Vision Zero and traffic enforcement

Sacramento essentially has no traffic enforcement currently, which has led to significant increase in:

  1. running stop signs (not talking about illegal failure to come to a complete stop, but running at full speed or slowing only slightly)
  2. failure by drivers to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk (actually in the crosswalk, not just waiting to cross).

If these issues of non-enforcement and encouragement of unsafe behaviors is not addressed, the Vision Zero effort will fail, no matter what other actions are undertaken.

I have been watching patterns of driver violation in the central city for seven years, as my profession provides me the interest and skills, while my sense of preservation as a pedestrian gives me the motivation. I can state unequivocally that both violations have increased significantly over that time. While it once felt safe and even a bit welcoming to walk in the central city, it does no longer. Why? That is harder to say, but I think that the lack of enforcement of these laws by the Sacramento Police Department has contributed to the problem. Drivers know they won’t be held accountable for failure to yield, and so they don’t. Of course a few do, but with drivers in the other lanes on multi-lane one way streets failing to yield, pedestrians are at just as much risk as if no one yielded.

I have been wanting to delve into traffic enforcement data for the City of Sacramento and all other locales in the region, but that is a major undertaking I haven’t gotten to. A sampling of data below will provide some context. Traffic stop data for years prior to 2016 is not available online, so I can’t speculate about trends in the data.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) “22450. (a) The driver of any vehicle approaching a stop sign at the entrance to, or within, an intersection shall stop at a limit line, if marked, otherwise before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.”

Using data from Sacramento Traffic Stops, 2016 had 30001 stops, 2432 of which were for 22450, 8.1%. 2017 had 32267 stops, 2642 of which were 21950, 8.2%. Stand on any single corner in the central city, and you could see this many violations in a day. Clearly, this law is being only lightly enforced.

CVC “21950: (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.”

Using data from Sacramento Traffic Stops, 2016 had 30001 stops, 66 of which were for 21950, 0.22%. 2017 had 32267 stops, 43 of which were 21950, 0.13%. Stand on any single corner in the central city, and you could see this many violations in an hour. Clearly, this law is not being enforced.

One thought on “Vision Zero and traffic enforcement

  1. Comment from a reader, James. “Interesting post Dan. I’ve independently remarked numerous times to friends and people I run into that in Sacramento, at certain intersections, pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. Not that it’s not the law. Just that it’s not the custom. (I’m referring strictly to the grid here.) It’s a little peculirar, really. Because in a lot of ways, I find that Sacramento drivers are fairly courteous. But there are definitely intersections where both the peds and the drivers seem to have an understanding that people wait until the cars are gone before they cross. And when either party deviates, things get scary. A couple intersections I’m thinking of are P/13th (where I’ve observed a lot of people crossing from 13th St light rail to the bus stop on P/13th) and I Street & 20th Street. Much as these jump to mind, I think there are a fair number of streets where cars are actually fairly deferential to pedestrians. J Street, funny as it sounds, for as auto-oriented as the design of it is, to me does seem to illicit, for whatever reason, a little more deference from motorists to pedestrians. The triple one-ways do still tend to lead to some scary situations, where traffic in one lane stops, and traffic in the next lane does not. But relative to the auto-oriented design of it, I would say the motorists are fairly watchful. I think, compared to I Street, the retail aspect of J Street maybe makes motorists feel more like they are guests in an area, and that they need to watch themselves. I Street (in the high teens and low 20’s) has more of an off-the-main-drag, thoroughfare feel. Drivers feel like they’ve finally gotten away from the heavy retail areas and can finally put the pedal down a little more. I Street feels like the pedestrian is kind of on the motorists’ turf. ”


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