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Pedestrian, bicyclist deaths down in 2011, but risk goes up in October

ST. PAUL -- As days become darker earlier, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is calling for increased motorist awareness of pedestrian and bicyclist traffic -- especially surrounding schools, campuses and urban areas. In 2010, October was the deadliest month for pedestrians, seven were killed.

To-date, there have been 18 pedestrian deaths (down from 25 at this time in 2010), and three cyclist deaths (down from eight). At this pace, 2011 could be among one of the safest years for walkers and riders in the last decade. In 2010, there were 36 pedestrian deaths and nine bicyclist deaths.

"Drivers must treat every corner and intersection as a crosswalk, whether it's marked or unmarked, and stop for crossing pedestrians," says Gordy Pehrson of the DPS Office of Traffic Safety. "As a pedestrian, continue to watch for traffic from all directions as you cross, including while in a crosswalk -- white painted lines don't protect you from distracted motorists."

Minnesota law states pedestrians must obey traffic control devices, and when no traffic control device is present, motorists must stop for crossing pedestrians within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. Pedestrians should also walk on the left side of the roadway facing oncoming traffic when possible. This practice allows for pedestrians to better react to oncoming vehicles.

Failure to yield the right-of-way and driver inattention/distraction are the main contributing factors in pedestrian crashes. Impaired pedestrians are another issue -- in the last five years, 34 percent the pedestrians killed and tested for alcohol had alcohol-concentration levels of 0.10 or higher.

Motorists Safety Tips

• Watch for pedestrians and prepare to stop if a pedestrian is approaching an intersection.

• Stop for walkers in a marked crosswalk or at intersection with no marked crosswalk -- it's the law.

• Look twice for bicyclists and share the road -- maintain at least a three feet clearance when passing. Share the road.

Pedestrian Safety Tips

• Cross only at intersections or crosswalks -- and continue to look both ways during the cross.

• Follow and obey all traffic signals and signs -- pedestrians only have the right-of-way when traffic signals allow.

• Do not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is too close or moving too fast to stop safely.

• Wear bright and reflective clothing.

Bicyclist Safety Tips

• Wear helmet and bright/reflective gear.

• Use a headlight and rear reflectors when it's dark.

• Follow the rules of the road and obey traffic control devices.

• Signal turns and ride in a predictable manner.