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Former Sedona Police Chief Addresses City

Sedona AZ (July 13, 2011) – The following testimony was presented to the Sedona City Council during its regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall on July 12, 2011:

From: Joe Vernier
To: Mayor, Councilors, and City Staff,

I would like to share the following about the nighttime pedestrian fatalities that occurred on 89A from 2000 to 2006. This is what I would have expanded on at the June 28th Council meeting had you accepted my offer to do so.

I have been a proponent for lighting on 89A between Rodeo and Dry Creek Road from the time the City and ADOT started studying the pedestrian fatalities on Highway 89A. The first written record of my support for the lighting was recorded in an email I sent to the Pedestrian Safety Committee around 2007. I have always been concerned about the darkness in this area based on the nighttime pedestrian fatalities as well as the feedback given by Sedona officers who had investigated the accidents or patrolled the area.

I was also concerned about the safety of emergency personnel from the fire and police department who had to respond to these incidents and work in this dark and unsafe environment. I witnessed a near miss of a pedestrian on 89A, coincidentally following a meeting with City Council and ADOT on the pedestrian safety issue. Several vehicles, including my own had to come to a rapid stop to avoid colliding with him and each other.  I wrote a memo sharing my observations with the City Manager.  He subsequently appointed me to the Pedestrian Safety Committee.

Through this study the investigating officers and ADOT determined that the problem leading to the fatalities was darkness that prevented motorists from seeing pedestrians in time before colliding with them. It has never been put in terms that there was a problem with intoxicated pedestrians crossing the highway. In my years as a traffic investigator, I have seen civil suits filed against bars and private individuals who allowed someone to get so intoxicated that they died in a related incident. I am not aware of that happening in any of the cases we studied.

To conclude, I sincerely hope we can move forward in partnership with ADOT and work to get the road and safety improvements, including lighting that we need for a safer Sedona.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this.

Joe Vernier
Sedona AZ

Find it in the Sedona Eye!

1 Comment

  1. Lin Ennis says:

    Former Police Chief Vernier said, “It has never been put in terms that there was a problem with intoxicated pedestrians crossing the highway.” I don’t know what he means by “put in terms,” but the information appearing in an article (on this site) of Mr. Vernier’s presentation to the ADOT Board, presents information taken FROM THE POLICE REPORTS.

    Granted, the reports of intoxication were from friends and bystanders, not from the investigating officers themselves. The only other people participating in the accidents were the drivers who survived the mishaps and were able to report to the investigating officers, “I didn’t see him till it was too late.” (We do not yet know whether toxicology reports exist; current SPD is looking into it.)

    One of the accidents included in the study occurred outside the study area – beyond Dry Creek Rd. It would not have been prevented had Mr. Vernier’s suggested lights been installed already. In fact, driving from a lighted area to a completely dark one makes visibility worse for a moment or so.

    We need lights – smart, pedestrian lighting, and safety crosswalks that will aid walkers and motorists both night and day. What we do not need is highway-style lighting that is continuous from a very high level — 35 feet.

    And one more thing: we need more people willing to look at and state the whole truth, not just the excerpts that support their opinions.

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