(A motorist sails past a pedestrian who is in a crosswalk on Airport Boulevard at Holm Road early Thursday morning during a police decoy operation. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — Watsonville Police ratcheted up bike and pedestrian safety enforcement operations on Thursday with focused enforcement on motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.
The department mapped out locations over the past two years where pedestrian and bicycle collisions have occurred along with the violations that led to those crashes. Extra officers are on duty patrolling areas where bicycle and pedestrian traffic and crashes occur in an effort to lower deaths and injuries, Sgt. Donny Thul said.
Officers were on the lookout for violations made by motorists, bicycle riders and pedestrians alike that can lead to injuries, police said. Special attention was directed toward drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks or any other dangerous violation.
On Airport Boulevard near Holm Road, about six officers took turns pulling over motorists Thursday that allegedly failed to stop for a decoy pedestrian using a crosswalk. On April 4 a woman was seriously injured while crossing Airport Boulevard in the same crosswalk as the motorist that hit her was reportedly distracted with an electronic device. The victim still remains in the hospital, police said.
“The object of this operation is to send a message to the public to pay attention to pedestrians,” Thul said. “It’s also just as important for pedestrians to be alert and aware of the traffic as they enter a crosswalk.”
He added that a pedestrian who is distracted with a cell phone while crossing a street stands a much greater chance of being struck.
Police also focused on pedestrians that crossed the street illegally or failed to yield to drivers who had the right of way. Bicycle riders were also issued citations for failing to follow the same traffic laws that apply to motorists.
“All riders are reminded to always wear a helmet,” police said. “Those under 18 years old must wear helmets by law. Pedestrians should cross the street only in marked crosswalks or at corners.”
Watsonville Police have investigated six fatal pedestrian collisions, 113 injury pedestrian collisions, one fatal bicycle collision and 58 injury bicycle collisions during the past three years. In 2016, California had 867 pedestrians and 147 bicyclists killed, accounting for more than 28 percent of all traffic fatalities.
Thul said that police issued 31 citations on Thursday for failure to yield to a pedestrian and for cell phone use while driving.
Thul said one motorist was pulled over twice in the same operation Thursday morning. He was first cited for talking on his cell phone, and later was cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian.
Funding for the traffic safety program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.