Tucson pedestrian deaths prompt call for action

Updated: Nov. 15, 2017 at 6:22 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - According to police statistics, Tucson streets have become deadly for pedestrians in 2017.

Last year, 11 people were killed.

Twenty-two people have been died this year and there are still six weeks left.

Tucson is on a near-record pace.

How to handle it has caused divisions between those who feel traffic flow is vital for commerce and those who feel safety is the top priority.

The Tucson Pedestrian Advisory Committee Commission has drafted a letter to Tucson Transportation Director Daryl Cole, calling for all intersections in the city to include "protected left" traffic signals.

A protected left means drivers would only be able to make a left turn if they had an arrow.

At present, it's the discretion of the driver who may decide whether to make a left turn if there is a green light and no oncoming traffic.

According to TPACC chair Vanessa Cascio, that contributes to the high number of accidents at intersections.

"Right now, we have an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities," she said. "We have an epidemic of people dying on our streets."

Cascio said the change could reduce accidents, "among motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists by up to 90 percent."

The Transportation Department will begin a study to gather data to see if that's true.

The intersection of Speedway and Campbell could be one of those in the study.

In less than an hour on Wednesday, Nov. 15, Tucson News Now observed three pedestrians almost get hit.

Corrine Zamano, who works at a shop on Speedway, said it's dangerous.

She said she has been nearly hit "15 times in the past two years."

Twice she has grabbed people to stop them from stepping into traffic.

The issue with protected left turns is they slow down traffic, which can lead to congestion during peak hours.

That can be an issue for emergency vehicles, which sometimes have only seconds to spare.

"Well, it's a juggling effort between the need to move vehicles and provide safety," said Andy McGovern, an administrator with the transportation department.

The study should be completed in the next 1 1/2 years.

Not soon enough for the advisory committee, which said the time lapse will allow the intersections "to remain unnecessarily unsafe..and potentially killing or injuring dozens."

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