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Guest Opinion: 16 ways pedestrians can make Citrus Heights a safer place

Police line, crash, pedestrian. Auburn Blvd. Citrus Heights. Photo by Luke Otterstad
File photo. Citrus Heights police officers document the scene of a vehicle vs. pedestrian collision that occurred on Auburn Boulevard in 2015. // CH Sentinel

By Dennis Hook–
We are fortunate to have a rich history in Citrus Heights, along with good local government and an outstanding Police Department with Chief Ron Lawrence at the helm.

Residents of Citrus Heights may be aware that a survey conducted a few years ago concluded that Sacramento had the worst drivers in America, due to the city’s ratings for accidents and DUIs. Although we are in Citrus Heights, all roads eventually lead to Sacramento.

For the past three of my four years in Citrus Heights, I have been a full-time pedestrian. And from where I live, everything can be accessed by walking.

I have begun a new organization for all residents of Citrus Heights and all other connecting communities called Walk Safe! Citrus Heights. The sole purpose of this endeavor is to inform the community and encourage residents to get to know each other and share pedestrian safety issues.

My deepest concern is not only our youth and aging public, but the disabled who travel our sidewalks in electrically powered transportation.

As a community, we can better support Citrus Heights police and improve pedestrian safety for all. Pedestrian safety depends on all of us, and the responsibility starts with ourselves.

Almost every day there is a pedestrian-related accident in our region. Many of these tragic incidents have been hit-and-run collisions.

Despite making calls to any insurance company, you’ll find none of them offer pedestrian insurance for those who don’t own a car. It can never be assumed that every driver has appropriate insurance, or isn’t intoxicated, in a hurry or having a bad day.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there was a 3% increase in the number of pedestrians killed in 2018, totaling 6,283 deaths.

Below are ten walking safety tips from the NHTSA:

  • Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road and obey traffic signals.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever possible.
  • If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic as far from traffic as possible.
  • Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
  • Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections where drivers expect pedestrians. Look in all directions for cars including autos turning left or right.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available locate a well-lit area with the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows you to cross safely. Continue to watch for traffic.
  • Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers to make sure you are seen.
  • Be visible at all times, wearing bright clothing during the day. Wear reflective gear at night or use a flashlight.
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.
  • Avoid alcohol and other substances when walking. It impairs abilities and judgments.

The popular notion is that pedestrians have the right of way. This is a myth. We cannot interpret what a driver intends to do. Never assume the right of way.

In addition to NHTSA tips, I add the following:

  • Do not verbally engage with drivers, even if they violate your right of way.
  • Do not make gestures meant to escalate an argument that may start a road rage incident. This is becoming common advice from auto insurance companies. If a driver violates your right of way don’t make a bad situation worse.
  • If you think crossing the street safely is too good to be true, it probably is. You risk being hurt, killed, or receiving a citation from a CHPD traffic officer.
  • When drivers stop for you at intersections, wave and acknowledge them. If drivers violate your pedestrian right of way, defer your right of way to the motorist. Never demand the right of way.
  • When crossing two, four or six-lane streets and highways with walk signals. A) Wait for the signal to walk. B) Look to your left to make sure all motorists have stopped. C) When you are halfway across, look towards your right to ensure oncoming traffic has stopped.
  • Avoid standing on yellow squares seen on just about every corner. These are intended for ease of disabled access. When waiting for a crosswalk signal, stand behind a solid structure like a utility pole and watch for traffic that may jump the curb up and over the yellow square on your corner.

While it’s true that Citrus Heights has red light cameras to cite offenders that don’t stop, cameras cannot save your life. Don’t be another Sacramento County statistic or a brief mention in the news.

Dennis Hook is a Citrus Heights resident and pedestrian safety advocate. He can be contacted at

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