Pedestrianaccidents 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 lastmonth was tragically killed by a speeding motorist as she tried to cross a busywestside street. In January, two pedestrians were killed while attempting tocross local streets. One was a man who was struck by an SUV as he crossed aneastside street. The other was a young man who was celebrating his birthday justafter the new year and was hit by a truck as he crossed a dark road on thenorthwest side of town.
When apedestrian 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 restof his life knowing he was responsible for someone’s death.
According tothe ArizonaGovernor’s Office of Highway Safety, fatalities in Arizona increased morethan 40 percent in a four-year period, with 228 pedestrian fatalities in 2017compared with 160 in 2013.
The GovernorsHighway Safety Association released a report last year showing pedestriandeaths at levels not seen in decades. Arizona was one of four states that experiencedalmost half of all pedestrian deaths, and was ranked firstin the nation in pedestrian fatalities. In Tucson there were 28pedestrian deaths in 2018, up from 24 in 2017 and 12in 2016.
Factors Contributing to PedestrianAccidents
The ArizonaGovernor’s Office of Highway Safety is working with local and national officialsto determine the causes of the increase in pedestrian traffic deaths and tocreate awareness across the state about precautions both motorists andpedestrians should take when on the road.
Severalfactors have been identified as contributing to the increase in pedestrianaccidents. A major one is distracteddriving, particularly with the rise of cell phone use. Drivers who arepaying attention to their cell phones aren’t paying enough attention to theroad, or to pedestrians crossing in front of them.
We know thatdistracted driving is dangerous, but so is distracted walking. Texting, talkingon your phone, checking e-mail, and playing games on a cell phone are dangerousdistractions that pedestrians may not realize put them in danger, especiallywhen attempting to cross a street.
The rise inpedestrian deaths has also coincided with the popularity of SUVs. Their largersize, heavier weight, and higher clearance makes it more likely that hitting apedestrian will have deadly consequences.
Pedestrians not crossing at an intersection, wearing dark clothes at night, orbeing under the influence of drugs or alcohol puts them at increased risk ofbeing hit by a car.
For drivers,speeding, being impaired by drugs or alcohol, making a right or left turnwithout checking for pedestrians, and not respecting crosswalks are preventablebehaviors that can reduce pedestrian deaths.
Pedestrian Safety in Tucson
Tucson cityofficials have been working to make local streets safer for pedestrians. Tucsoninstalled High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) signals to help citizenscross streets more safely. A pedestrian who wants to cross a street activatesthe signal, which changes from yellow to red to alert traffic to stop.
Tucson installedthe first HAWK signal in 2000. Since then, they have been 90 percenteffective in making drivers aware of pedestrians preparing to cross a roadway.Currently Tucson has more than 100 HAWK signals, and the city recently receiveda grant from the Federal Highway Administration to install six more.
Avoiding Pedestrian Traffic Accidents
Both driversand pedestrians can take steps to preventpedestrian accidents. Drivers in Arizona must yield the right-of-way topedestrians, whether they are in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. All intersections on public roads havecrosswalks. If they are not marked, they are designated by an “imaginary” linewhere the sidewalk or edge of the roadway crosses the street.
Drivers arealso required by law to exercise duecare to avoid striking a pedestrian. Here are tips to help motorists sharethe road safely with pedestrians:
- Use your turn signal to let pedestrians knowwhen you are changing lanes or turning at an intersection.
- Be aware of pedestrians near the roadway; be particularlyaware of the presence of children or anyone who seems incapacitated or confusedas they may suddenly dart in front of traffic.
- Make sure you slow down when pedestrians arenearby, as the chances of serious injury or death increase with speed. While apedestrian hit at 20 mph has a chance of survival of 95 percent, those odds decreaseto 16 percent at 40 mph.
- It is against the law to pass a school bus withflashing lights and an extended stop sign, so you must always stop. Even if thelights are not flashing, watch out for children around the bus, who may dartinto traffic without notice.
- Pay attention to the road when driving. Don’t bedistracted by activities such as checking a cellphone or texting while driving.
Pedestrians should also exercise caution when walking alonga roadway or crossing a street. When crossing a road anywhere other than at amarked or unmarked crosswalk, a pedestrian must yield the right-of-way tovehicles. The following tips will help you stay safe when walking on or near aroadway:
- Always make sure that you can see traffic.
- If crossing a street or roadway, try to cross ata location that gives you the best view of traffic and where drivers can bestsee you.
- Don’t assume that drivers will always stop, evenif you are at a crosswalk. Make sure everyone is stopped before you step ontothe road. Be particularly aware of turning vehicles, as they may be looking atoncoming traffic and may not see you.
- Make sure you are visible. Walk toward trafficand wear bright or reflective clothes at night.
- When walking in a rural area, walk as far offthe roadway as possible.
- Stay alert when crossing a street. Don’t useheadphones, cell phones or anything that may distract you from safely crossingthe street.
Being alerton the road, both as drivers and pedestrians, can save lives.