Just last week, Miguel Angel Canela was walking along Highway 58 near Mojave when, just east of exit 172, on the westbound shoulder, he was struck by a vehicle. Canela, 33, died at the scene.

And with that, Canela joined 39 other pedestrians who have been struck and killed in Kern County this year, according to coroner's office records. This marks the second time in three years Kern County has had 40 pedestrian deaths, and with a month to go, 2017's number could climb higher.

Last year, Kern had 34 pedestrian deaths, and in 2014 there were 24. 

Most of these incidents take place in the evening, after dark, and the majority involve someone violating the rules of the road, said Bakersfield police spokesman Sgt. Ryan Kroeker. 

According to the city's Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Report, updated on Oct. 9, pedestrians were at fault in the majority of those incidents.

Within the Bakersfield city limits, 20 pedestrians were struck and killed as of Nov. 28, Kroeker said. If it seems like the number of pedestrian deaths is increasing, there is good reason: The tragic toll has grown every year since 2013, when there were nine deaths just within the city.

Most of the deaths occurred because of failure to yield to vehicles in areas without a crosswalk, the report says. The youngest death was a child of 4, the oldest an 89-year-old.

Kroeker said pedestrians should wear light-colored clothing when it's dark out to make them more visible to drivers. And motorists should take a little extra time and drive more slowly during the evening hours to give them time to react if they see a pedestrian in the roadway. 

"If you follow the rules of the road, it helps keep everyone safe," he said.

To help improve safety, the report said, the city, among other things, has paid more than $8.8 million over the past four years for Community Development Block Grant funds for pedestrian-related improvements, such as sidewalks. It has partnered with GET to construct sidewalks and access ramps near and adjacent to bus stops.

The city is also pursuing a grant from Caltrans for a Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Plan.

"The proposed plan would include, but is not limited to, identifying locations that have a high potential of collisions and recommending improvements to said locations," the report said. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a total of 5,376 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. in 2015. 

Among the agency's tips for pedestrians:

  • Be predictable and follow the rules of the road, obeying signs and signals. Walk on sidewalks when they're available.
  • Walk facing traffic if there's no sidewalk, keep alert at all times and cross streets at crosswalks or intersections when possible. Look for cars in all directions, including those that are turning.
  • If a crosswalk isn't available, locate a well-lit area with a good view of traffic, then cross safely. Never assume a driver sees you; make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you're seen.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day, and reflective clothing or carry a flashlight at night. Avoid alcohol and drugs as they impair abilities and judgment, and watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots. 

And for motorists:

  • Look out for pedestrians everywhere, using extra caution when driving at night or in bad weather. Slow down and be prepared to stop at crosswalks.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk. Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. 
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, follow the speed limit — noting slower speed limits in school zones — and be extra cautious when backing up. 

Jason Kotowski can be reached at 661-395-7491. Follow him on Twitter: @tbcbreakingnews.

(1) comment

JSmith

8.8 million to prevent collisions between autos and pedestrians. What waste of money. There is no funding for stupidity. Don't walk in traffic lanes in dark clothing, duh.

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