Auto, ped crashes to be probed

HARLINGEN — An increase in the number of fatal and injury accidents between vehicles and pedestrians and bicyclists is prompting transportation officials to investigate the incidents in-depth.

J. Joel Garza Jr., director of the Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization, says the MPO will collect and analyze these accidents in the region and map them to highlight high-risk areas.

“We’re sorting through the data right now. Actually, Mr. Cody Baczewski’s the one working on the data we’re requesting from TxDOT and the state,” Garza said.

Baczewski is a GIS (geographic information system) specialist and a transportation planner for the MPO.

“We hope we can produce some sort of map to reflect the numbers in the past three or four years,” Garza said.

“I know there’s an increase,” he added. “I don’t know the stats right now, but hopefully we will have some numbers.”

Garza said the mapping will pinpoint high-risk areas for bicyclists and pedestrians.

He said distracted driving is becoming a significant contributor to such accidents, as are pedestrians and cyclists who don’t follow traffic rules.

“We can reduce these by targeting cyclists and pedestrians and say look, these are the rules of the road, you have to go with traffic, you have to stop at lights and some of these cyclists don’t do that,” Garza said.

Garza said once the mapping is in place, the MPO plans a public service drive to educate drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to the potential dangers of being on the road together.

“It goes down to our budget, what we can afford,” Garza said. “We’re hoping we can partner with different folks and get some type of campaign together with Harlingen PD (police) or Bike Texas.”