Local News

Researchers: Distracted drivers aren't only problem in busy crosswalks

Posted August 9, 2012

— Distracted drivers get the bulk of the headlines, but according to highway safety researchers at the University of North Carolina, distracted walkers are just as much to blame for the state's high rate of pedestrian crashes. 

Whether it's ignoring traffic circles, failing to use crosswalks altogether or being distracted by technology like cellphones, pedestrians often put themselves in bad situations while trying to cross busy streets. In some cases, being distracted can have fatal consequences. 

"North Carolina has very large numbers compared with the rest of the nation in terms of pedestrian crashes," James Gallagher, with the Highway Safety Research Center, said. 

Between 1999 and 2009, about 2,000 pedestrians a year were involved in police-reported crashes with vehicles. Between 150 and 200 of those were killed, and an additional 200 to 300 were seriously injured. 

In 2011, about 170 pedestrians were killed in North Carolina. 

Wake County and Raleigh both rank second in the state in the annual number of crashes involving pedestrians, with Mecklenburg County and Charlotte ranking first. 

Gallagher said densely populated areas, especially those that are growing, are particularly troublesome.

"(Crashes) tend to happen around college campuses (and) downtown corridors that have a lot more pedestrian traffic," he said. 

As part of a class on pedestrian safety this week at North Carolina State University, Raleigh police officers and campus police officers from Duke University, North Carolina Central University, N.C. State and St. Augustine's University took part in a demonstration to help show how pedestrian wrecks happen. 

Pedestrians Distracted pedestrians a problem in busy crosswalks

The training is designed to help officers better educate both drivers and pedestrians on state and local laws, making sure motorists are yielding to pedestrians in marked crosswalks. It's also part of the Watch for Me NC campaign, a collaborative effort with state and local transportation agencies to reduce the number of serious pedestrian crashes.

Researchers with the Institute for Transportation Research & Education at N.C. State said cars traveling 30 mph need about 140 feet, or about 2 seconds, to safely react and yield to a person in a crosswalk.

According to Raleigh police officer Ethan Brinn, pedestrians should be defensive when crossing streets and not assume that drivers see them. 

"More attention could be paid by both parties," Brinn said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • busyb97 Aug 10, 2012

    Yesterday evening (around 5:30), a lady and her 4 young kids (all on bicycles or scooters) was crossing Capital Blvd - all 9 lanes of it. The crosswalk was already RED because while her kids were just reaching the median on their bikes/scooters...OUR side was green. Out of the 4 lanes of cars, 3 of us saw the kids, the guy furthest to the right, didn't yet see them and he started to go- quickly. I honked my horn...he slammed on the brakes. We all just shook our heads (visibly), and the mom had the nerve to cuss US out?!?! I probably saved her kids lives...between honking at the guy next to me, and holding back traffic (who were honking horns- not knowing what was in front).

    Unbelievably stupidity and disregard for her 4 kids lives (none over 6 at most). A RED HAND Crosswalk means it is not safe! (it wasn't even blinking red).

  • town guy Aug 10, 2012

    Fair enough - pedestrians need to pay attention. But if a pedestrian does NOT assert him or herself, no cars are going to stop. That's why I will step into the crosswalk and look into the eyes of the driver. It's not a dare; it's just to say "I'm here to cross the street, please yield."

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Aug 10, 2012

    "when school starts back you should check out the intersection of Hillsborough St and Dan Allen between 11:30 and 1:00...the College Students completely ignore the walk signs and walk all over the road, not just in the cross-walk!"

    NCCU has the same problem. Students seem to think that "pedestrians have the right of way" means that they can breeze off the sidewalk any time they want without looking right or left and traffic will just magically stop for them.

  • greg69innc Aug 10, 2012

    We have the same situation in drivers and pedestrians and that is folks have their minds every where else than where it needs to be. Folks walk around with headphones in their ears listening to music that is way to loud for them to hear anything else, folk on the telephone talking about all the drama in their lives and their minds are no where they should and that is operating a dangersous and potentially deadly weapon known as an automobile and pedestrians just wander aimlessly around with no sense of dirsection is the hazards they place themseves in.

  • lec02572 Aug 10, 2012

    Its a wonder that there are not more hit in Raleigh. Go anywhere near the courthouse and just watch the number of pedestrians that don't even look at the lights or almost dare someone to hit them. They will walk right out infront of a vehicle while looking at the vehicle. Crazy.

  • no taco p Aug 10, 2012

    The numbers do look bad, but I don't think they explain the whole story. What is the number of pedestrians that were killed when crossing properly within a cross walk(marked or un-marked)? How many were killed when walking against a traffic light? How many were killed when crossing a street somewhere other than a crosswalk(jaywalking) or not crossing at an intersection? I would like to see the numbers explained a little better before passing judgment on the walker or driver.

  • not my real name Aug 10, 2012

    solution: pay attention. driving or walking, just put the phone down and pay attention to what you are doing.

  • WhatWereOnceVicesAreNowHabits Aug 10, 2012

    Let's not forget the pedestrians who seem to think that its ok to step out in front of an approaching vehicle.

  • town guy Aug 10, 2012

    Let's not forget the drivers who seem to think that they don't have to yield to pedestrians EVER.

  • mpheels Aug 10, 2012

    Other pedestrian rules...

    If the pedestrian is not an an intersection, or marked crosswalk, vehicles have the right of way.

    If there are adjacent intersections with stoplights, pedestrians must cross at the intersection.

    If there sidewalks are available, pedestrians must use them.