2011 pedestrian deaths causing concern

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - The city of Tucson has recorded its 13th pedestrian fatality so far this year. The latest deadly crash happened over the weekend near East Pennington Street.

This year's accidents outpace last year's statistics; in all of 2010, a total of ten pedestrians were killed in Tucson accidents.

"We have had a significant number in just a short period of months, even just a couple of weeks," said Sgt. Maria Hawke with the Tucson Police Department.

That caused so much concern that Tucson police conducted special traffic enforcements for a weeks on the south side, which is where many of the accidents happened. They patrolled from 6th Avenue to 12th Avenue, and Ajo Way to Irvington Road, looking out for pedestrian safety.

"They were issuing tickets, primarily to jaywalkers who were not using appropriately marked crosswalks," Sgt. Hawke said. "And they were reminding everybody of what the law says, and how to make it safer for themselves, where the closest approved crosswalks would be, and so on."

Tucson police say in many of the fatal cases, pedestrians were not in a cross-walk, and driving conditions were dark.

Over the next couple of weeks, volunteers with the Pima Association of Governments (PAG) will be out at more than a hundred busy intersections across the region, counting the number of pedestrians and bicyclists on the road.

The group has kept count of cyclists for four years, but this is only the second year that they're tracking pedestrian counts.

"Before, we had no information whatsoever as to where there are more pedestrians or less pedestrians," explained Ann Chanecka, transportation planner with the Pima Association of Governments. "And we had no information on whether or not more people are walking over time, so we felt it was important to at least start collecting some information."

PAG wants to know where people are walking most frequently, and whether there's any correlation with crashes. If so, they want to see safety improvements be made.

"Areas that have a lot of pedestrians and crashes would be a location of high priority for putting a signalized crossing for pedestrians," Chanecka said.

But ultimately, whether there's a crosswalk or not, police caution that it's also up to pedestrians to cross safely, because painted lines can't always guarantee protection.

"Crosswalks are a designated area to cross," Sgt. Hawke said. "But it's not necessarily a safety zone, because the driver still may not see you. So it's incumbent upon the pedestrian themselves, before even entering a crosswalk, to make sure that it's safe."

The Pima Association of Governments will be conducting their pedestrian and bicyclist count between October 15 and 30, at more than 100 intersections.

The cost of a jaywalking ticket in the city of Tucson is $88.

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