A stretch of North Tahoe road that has seen several deadly collisions between pedestrians and vehicles will be the target of a year-long crackdown by local law enforcement.
Drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians alike can expect additional enforcement along the Highway 28 stretch from Tahoe City through Kings Beach over the next year, especially when it comes to violations that tend to cause vehicle-to-pedestrian accidents.
The California Highway Patrol department in Truckee received the Pedestrian Corridor Safety Grant, funded by California’s Office of Traffic Safety, to kick off an aggressive enforcement campaign along a 9-mile segment of Highway 28 from the Tahoe City wye to the Nevada state line. Placer County deputies also received a separate portion of the grant and will be assisting CHP officers.
The grant program, which will reimburse the law enforcement agencies for hundreds of overtime hours spent enforcing pedestrian safety, begins next week on Tuesday, April 1 and will continue through September of 2009.
“We want to see, obviously, the reduction in traffic fatalities involving pedestrians,” said CHP Officer Steve Skeen. “There’s going to be more awareness out there. And there’s going to be officers taking action on those violations that they observe.”
Speeding and drunk driving will be among the violations officers will be looking for. But Skeen also said that citations will be given out to pedestrians walking in the roadway or jaywalking.
“It’s a two-way street, so to speak,” Skeen said. “It’s not just vehicle drivers, it’s also pedestrians and bicyclists.”
The grant was allotted to the Truckee CHP because of the numerous pedestrian fatalities seen over the years on that particular stretch of road. Officer Skeen said seven pedestrian fatalities were listed on the grant application.
Kings Beach alone has seen four serious accidents involving pedestrians and cars since 2004, with 2006 being an especially notable year, according to past Sierra Sun reports.
In the winter of 2006, Tahoma resident Linda Fernandez and her boyfriend Jeremy Virgo were thrown into the air by an on-coming vehicle while walking in a crosswalk on Fox Street and Highway 28. Fernandez died and Virgo was injured.
That following July, two other pedestrians crossing near Bear Street were struck and injured by a passing vehicle. One was taken by helicopter from the scene with serious injuries, while the other pedestrian was driven by ambulance to the hospital.
And in September of that same year, a local teenager was caught beneath a car on the Coon Street crosswalk.
There have been grassroots efforts in the community to improve pedestrian safety in Kings Beach. Bright colored flags were placed at crosswalks last summer for people to hold while walking across the street.
Skeen said that boosting enforcement strictly for pedestrian-safety-related violations should yield positive results.
“We usually see [progress] due to saturation of enforcement,” he said. “The enforcement certainly helps, and in many cases reduces the number of fatalities in those target areas.”
The Truckee CHP department first applied for the state grant in the Fall of 2007, Skeen said. Grant specifications require that the roadway be over a particular length and distance, maintain a speed limit of less than 50 miles-per-hour and have witnessed a higher-than-average fatality rate.
“The Sierra Sun’s David Bunker contributed to this report.