CHP ride along: Most pedestrian crashes are pedestrian's fault

CHP ride along: Most pedestrian crashes are pedestrian's fault »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — With 11 crashes already this year involving someone walking or riding a bike, the California Highway Patrol had a special enforcement operation Thursday in Oildale, targeting the problem.

About a dozen California Highway Patrol officers worked the area during the afternoon, handing out tickets to pedestrians breaking the law.

"We're experiencing a rash of pedestrians that just seem to feel like they have the right of way just because they're out in the street, and they're walking in front of cars," Officer Robert Rodriguez said. In response, patrol cars swarmed the area from noon to mid-afternoon.

By the end of the "focused enforcement" the officers had handed out 21 citations to pedestrians, five tickets to people on bicycles or scooters, and one citation for cell phone use. They gave 13 verbal warnings. The officers made one arrest on warrants.

Officer John Ehret usually works the Oildale area, and he's seen plenty of problems with pedestrians and crashes.

"Sometimes they're just not paying attention, but up here -- most of the time it's being under the influence," Ehret told Eyewitness News.

Rodriguez said alcohol use is suspected in a crash Wednesday night on Roberts Lane. Officers say the driver didn't see the victim, and couldn't avoid the crash. The man who was hit was expected to survive.

The officer said too often people on foot take dangerous chances.

"Just because you're a pedestrian, doesn't automatically give the right of way," Rodriguez said. "You just be in a cross walk." But, even then -- pedestrians have to be careful.

Officers have reported a woman was in the cross walk when she was hit by a truck on April 26 at McCray and Merle Haggard Drive. That victim was killed. Rodriguez said two of the recent pedestrian-involved crashes have been fatal.

Bicycle riders are also at risk, and Officer Ehret spotted a man wearing a hat peddling in the street on Roberts Lane going the wrong direction. That bike rider was stopped, and the officer warned him and explained the law.

"It is against the law to ride against traffic," Rodriguez explained. "If you're riding your bicycle, the same rules of the road apply to you."

Officer Ehret spotted bike riders who didn't stop at red lights, or cut across traffic -- also illegal and very dangerous. At Roberts Lane and North Chester, he had to chase down one man on a bike.

"I tried to stop this bicycle for the wrong direction and cutting across where he's not supposed to," Ehret said. That man ditched the bike inside a nearby store, ducked inside, and was found hiding behind a candy display, the officer said. The bike rider ended up with a ticket.

Ehret says it's dangerous behavior. "The major problem with vehicle versus pedestrian is cars weigh 4,000 pounds," the officer said. "The car's going to win every time."

Rodriguez urges people behind the wheel to drive defensively and be alert for those on foot or on bikes. And he said pedestrians should follow the laws and be careful. The CHP promises if there are more trouble spots, they will send officers out to saturate an area and write more tickets in a "focused enforcement."

"Granted, it's a short time period," Rodriguez said. "But we're hoping that within that short time period that we're able to make a difference within that community."