Pedestrian deaths double since last year

By STEPHEN MOORE

Year-to-date pedestrian fatalities have more than doubled, according to Tucson Police Department records.

As of Oct. 2, there have been 22 pedestrian fatalities compared with 11 for the same period last year.

Total vehicle-related fatalities have remained somewhat constant — 46 for 2017 and 41 for 2016.

There is not an answer for the increase in pedestrian fatalities, according to Tucson police: “Some of the incidents involve jaywalking or impairment on the part of the pedestrian. Some involve impairment on the part of the driver or inattention.”

Tucson Pedestrian Advisory Committee member and Pima Community College Aztec Press adviser Valerie Vinyard has a theory.

“Increased distraction in vehicles and the tendency for drivers to speed often are reasons pedestrian fatalities,” she said.

She did not limit in-vehicle distractions to texting, and she does not believe recent hands-free ordinances will solve the problem.

“Hands-free devices are just as mentally distracting,” Vinyard said. “When drivers are not focused on driving, they are endangering the public.”

There was a tendency to blame the pedestrian, she said.

However, she believes the public is now realizing the pedestrian is not always at fault.

Aztec Press looked at the last 12 deaths, which occurred between June 2 and Oct. 2, reported by the Tucson Police Department (details on earlier fatalities were no longer posted on its website).

The Aztec Press found:

• All but the last two of the victims were male.

• Three victims were known to be 50, ages 30, 43 and 44. The youngest victim was walking down Speedway Boulevard at 4 a.m. and the oldest victim was crossing Irvington Road in a wheelchair just 92 feet from a $120,000 HAWK crossing (High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk). The 43-year-old victim was hit by a school bus while riding a motorized scooter on a sidewalk. The bus driver had passed out for an unknown reason and veered onto the sidewalk, according to police records.

• Four of the victims were not actually pedestrians. Two, ages 62 and 79, were fishing when police said their fishing buddy mistook the accelerator for the brake and ran over them. Police said the third non-pedestrian victim was at a bus stop waiting for a bus. The fourth was hit on a sidewalk by a school bus, as stated in the preceding bullet.

• Hit-and-run drivers accounted for four of the fatalities.

• Neither speed nor alcohol were involved in seven of the eight incidents when the driver remained at the scene, according to police. Police did not comment on speed or alcohol for the eighth incident.

• Two of the victims were in crosswalks. The drivers were turning and did not see the pedestrian until it was too late.

• One victim was in an unmarked crosswalk, which is legally crossing at a street corner.

• Five of the victims were improperly crossing the street, what many call jaywalking. Actually one was jay-rolling, crossing the street in a wheelchair. The police did not respond when asked if the jaywalkers were impaired.

• The ages of the latest two victims had not been released at press time.

Arizona does not set a fine for illegal street crossings, but permits local governments set their own fine. The cost for crossing a street improperly in Pima County is $212.75 (including fees), per Pima County Justice Court’s fine calculator.

“It takes commited residents, police officers and focused drivers to make Tucson city streets safe,” Vinyard said.

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