Minn. pedestrian deaths hit 5-year high at 23 - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Minn. pedestrian deaths hit 5-year high at 23

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Minnesota safety officials say the number of pedestrian deaths has risen sharply this year, and they're hoping a campaign about pedestrian safety will help stop the trend in its tracks.

So far, 23 pedestrians have died in Minnesota this year, making 2012 the deadliest year in the last five. By this time in 2011, 14 people had died after being struck while walking on Minnesota streets or roads.

Officials are especially concerned because October is historically the deadliest month for pedestrians in Minnesota. So, they have opted to give the public a refresher course on pedestrian safety beforehand.

Starting this month, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will launch its first pedestrian safety campaign in nearly 15 years, reminding drivers to stop at crosswalks and look before turning a corner while also urging walkers and runners to make eye contact with drivers before crossing.

At the bustling business district at 50th and France in Edina, many people who spoke with FOX 9 News said simple distraction seems to be the biggest problem for drivers and pedestrians alike -- but the biggest problem of all may be that people don't realize that drivers are legally required to stop for pedestrians in a cross walk.

Of course, not all crosswalks are clearly marked, but it seems that looking both ways before stepping into the street just isn't enough these days.

"People simply just need to pay more attention," said Gordy Pehrson, traffic safety coordinator with the Department of Public Safety. "We believe inattentive driving and inattentive walking -- and intoxicated walkers -- are part of the problem."

According to DPS data, 25 percent of pedestrian deaths come in cases where someone wandered into the street while drunk -- but that's only part of the problem because drivers need to keep in mind that a person in a marked or unmarked crosswalk always has the right of way.

Still, safety is a shared responsibility -- and Pehrson said making eye contact from the corner is a step pedestrians should take before stepping into the street.

"It assures both parties that they recognize each other and they see each other," he said.

The pedestrian safety campaign will include billboards, bus signs and radio ads.

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