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New campaign underway in Maricopa County after research shows a sharp rise of pedestrian deaths in the last decade

Virus Outbreak Japan Daily Life
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jul 29, 2021

The commute was constructed for the driver.

"Maricopa County has more roadways and freeways and less other means of transportation," said Lt. James Sweig with the Tempe Police Department said.

While many cities have worked to add sidewalks and bike lanes, many people behind the wheel simply do not expect to come across pedestrians or cyclists on their route.

New data from the Maricopa Association of Governments shows a big increase in deaths among those walking in the county in the last decade.

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There is a new campaign underway to combat this, especially as children get back to school.

"It's up to all of us to be aware of our surroundings... make sure that we can be seen and get eye contact," said Margaret Herrera.

Herrera is MAG's Transportation Safety Program Manager and she discussed how safety is a two-way street between those in the car and those outside it.

RELATED: How HAWK beacons save pedestrians' lives

MAG found most crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians happened because those involved failed to simply see each other.

"In my own experience, I can tell you... I walk these neighborhoods in the morning," Herrera explained. "And my head is constantly on a swivel. So, when you're crossing a roadway... or when you're crossing a driveway, you kind of have to walk assuming that nobody sees you, right?"

From 2010 to 2019, MAG found a nearly 60% increase in the number of pedestrian deaths.

Bicycle crashes trended downward during that time frame. However, MAG said more cyclists died in 2019 compared to 2018.

All this information comes as more students are stepping back into the street on their way back to school.

"That's always a concern, especially when.... walking and biking to school should be... fun energy-boosting activity," Herrera said. "...None of us want it to end in tragedy."

With this information, MAG recently launched the See Me AZ campaign as a way to bring awareness to this deadly trend. Police agencies participated in a pilot program, as well, focusing on a two-week targeted enforcement and education campaign.

During an 11-day period in April, law enforcement organizations ran heightened enforcement, focusing on pedestrian safety. Take a look at the data compiled by MAG below.

"Inattention is a number one concern with traffic safety," Lt. Sweig said.

RELATED: Tempe police use new data to identify crash hotspots ahead of drivers returning to normal

His traffic unit in Tempe was one of the cities involved. They issued more than 250 citations during a two-week period back in April.

"That was really focused on pedestrian safety and so... one of their requests was we focus on that light rail area, in which we did," Lt. Sweig explained.

Lt. Sweig said they will continue to look for ways to educate drivers, especially as Arizona State University students make their way back into the mix in August.

MAG does offer tips for drivers, along with cyclists and pedestrians on their website to stay safe:

Driver Safety Tips

  • Heads up, cell phones down. Distractions such as cell phones keep your eyes off the road and can result in crashes.
  • Stop for pedestrians, even if you think you have the right of way.
  • It’s the law. Slow down and obey the posted speed limit.
  • Stop and look for pedestrians and bicyclists before turning.
  • Be aware that a pedestrian or cyclist may be approaching the intersection next to you.
  • Do not pass vehicles stopped for people crossing.
  • Do not block or park in crosswalks.
  • Take extra care around buses.
  • Allow three feet when passing bicyclists.
  • Eliminate all distractions.
  • Drive sober.

Bicyclist Safety Tips

  • Heads up, cell phones down. Distractions such as cell phones keep your eyes off the road and can result in crashes.
  • Follow all of the same traffic laws as you would if driving.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Wear reflective clothing and use a headlight if riding at night.
  • Always stop for traffic signals and stop signs.
  • Use the bike lane where available.
  • Exercise caution when crossing driveways.
  • Yield to pedestrians.
  • Ride sober.

Pedestrian Safety Tips

  • Heads up, cell phones down. Distractions such as cell phones or other activities that keep your eyes off the road can result in crashes.
  • Cross at corners and intersections. Use marked crosswalks where available.
  • Before crossing look left, right, then left again.
  • Use the pedestrian buttons on traffic signals. Cross the street only on the walk signal. If the red hand begins to flash or a countdown begins, do not begin to cross – it is illegal and dangerous.
  • Be visible at night and in bad weather. Wear reflective or light clothing and carry a flashlight. It is much easier for you to see cars than for them to see you.
  • Watch out for vehicles turning right on red.
  • Use sidewalks or walk facing traffic where there are no sidewalks.
  • When stepping off a bus, allow it to proceed before crossing to ensure a clear sightline.
  • Walk sober.

Roads problem? Email: roads@abc15.com or call: (833)-AZROADS