3 auto-pedestrian deaths result in beefed up patrols on Bellaire Boulevard
Three auto-pedestrian fatalities within a five-block stretch of Bellaire Boulevard have prompted the Houston Police Department to increase patrols in the area, warning the public that officers will be issuing more citations to speeding drivers and jaywalkers.
All three accidents occurred in the past month between the 8600 and 9200 block of Bellaire Boulevard, a stretch of road that has been undergoing heavy street construction in an area known by residents as Chinatown.
Citywide, police officials say that since January, 15 pedestrians have died - more than double the amount from the same time in 2013 and making up for about one-third of all 44 traffic fatalities this year.
The latest of the three deaths on the Bellaire stretch occurred Saturday morning when a vehicle struck and killed a 40-year-old man who tried to cross the 8700 block.
The driver fled.
Police say the victim, whose identity has not been released, did not use a crosswalk in the construction area.
None of the three pedestrians killed were using crosswalks, police said.
"The reason why we are taking this so seriously is because this is a problem," Capt. Larry Baimbridge of the HPD traffic enforcement division said at a Tuesday news conference.
The officer stressed that drivers and pedestrians need to follow the traffic laws.
"We want to recognize it for what it is, and we want to avoid and prevent any future deaths and serious injuries," he said
While construction along the Bellaire Boulevard area may be contributing to the crashes, at times obstructing pedestrians' vision, a large part of the problem is those walking along the street not using crosswalks, police said.
Along with increasing patrols along Bellaire Boulevard, police are assigning officers to educate residents in the area, which has a large Asian population, about the importance of using crosswalks.
"We know that sometimes may be an inconvenience, but I'd rather have an inconvenience than seeing someone hurt or killed," said Capt. James Dale of HPD's midwest patrol division.
Dale also said that about two weeks ago, the city put up large orange signs between the 8600 and 9200 block of Bellaire, urging pedestrians to use crosswalks.
The signs are in English and Chinese.
The first fatal auto-pedestrian crash on the street occurred on Jan. 15 in the 9200 block of Bellaire Boulevard, when a vehicle struck and killed a 78-year-old man.
The second was a hit-and-run of a 28-year-old man that occurred about 4:45 a.m. on Feb. 9 in the 8600 block.
Baimbridge also warned that even if pedestrians are not in crosswalks, drivers who do not stop to help victims can be charged for failure to stop and render aid.
"Had they stopped and taken the appropriate action," Baimbridge said, "They probably wouldn't be looking at any charges."