[Noozhawk’s note: Noozhawk intern Mason Dochterman, a Santa Barbara Middle School student, recently accompanied staff writer Lara Cooper to a community meeting about Santa Barbara’s pedestrian safety. This is his report.]
Last month’s death of 15-year-old Sergio Romero has sparked a discussion about pedestrian safety throughout Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside community.
Many citizens are saying something needs to be done about the safety of the intersection of Milpas and Ortega streets, where the San Marcos High School sophomore was struck by a truck and killed Oct. 7. They would like to see a stop sign or a traffic light installed there. Others believe putting in a signal will only create more rear-end crashes and driver frustration along busy Milpas Street.
A community meeting was held Nov. 16 at the Franklin Community Center to discuss next steps.
Derek Bailey, a traffic engineer for the city of Santa Barbara, concurred with those who cautioned against installing a traffic light.
“When we put in a stop light, we expect a larger number of rear-end crashes,” he said at the meeting.
However, the general consensus seemed to be that the community needs to educate children about traffic safety.
Milpas is a very kid-populated street, with Santa Barbara Junior High School and Santa Barbara High very close by. Approximately 3,300 students attend the two schools, and Milpas Street is flooded with young pedestrians before school, at lunch and after school.
Also, Jasmine’s Alternative Music School, a recording studio where Sergio had been just before he was killed, is on Milpas Street. The constant presence of these children only increased the urgency of the matter for the stoplight supporters at the meeting.
One citizen said to applause: “A 5 percent chance of saving someone’s life is better than a 0 percent chance.”
Also, there recently was another crash on Milpas Street involving a Moped that collided with a car making a turn near where Sergio died. The accident was not fatal, but it highlighted the matter of traffic safety on Milpas Street.
As Sergio’s mother said, “I don’t want any other family to go through what we are going through right now.”
Upon investigation of the accident, police determined that it was not Sergio who caused the accident; he was making a legal crossing. This sparked cries of “It’s not our children who are causing the accidents, they are becoming the victims! (to applause)”
The driver has not been charged in the case, but authorities are still investigating the collision.
Some say even if the city were to put in a stop sign or light it would do no good in preventing pedestrian accidents, and there have been plenty of accidents at intersections with stoplights. They believe what the city really needs is more police officers on the streets, as there are only two motorcycle officers currently patrolling in Santa Barbara.
“We really need more officers on the streets,” said police Officer Mark Hunt, SBPD’s lead traffic investigator. “The lights are only as good as the officers who enforce them.”
— Noozhawk intern Mason Dochterman is a student at Santa Barbara Middle School and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.