Chandler joins pedestrian safety campaign SanTan Sun News

Chandler joins pedestrian safety campaign

May 11th, 2021 STSN Staff
Chandler joins pedestrian safety campaign
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The Chandler Police Department is participating in a countywide enforcement campaign intended to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities across the Valley.

The Maricopa Association of Government’s “See Me AZ” education campaign aims to make Chandler’s roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

The number of pedestrians killed in Arizona has been steadily rising from 163 in 2015 to 220 in 2019, according to the state’s most recently available data.

Maricopa County saw 134 pedestrians killed in 2019, accounting for nearly half of the state’s fatal accidents.

The large majority of fatalities occur in clear daylight.

The Association’s “See Me AZ” campaign is intended to make motorists and pedestrians more aware of each other and less distracted by their phones.

Chandler Detective Zachary Waters said pedestrian safety has been a top priority in the city for several years and the “See Me AZ” campaign will augment the city’s efforts to make drivers more conscious of their surroundings.

“We continue to make a collective effort by educating citizens on appropriate safety measures while they are traversing the roadways on foot or bicycle,” Waters said.

“Enhanced educational efforts will continue to be made to induce changes in driving behavior to encourage drivers to notice and respect the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Chandler is joining Phoenix, Tempe, and Glendale as the first group of municipalities that will be spreading the campaign’s messaging this month.

“As one of the pilot cities, we believe this campaign is another opportunity in fulfilling our mission statement of providing a safe place for people to live, work, and thrive,” Waters added.

Chandler’s traffic unit will be coordinating education and enforcement efforts throughout the month on roadways and near school zones to remind local drivers to always be cognizant of pedestrians and cyclists.

Officers will be dispersing simple safety tips that include keeping a 3-foot distance between cars and cyclists, not parking near crosswalks, obeying speed limits, and not passing other vehicles that have stopped for a moving pedestrian.

Pedestrians can better protect themselves by wearing visible clothing at night, utilizing pedestrian buttons at traffic signals, and looking out for cars turning right on a red light.

Cyclists are reminded to always yield to pedestrians, be cautious while passing driveways, use bike lanes when available, and to follow traffic laws the same as if driving a car.

Sobriety will be another piece of the campaign’s messaging, since impairment has become one of the most prevalent factors in pedestrian crashes that end in a fatality.

Out of the 220 pedestrians killed in Arizona in 2019, at least 95 were reportedly under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.

Arizona and the Phoenix metro area have often been ranked as some of the worst places for pedestrians as the number of accidents continues to rise year after year.

Chandler has had its fair share of tragic accidents reported in recent years, culminating in the untimely deaths of multiple children and young parents.

The killing of 31-year-old Pamela Hesselbacher near Ponderosa and Ray roads in 2016 by an unlicensed driver has had a lasting impact on the community and the state’s driving laws.

The mother and her two small children were walking home from a nearby park when a motorist ran a red light and struck the Hesselbacher family. The driver, William Epperlein, claims he simply wasn’t paying attention as he was passing through an intersection.

The Hesselbacher children survived the accident, but Pamela succumbed to her injuries. The mother’s death sparked statewide outrage once it was revealed the driver was not legally licensed to be operating a vehicle.

Epperlein was given the maximum sentence at the time – 30 days in jail – which later motivated the state’s lawmakers to pass legislation that heightened the penalties for unlicensed drivers who injure or kill pedestrians.

Chandler has attempted to make its roads safer over the years by introducing new infrastructure throughout the city. In 2014, a special walking bridge was constructed across the Loop 101 freeway, allowing a safe route for pedestrians and cyclists to pass over the busy roadway.

The city has additionally spent this last year creating more bike lanes in the West Chandler region along Kyrene and McClintock roads.

Cities participating in the “See Me AZ” campaign will be collecting surveys before and after the event in order to see what type of impact the education efforts have had on local drivers.

“We know that traffic crashes involving pedestrian deaths are a growing public health concern and that we need to quickly figure out the root causes, as we all share the responsibility when it comes to road safety,” said MAG Council Chair Jerry Weiers.

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