Sunday’s Austin American Statesman had a great article about the increasing number of auto-pedestrian fatalities in Austin. While the bigger trend is for fewer traffic fatalities, the number of auto-pedestrian accidents and fatalities is increasing.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has two theories about the increase. One, increased alcohol usage by motorists and pedestrians could explain part of the problem. Additionally, people now have more disregard for pedestrians at intersections.
The APD is trying to do something about to decrease these auto-pedestrian accidents. They will start sting operations to try and monitor dangerous intersections and ticket people for failing to properly allow pedestrians the right of way.
I’ve seen the problem in both my personal and professional life. On the firm side, we’re seeing more auto-pedestrian and auto-bike accidents than we used to see. I don’t keep track of those specific statistics, but I know that the numbers are significantly higher than they were just a few years ago.
On the personal side, I see people’s attitudes about crosswalks that Chief Acevedo mentioned in the article. I usually drive home one of two ways, and each way has a cross-walk across a major road. Each cross-walk has lights to increase attention to pedestrians — one is the new flashing red lights mentioned in the story and the other is a hanging yellow light flashing all the time. And despite these efforts, I see people blow through the cross-walk areas all the time (especially at the end of the day in rush-hour). In fact, I’ve frequently had other motorists honking at me when I stop to yield to the pedestrians in the area.
This is a trend that needs to slow. Leaders are trying to make Austin more and more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, but that will only happen if the risks don’t continue to increase.
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