Just before 9 a.m. Sunday, a 97-year-old visually impaired woman was struck while trying to cross East Washington Street at Elly Boulevard South in Petaluma. Petaluma Police officers found her in the crosswalk with moderate injuries, along with a 62-year-old driver who told them she hadn’t seen the pedestrian until the collision occurred.

Officers said the sun may have contributed to the driver’s lack of vision but, in a press release, Sgt. Ken Savano also pointed to the “protected and permissive” left turn light that “police and engineers have identified as contributing to a significant number of right-of-way collisions.”

It’s one of 26 Petaluma intersections with the left turn systems that give drivers a protected left-turn arrow, followed by a green light that allows them to turn after yielding. They will be replaced this spring by green arrows that are followed by flashing yellow turn arrows or red lights.

Sgt. Savano, who heads the Petaluma Police Department’s traffic team, explains the incident and the new technology:

Just before the collision, (the driver) was SB on Sonoma Mountain Parkway and approached the intersection intending to make a left turn on East Washington Street facing a solid round green light permitting her turn left when traffic in the approaching direction, including pedestrians, was clear.  She waited for NB vehicles to clear the intersection and then made her left turn when the collision occurred.  (The pedestrian) was transported to a local area hospital. 

This intersection is scheduled to have the protected/permissive signals system removed because of the right-of-way collisions.  Under a protected left turn, the vehicle in this collision would have had the right-of-way and the pedestrian crossing signal would remain red.  When the protected left turn phase was complete, the pedestrian signal would indicate for the pedestrian to cross, with better protection from traffic.  

More information about the protected/permissive intersection replacement project is available in this Argus-Courier article. 

Right-of-way violations are the second highest cause of traffic collisions in the City of Petaluma, according to Sgt. Savano.


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