Pedestrian Accidents Increase in Arizona

Pedestrian accidents causing serious injury or death have seen a dramatic increase in Arizona. In Tucson, a 17-year-old Cholla High School student walking to school last month was tragically killed by a speeding motorist as she tried to cross a busy westside street. In January, two pedestrians were killed while attempting to cross local streets. One was a man who was struck by an SUV as he crossed an eastside street. The other was a young man who was celebrating his birthday just after the new year and was hit by a truck as he crossed a dark road on the northwest side of town.

When a pedestrian is killed it is a devastating loss for the victim’s loved ones and friends, but it’s also tragic for the at-fault motorist who will have to live the rest of his life knowing he was responsible for someone’s death.

According to the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, fatalities in Arizona increased more than 40 percent in a four-year period, with 228 pedestrian fatalities in 2017 compared with 160 in 2013.

The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report last year showing pedestrian deaths at levels not seen in decades. Arizona was one of four states that experienced almost half of all pedestrian deaths, and was ranked first in the nation in pedestrian fatalities. In Tucson there were 28 pedestrian deaths in 2018, up from 24 in 2017 and 12 in 2016.

Factors Contributing to Pedestrian Accidents

The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is working with local and national officials to determine the causes of the increase in pedestrian traffic deaths and to create awareness across the state about precautions both motorists and pedestrians should take when on the road.

Several factors have been identified as contributing to the increase in pedestrian accidents. A major one is distracted driving, particularly with the rise of cell phone use. Drivers who are paying attention to their cell phones aren’t paying enough attention to the road, or to pedestrians crossing in front of them.

We know that distracted driving is dangerous, but so is distracted walking. Texting, talking on your phone, checking e-mail, and playing games on a cell phone are dangerous distractions that pedestrians may not realize put them in danger, especially when attempting to cross a street.

The rise in pedestrian deaths has also coincided with the popularity of SUVs. Their larger size, heavier weight, and higher clearance makes it more likely that hitting a pedestrian will have deadly consequences.

Pedestrians not crossing at an intersection, wearing dark clothes at night, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol puts them at increased risk of being hit by a car.

For drivers, speeding, being impaired by drugs or alcohol, making a right or left turn without checking for pedestrians, and not respecting crosswalks are preventable behaviors that can reduce pedestrian deaths.

Pedestrian Safety in Tucson

Tucson city officials have been working to make local streets safer for pedestrians. Tucson installed High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) signals to help citizens cross streets more safely. A pedestrian who wants to cross a street activates the signal, which changes from yellow to red to alert traffic to stop.

Tucson installed the first HAWK signal in 2000. Since then, they have been 90 percent effective in making drivers aware of pedestrians preparing to cross a roadway. Currently Tucson has more than 100 HAWK signals, and the city recently received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to install six more.

Avoiding Pedestrian Traffic Accidents

Both drivers and pedestrians can take steps to prevent pedestrian accidents. Drivers in Arizona must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, whether they are in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.  All intersections on public roads have crosswalks. If they are not marked, they are designated by an “imaginary” line where the sidewalk or edge of the roadway crosses the street.

Drivers are also required by law to exercise due care to avoid striking a pedestrian. Here are tips to help motorists share the road safely with pedestrians:

  • Use your turn signal to let pedestrians know when you are changing lanes or turning at an intersection.
  • Be aware of pedestrians near the roadway; be particularly aware of the presence of children or anyone who seems incapacitated or confused as they may suddenly dart in front of traffic.
  • Make sure you slow down when pedestrians are nearby, as the chances of serious injury or death increase with speed. While a pedestrian hit at 20 mph has a chance of survival of 95 percent, those odds decrease to 16 percent at 40 mph. 
  • It is against the law to pass a school bus with flashing lights and an extended stop sign, so you must always stop. Even if the lights are not flashing, watch out for children around the bus, who may dart into traffic without notice.
  • Pay attention to the road when driving. Don’t be distracted by activities such as checking a cell phone or texting while driving. 

Pedestrians should also exercise caution when walking along a roadway or crossing a street. When crossing a road anywhere other than at a marked or unmarked crosswalk, a pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to vehicles. The following tips will help you stay safe when walking on or near a roadway:

  • Always make sure that you can see traffic.
  • If crossing a street or roadway, try to cross at a location that gives you the best view of traffic and where drivers can best see you.
  • Don’t assume that drivers will always stop, even if you are at a crosswalk. Make sure everyone is stopped before you step onto the road. Be particularly aware of turning vehicles, as they may be looking at oncoming traffic and may not see you.
  • Make sure you are visible. Walk toward traffic and wear bright or reflective clothes at night.
  • When walking in a rural area, walk as far off the roadway as possible.
  • Stay alert when crossing a street. Don’t use headphones, cell phones or anything that may distract you from safely crossing the street.

