Safety program to hit the streets

GLENDALE — Police are poised to roll out a pedestrian-education campaign today, designed to get the word out about problem intersections, where pedestrians are vulnerable to being hit by passing vehicles.

The campaign — which is funded through a $133,000 California Office of Traffic Safety grant — will step up efforts to educate pedestrians and motorists, in light of the fact that more than 100 pedestrians were either injured or killed in pedestrian-vehicle collisions in 2006, Glendale Police Officer John Balian said.

And according to a Glendale Police Department traffic safety report last year, Glendale had the second-worst pedestrian-related accident rate among 51 California cities of similar size and the second-worst rate among pedestrians older than 65.

The campaign to deal with the issue is part of a two-pronged effort, which also includes targeted traffic enforcement in areas of the city, Balian said.

Most recently, police arrested an alleged hit-and-run driver March 5, hours after a 73-year-old woman was struck as she tried to cross the street. Sevada Grigoryan, 22, faces felony hit-and-run charges related to the accident.

Alleged hit-and-run driver Ara Grigoryan, 20, is facing trial for the death of 24-year-old Elizabeth Sandoval, who was hit while crossing South Glendale Avenue on July 10, 2007.

To carry out the campaign , which begins today, officers will pursue both grass-roots outreach — passing out informational fliers in problem intersections — and increased enforcement of laws pertaining to pedestrian safety, Glendale Police Lt. Carl Povilaitis said.

“We’ve got two parts to this grant,” he said. “One is pedestrian education and one is primarily focused at speed enforcement. Speed enforcement has been ongoing on a predetermined schedule that we have set up.”

Newly installed red-light cameras at the intersections of Verdugo Boulevard and Mountain Avenue, Pacific Avenue and Colorado Street and at Glendale Boulevard and Broadway, which photograph drivers running red lights, could also improve pedestrian safety, keeping drivers more vigilant at intersections, Povilaitis said.

Drivers turning right at an intersection, for instance, often check to the left for oncoming traffic, but neglect looking to the right, where pedestrians are crossing, he said.

“Stepping up the enforcement on red-light violations, including red-light running and not coming to a complete stop . . .  would also help in terms of enforcement for pedestrian safety,” he said.

A task force of police and volunteers will canvass areas where vehicle-pedestrian accidents occur most frequently, Glendale Police Sgt. Dennis Smith said.

Central and Glendale avenues are two streets that have a particularly high number of pedestrians struck, he said.

“It’s unknown why there are so many collisions on those streets,” he said. “But we won’t just concentrate on those areas; we will consistently look at our statistics and find out where we need to go.”

The fliers will be distributed in English and Armenian and organizers are planning to have both Armenian and Spanish speakers on hand to speak with passersby, Smith said.

But enforcing speed limits and traffic laws is equally as important as education, as drivers are more often to blame for pedestrian accidents, Povilaitis said.

“The majority of our collisions are caused by drivers — that’s not to say all of them — so it’s designed to focus on both parts,” he said.

The program will also step up radar enforcement and stings to catch drivers who do not yield to pedestrians, Povilaitis said.

“I would anticipate as the summer driving season approaches and traffic picks up, we’re planning to pick up the speed enforcement component of the grant,” he said.


 CHRIS WIEBE covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at chris.wiebe@ latimes.com.

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