Jana Ploss used to walk the short distance from her condo in Riviera Gardens to her sister’s house on Chia Road almost every given day. She did it for years—walking back and forth, always crossing Vista Chino at Via Miraleste.
On Monday, Nov. 14, she left her sister’s home shortly after 6 p.m. About 6:13 p.m., according to police reports, she was struck by a car at the intersection of Vista Chino and Via Miraleste. She was rushed to Desert Medical Regional Center. Some 20 minutes later, according to the coroner’s office, Ploss was pronounced dead.
Ploss was 64. She was the second pedestrian killed by a car at that intersection in six weeks; James Harper, also 64, was killed on Oct. 6, according to police reports.
Roxann Ploss said that her sister was just 30 yards away from Jana’s front door at Riviera Gardens when she was hit by a car headed eastbound on Vista Chino.
“My sister came to my house daily and went home most nights,” she said. “Sometimes, she stayed over here.”
The Ploss sisters were very close. They chose to live in such proximity so they could spend as much time as possible together. On what would be their last night together, Jana Ploss stayed a bit later than usual to watch the news with her sister.
“It was already dark, which I emphasized, and I asked her to stay over,” Roxann Ploss said. “When she told me she had to get back, I told her to be careful then, and I would see her tomorrow.”
Within minutes, her sister was dead—but Roxann Ploss didn’t know it for another five hours.
“I was watching the 11 o’clock news, and the anchor came on to say, ‘another (pedestrian) fatality in Palm Springs,’” Ploss said.
Then the news broadcast showed footage of the scene of the accident. “I saw the shoe in the middle of the road, and I just knew,” Roxann Ploss said. “About five minutes later, a sheriff was at my door.”
The fact that the intersection has claimed two lives in such a short period of time certainly raises the possibility that the area might be dangerous. But Sgt. William Hutchinson, a Palm Springs Police Department spokesman, does not believe that is the case.
“Vista Chino is not a dangerous place for pedestrians and bikers or for night traffic in general,” Sgt. Hutchinson said.
However, Marcus Fuller, a Palm Springs assistant city manager and city engineer, has already taken up the issue with the California Department of Transportation, also known as CalTrans.
“Vista Chino is a state highway regulated by Caltrans, and Caltrans determines whether the installation of traffic signals, crosswalks or other improvements on Vista Chino are warranted,” Fuller said. “I have personally met with the Caltrans district director and his staff to discuss these accidents and to urge them to take action as soon as possible in whatever way they can.”
John Bulinski, the Caltrans District 8 director, said the fact that two pedestrian fatalities occurred at the same intersection is being examined.
“We are in the process of conducting an investigation of the circumstances surrounding these fatalities and the characteristic of the intersection,” Bulinski said. “We are working with the city of Palm Springs and will make appropriate changes after conclusions are reached.”
As for Roxann Ploss, she hopes that, at the least, the installation of a pedestrian crossing with flashing lights at Vista Chino and Via Miraleste might prevent future losses in lives.
Meanwhile, Fuller and Hutchinson offered some useful safety tips for drivers and pedestrians:
• State law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians, but also requires pedestrians to use caution and not cross a street when it is unsafe to do so.
• Avoid looking at your phone.
• Always drive at a speed that is safe for the conditions.
• Slow down when proceeding through a crosswalk or intersection, and be aware of pedestrians on the sidewalk.
• Look both ways when crossing the street.
• When walking at night, wear bright or reflective clothing, and carry a flashlight.