Being alert on the road, both as drivers and pedestrians, can save lives.

Talcum Powder Lawsuits Prove Strong Cancer Risk

Johnson’s Baby Powder has been a staple in many households for over a century, but recent talcum powder lawsuits against the conglomerate have exposed the cancer risks associated with its use.  

First marketed by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in 1894, Johnson’s Baby Powder became a staple to prevent diaper rash, but other uses for the powder were soon discovered, and it became widespread in many other products marketed to consumers.

Baby powder is known to be an absorbent, light substance, making it ideal for many uses. Besides its use as a baby powder, the company marketed the powder as a feminine hygiene product for women because of its ability to absorb moisture and prevent rashes. It was also formulated for use in cosmetics, deodorants, and dry shampoos. Innovative consumers found it useful for everything from keeping playing cards from sticking together to freshening shoes.

The product contains talc, a soft mineral that is mined, then ground into a powder referred to as talcum or talc. Talc by itself is not known to be harmful. The issue is that it occurs naturally in the ground along with asbestos, which is a known cancer-causing agent.

It has been clearly shown that asbestos causes cancer, including ovarian and lung cancer, mesothelioma, and laryngeal cancer. Because talc and asbestos are mined together, this close link may be the source of cancer risk when using talc products.

Whether talcum powder increases the risk for cancer has been studied and discussed for many years. Recent developments make it more important than ever for consumers to understand the controversy that’s been brewing around talcum powder.

As early as the 1950’s, laboratories found contaminants in talc used by J&J that appeared to be consistent with asbestos, which is often described as fibrous or needle-like. Since that time, studies by several laboratories also showed these impurities.   

Scientists started questioning the relationship between talc and ovarian cancer as early as 1971. In that year a scientific paper reported the results of a study that examined tissue from ovarian tumors. The scientists found talc particles in the tumor tissue, and pointed out the connection between talc and asbestos. Other studies demonstrated the movement of talc particles to the ovaries. This sparked curiosity about the connection with ovarian cancer.

Research from several other studies since then on women with ovarian cancer who used talcum powder has shown everything from no risk to a moderate risk. One study that looked at over 8,000 cases found a risk of ovarian cancer between 20 and 30 percent in women who used talcum powder for feminine hygiene.

The link between talc and asbestos is troubling, but it’s notoriously difficult to prove what may cause a certain type of cancer.

Despite the studies and mounting evidence of the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, J&J continued to market it, and insisted that its powder did not contain asbestos. However, a recent investigation by Reuters reported that the company may have known their talcum powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. According to this report, company documents uncovered as a result of talcum powder lawsuits show that from 1971 to the early 2000s, the talc J&J used would sometimes test positive for asbestos.

Internal J&J reports reviewed during this investigation show that most of their testing didn’t show any asbestos, but also noted that J&J’s test methods had limitations when detecting trace amounts of asbestos. In addition, the company tested only a small fraction of its talc.

Other documents uncovered by Reuters show that J&J knew that three tests by different labs between 1972 and 1975 found asbestos at levels that were described as “rather high.” Nevertheless, J&J told the FDA in 1976 that it did not find asbestos in any sample of talc from December 1972 to October 1973.

Further, Reuters uncovered that company officials discussed how to deal with the problem in company documents and reports during the 1970s and 1980s. While they were talking about it, they did not disclose their concerns to consumers or to regulatory agencies.

Over the past few years J&J has been hit with multiple lawsuits alleging that its talc products caused cancer. Juries have awarded over $5 billion to plaintiffs since 2016, and the company is currently facing nearly 13,000 claims with up to $20 billion at stake. In February the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department issued subpoenas to J&J related to these lawsuits.

Concerns about talc contaminated with asbestos go beyond baby powder. Recently the FDA alerted consumers not to use three cosmetic products—eye shadows, contour palette, and compact powder—from Claire’s Stores, Inc., due to these products testing positive for asbestos.

J&J denies that the company knew that its baby powder contained asbestos. They maintain that their baby powder is free from asbestos and does not cause cancer.

People who are concerned about a serious cancer risk from talcum powder should consider staying away from it, or at least using it cautiously, until more scientific evidence of the link between talc and asbestos is available.