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San Jose Grapples With Alarming Increase In Pedestrian Deaths; Many Homeless Victims

By Kiet Do

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    SAN JOSE, California (KPIX) — Amid an alarming increase of pedestrian deaths, San Jose Police Department is asking for the public’s help in solving the city’s most recent fatal traffic collision, a hit-and-run where the victim died several days later.

The male adult victim, who has not been identified, was struck while walking near the intersection of Newhall Street and The Alameda, on January 23 at 4:40am.

“We don’t know what the traffic signal situation was like, but I can confirm that the pedestrian was in the crosswalk. This van struck them and then fled,” said Sgt. Christian Camarillo.

Investigators say the vehicle, described as a “possible transit van”, was heading eastbound on The Alameda, struck the victim, “stopped momentarily and then drove away from the scene.”

The victim died at the hospital on January 28, and was the tenth traffic-related fatality in 2022. Seven of this year’s victims have been pedestrians. The majority of the crashes have occurred in hours of darkness, outside of a crosswalk.

“I can confirm some of the victims this year have been homeless individuals in our city. Pedestrians are hard to see at night, especially when they are outside of a crosswalk. Again, just sharing facts, not victim blaming at all,” said Camarillo.

The city is now on a blistering pace to shatter last year’s historic record. In comparison, by the end of January 2021, there were two traffic related deaths. By April 2021, there were 10 traffic related deaths.

“This has been a surprising and disturbing and really upsetting rash of traffic fatalities,” said Colin Heyne, Public Information Manager for the San Jose Department of Transportation.

In 2021, there were 60 traffic related deaths, matching the tallies in 2015 and 2019. Of the deaths that occurred from January to November 2021, 20% of the victims were homeless.

DOT data showed the incidents were most likely to occur on the city’s east side: “In 2020, unhoused pedestrians were hit most frequently in Council Districts 3, 5, and 7.”

According to Heyne, the city has conducted homeless outreach for the past five years, partnering with local service providers to educate inhabitants of encampments near high vehicle traffic areas, and distributing reflective vests, stickers, and bike lights.

The DOT has also scheduled $6 million in so-called ‘quick-build infrastructure projects’. One of the recent quick-builds, along Senter Road, features flexible white plastic posts, with lane markings for new bike lanes. A before and after video shows the results of the project.

“Typically if we want to make a corridor safer, it requires a lot of funding, environmental review, at least a five year process to change the way a street looks,” said Heyne. “But with quick-build designs, we can make pedestrian crossings better. We can do that in a timeline more like 18 months to two years from start to finish.”

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