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La Mesa police get two new grants collectively worth more than $100K

Karen Pearlman –

The La Mesa Police Department received two grants in October from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to fund year-long programs that will promote safety.

The department was awarded a $96,500 grant for an enforcement and public awareness program that looks to educate the public on safe roadway habits. Police Lt. Greg Runge said officers hope the program will deter people from violating traffic laws or practicing other unsafe behaviors that lead to injuries and fatalities.

The funding is expected to go toward:

• Patrols with emphasis on alcohol and drug-impaired driving prevention.
• Patrols with emphasis on awareness and education of California’s hands-free cell phone law.
• Patrols with emphasis on education of traffic rights for bicyclists and pedestrians.
• Patrols with emphasis on awareness and education of primary causes of crashes: excess speed, failure to yield, failure to stop at stop signs/signals, improper turning/lane changes.
• Collaborative efforts with neighboring agencies on traffic safety priorities.
• DUI checkpoints to target suspected alcohol/drug-impaired drivers, and those unlicensed or with a revoked/suspended license.

The department also was awarded a $25,000 grant to fund a program aimed at improving the safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Before the grant period ends next September, the department will be able to use the money to fund educational programs and training classes for youth and adults to teach them best safety practices when walking or riding a bike.

The education includes letting the public know how important it is to use safety equipment such as reflective armbands, leg bands, headlights, tail lights, reflectors and helmets. The department said it will use the grant money for the city to take part in education campaign events, workshops and programs such as National Walk to School Day, Bicycle Safety Month, Pedestrian Safety Month and Safe Routes to Schools.

It is also a key to the city’s Vision Zero plan, adopted by the La Mesa City Council in September 2018, that looks to reduce traffic fatalities in La Mesa to zero by 2025.

According to La Mesa officials, bicycle and pedestrian-related collisions have been rising the past five years as reported into the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System.

In 2016, 867 pedestrians were killed on California roads, a nearly 33 percent increase from 2012. Also that same year, 147 bicyclists were killed in crashes on California roads, a 14 percent increase from 2012.

According to the most recently available statistics from 2017 by the Office of Traffic Safety, La Mesa ranks No. 92 out of 106 cities of similar size with the most vehicle vs. pedestrian collisions (where No. 1 is worst and No. 106 is best) and 50th out of 106 with the most vehicle vs. bicycle collisions.

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