An article published Monday in the Arizona Republic reminds us of the need to be cognizant of pedestrian safety, especially in this state.
Arizona has among the worst the worst rates of pedestrian fatalities in the country. Between 2014 and 2019, 1,202 pedestrians died from vehicle collisions, according to Arizona Department of Transportation crash data.
Analysis shows pedestrian fatalities have increased from 155 in 2014 to 220 in 2019 — a 42 percent increase, though 2018 had the most pedestrian deaths during that time frame with 245 fatalities.
The state had the fourth-highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country in 2018, according to the most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Only New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida recorded higher numbers of pedestrian fatalities.
Sierra Vista has an unfortunate history of pedestrian fatalities, leading to several infrastructure improvements that have made it safer to cross local streets. Several accidents on State Route 90 on the city’s east side prompted the state to invest in a dedicated crosswalk at the entrance to Cloud 9 in 2014.
In 2017, the death of one pedestrian and serious injuries to a second person crossing State Route 92 near Snyder Boulevard raised awareness of the continuing dangers of local traffic.
Much like many of the accidents reported in the Phoenix area, local fatalities occur where the thoroughfares are wide and the speed limit is 35 miles an hour or higher.
Pedestrians are at risk attempting to cross these street at spots other than designated crosswalks. Added to the dangerous mix of vehicle speed and the distance being crossed is the often inadequate lighting that isn’t designed to highlight pedestrians.
This isn’t a problem that will be easily remedied, or can be quickly resolved.
Fixing the situation on east State Route 90 in Sierra Vista took four years of study before funding was allocated for a simple lighted crosswalk. We doubt there are enough resources at the local, state and federal levels of government to accomplish all the safety mitigation required to lower — or better, eliminate — pedestrian fatalities.
That being said, the responsibility falls on those who are walking and bicycling in this community.
As summer recedes into fall and the hours of daylight dwindle, it’s imperative that pedestrians wear reflective clothing, only cross at lighted intersections, and whenever possible make eye contact with drivers who are turning right into oncoming traffic. Drivers frequently don’t consider the rights of walkers or bicyclists, routinely cross the stop line at intersections and usually don’t bother to look to their right to check whether someone may be entering the intersection while they are attempting to turn right.
The unfortunate reality is that pedestrians and bicyclists must take the initiative to protect themselves when they venture near or into traffic.
Drivers may be in the wrong, but they always win the argument behind the wheel of a vehicle.
The season is changing and pedestrians and bicyclists must protect themselves.