MINNEAPOLIS - Last year was the deadliest on record for pedestrians struck by vehicles in Minnesota, preliminary data compiled by the state Department of Public Safety shows.
At least 60 pedestrians died after being struck by motor vehicles, the agency says. That eclipses the previous high of 44 pedestrian deaths in 2005.
It’s part of what public safety experts say is an alarming uptick happening not just in Minnesota, but across much of the country.
The Governors Highway Safety Association estimated in March that about 6,000 pedestrians died in crashes nationwide in 2016. That’s an 11 percent increase from 2015, and the steepest annual spike in four decades, according to the non-profit group representing state and federal highway officials.
So what’s behind the numbers? Experts point to a number of factors.
Chief among them is drivers who fail to yield right-of-way to pedestrians at intersections. But motorists and walkers impaired by drugs, alcohol or distracted by electronic devices are also to blame.
“Alcohol use and distraction – by pedestrians as well as drivers – are related factors increasing along with the number of total pedestrian fatalities,” says state DPS spokesman Dave Boxum.
The agency’s preliminary 2016 data show that 27 of the 60 pedestrians fatally injured last year were legally intoxicated at the time of the crash.
As daylight fades, pedestrian accidents rise
Minnesota pedestrians are most at risk during dawn and dusk in October, November and December, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
DPS spokesman Dave Boxum says the agency’s data shows that the highest percentage of pedestrian crashes happen during those months and hours.
He advises anyone walking outside at sunrise and sunset to consider their visibility to drivers. And motorists should be more watchful for pedestrians.
Additionally, he offers these suggestions to pedestrians and drivers:
Pedestrians can ensure their safety by:
• Crossing at a corner, a marked crosswalk or where a traffic light is present.
• Pay attention, look both ways before crossing, and make eye contact with drivers before entering the road to ensure the driver sees you.
• Never cross in the middle of the road or walk down an interstate.
• Wear bright colored clothing when walking at night.
• Treat every corner as a crosswalk and stop for crossing pedestrians at all corners and crosswalks whether marked or unmarked — it’s the law.
• Drive at safe speeds, be alert for pedestrians, and stop for them when they are crossing.
• Pay attention: Drive distracted free. Driver distraction is a leading cause of pedestrian/vehicle crashes.