we'd make it."
The city's crackdown includes more jaywalking patrols and a public education campaign. Since the crackdown began, police have issued more than 1,500 jaywalking citations and more than 250 tickets to motorists who failed to yield to pedestrians.
Police are compiling a report on accidents so far this year to determine whether the program has been effective. Some city officials said the problem has more to do with human behavior than with traffic engineering.