Researchers: Distracted drivers aren't only problem in busy crosswalks
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.Posted — Updated
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.
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.
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.
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