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Chicago's 'Vision Zero' policy expanding to San Francisco

In an effort to hold those who hurt or kill pedestrians and bicyclists accountable for their actions, San Francisco is looking to Chicago and New York City for help. Both cities have already adopted "Vision Zero" policies with the goal of eliminating deaths on their cities' streets. San Francisco's police chief wants to implement new regulations in an effort to curb the number of fatalities. This follows a deadly year for pedestrians in the city. More than 20 pedestrians were killed on the streets of San Francisco last year - more than any in the past six years.

The police chief wants to focus on the city's deadliest intersections. In order to do that, police will "prioritize citations" for violations that are most likely to injure or kill those who walk or ride bikes on the city's streets. These include failure to yield, speeding and running red lights. The goal of the "Vision Zero" policy, a concept that originated in Sweden, is to eliminate these fatalities within the next decade.

Some safety advocates, however, blame the San Francisco Police Department, claiming that they are not giving appropriate attention to these incidents and even refusing to take reports because the victims are "not hurt badly enough." A spokesperson for a group called Walk San Francisco points out that while only one-fifth of trips within the city are made on foot, half of the city's traffic fatalities involve pedestrians.

Under the police chief's plan, law enforcement officers will either issue citations or arrest drivers at the scene of the car accident instead of referring the case to the district attorney, as is the current procedure. He also wants to change the language around these incidents. He says the SFPD now refers to them as "collisions" rather than "accidents" because "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time there can be a determination as to who's at fault."

Regardless of the punishment of an at-fault driver in criminal court, victims of accidents have every right to seek damages in civil court to cover medical care and lost wages, as well as pain and suffering. They also can and should seek punitive damages to help act as a deterrent to careless driving, both by the at-fault drivers and by others who do not properly watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists who share the roads with motorists.

Source: KQED.org, "San Francisco Police Vow Tougher Enforcement to Curb Pedestrian Deaths" Bryan Goebel, Jan. 17, 2014

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