Dying in the streets

This is a familiar sight: pedestrians jaywalking across a wide, busy street instead of using nearby crosswalks that have lights to stop traffic

Dying in the streets

CREATED May 2, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It can be a death defying act just crossing the street in Tucson.  Last year 17 did die.  This year there are already two pedestrian deaths and almost 50 injuries.
KGUN9 On Your Side's Craig Smith spent a day with TPD seeing how drivers---and walkers put lives in danger, and what police are doing about it.

You're driving along and you see a pedestrian who just has that look----someone preparing to cross the road---without bothering to use any of the lights or crosswalks there to protect them.
Tucson is trying to improve pedestrian safety so we followed along as TPD's motorcycle unit showed us how drivers and walkers make streets more dangerous and how pedestrian accidents are among the most preventable.
To help us see the streets as they do, one of the officers wore a small camera.
Our first stop is an intersection on Oracle.  This stretch is busy and has an added complication...a gentle slope in the road that cuts how far ahead a driver can see.
That's part of the reason there's a HAWK light here.  The solid red means stop.  Treat the flashing red like a stop sign.  Stop, look, then go if it's clear.  Pedestrians are living up to the law and using the protection here but the motor officers see drivers break the law right away.

People often want to cross the road starting out in the median.  Because the medians have so much plant life around here. You are giving a driver just a split second to know you're there.">

Have a look at these stats.
Last year 17 pedestrians died on Tucson streets...six of those were hit and runs.
Almost 220 pedestrians were hurt...65 of those cases were hit and runs.
On 6th Street, near U of A, Tucson Police showed us what they say may be the safest crosswalk in town---if pedestrians used it as designers intended.  Pedestrians have a light to stop traffic, they walk a few feet down a protected median then have another light to protect them.

But in a style we saw again and again, if they use one half of the crosswalk, chances are they won't use the other.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith questioned UA student Daniel Ochoa after he crossed illegally even though a group of Tucson Police Officers was watching.

Smith: "You guys totally ignored half a cross walk.  Why'd you do that?"

Daniel Ochoa: "I don't know. In a hurry

Smith: "There's officers here, looking, that didn't throw you at all?  Did you understand what you were doing?" 

Ochoa: "Yeah." 

Smith:" You did? And you did it anyway? Why?"

Ochoa : "I don't know." 

Smith: "This traffic doesn't scare you?"

Ochoa: "Yeah. It does." 

We saw Jaquelin Thomas use the crosswalk in the right way, so the red lights would protect her but she conceded safety was not the reason she complied with the law.

"Probably because there were three police officers right there.  Honestly, if I'm in a hurry I just run across the street which is probably not smart but I do it."

Pedestrians often make it tougher for drivers to see them by wearing dark clothing at nights---and there's a new pedestrian danger out there.  Often pedestrians are so focused on their ipods or smartphones, they're not watching for traffic.

At Speedway and Campbell we found a lot of drivers living up to the law that says they should yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, but some were creeping into the crosswalk, or going ahead before the crosswalk is clear.
Sergeant Larry Skeenes is on Tucson's pedestrian safety task force, looking for ways to make streets safer.

KGUN9 Reporter Craig Smith asked him: "So that's part technical engineering, part human engineering to get them to use the safety that's out there for them?" 

Sgt Skeenes: "Right, when the engineers, they design the roadways a certain way and they try to design them with all the users taken into account and one of them is pedestrians so they design certain features into the roadway to make it safe for pedestrians but if they don't use them then that goes out the window."
And that's when it falls to enforcement to get people to use the safety built into the system.