Garden Grove PD slashes traffic deaths involving pedestrians and bicyclists


The pedestrian in dark clothing darted into the street.

It was night.

Unfortunately, the 20-year-old was about 400 feet away from a crosswalk and was struck and killed by a motorist.

“It was avoidable,” Master Officer Nathan Morton said of the September fatality on Chapman Avenue in Garden Grove.

Since 2012, Morton has been in charge of helping to reduce traffic fatalities involving pedestrians and cyclists in Garden Grove.

His efforts are paying off.

The September death was the only pedestrian-related traffic fatality so far this year in Garden Grove — a dramatic decline from 2012, when there were six such deaths involving pedestrians or cyclists (out of a total of 11 traffic-related fatalities).

Typically, Garden Grove sees one to two traffic fatalities a year involving pedestrians or bicyclists.

The goal, of course, is zero.

After the high numbers of 2012, the Garden Grove Police Department, working with city officials, established a Fatal Accident Reduction Program.

“The concern was, what are we going to do about it?” Morton said of the especially bloody year.

In 2013, pedestrian/cyclist-related traffic deaths dropped to two, from six the year before, out of 10 overall traffic-related fatalities. And one of the deaths in 2013 was a possible suicide committed by a man in a wheelchair.

As part of FARP, Morton spearheaded a public-awareness campaign to remind residents about safe driving, walking and cycling habits. He spoke at several community meetings, handing out such items as mini-flashlights courtesy of Target.

“I remind them about basic safety-tip stuff,” Morton said of his presentations.

Part of FARP includes crosswalk operations in which a cop posing as a pedestrian crosses legally. Motorists are ticketed for not yielding or not safely letting the pedestrian cross the street.

A crosswalk operation Nov. 7, at Lemonwood Lane and Garden Grove Boulevard, resulted in more than 70 citations handed to offending motorists in three hours, Morton said.

“I didn’t see him,” was the typical response from ticketed motorists.

A crew from GardenGroveTV3 captured the action that day and experienced a close call with a car that failed to yield, Morton said.

“The members of the TV crew had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit,” said Morton, who has been a motor cop for the last two years and has worked patrol for 11 years.

The location of the Nov. 7 crosswalk crackdown was spurred by complaints from residents about cars not slowing or stopping, Morton said.

Morton said he’s hopeful the success of FARP continues.

“I hope our efforts at educating the public will heighten drivers’ awareness and encourage cyclists and pedestrians to increase their visibility when on the roadway,” he said.