Pedestrian fatalities occurring at a higher rate in 2015

Wynne Davis

The number of pedestrian deaths in Austin has increased compared to this time last year, with nine deaths occurring since January.

In 2014, there were 15 pedestrian deaths total. The Austin Police Department has not identified a pattern in the locations of these deaths, according to APD officer Hank Aguilar. 

“Once they put all the information together and they see a pattern, … that’s when they start the initiatives and try to bring more of the public’s attention to that issue,” Aguilar said. 

With no initiatives ongoing around campus, Aguilar said officers are focusing on the department’s “Don’t Block the Box” project in downtown intersections. The initiative aims to keep cars from idling in the middle of intersections, which can block oncoming traffic from cars and pedestrians.  

This situation is not limited to downtown intersections — it often occurs at intersections along Guadalupe Street, where students cross their way to class and West Campus. Art history junior Marisa Hunt said she has seen many people almost get hit by cars. 

“It’s pretty scary because you think you’re safe to walk, and then there’s a car coming at you,” Hunt said. “You’ll be crossing the street, and cars are trying to turn at the same time, and a lot of cars will aim at you to try to make you move faster.” 

Additionally, Aguilar said walking on highways puts pedestrians at risk. Three of the nine deaths this year have occurred on highways. 

“It’s always been a problem,” Aguilar said, “Especially people using it on the northern side of the city as a way to get from one side of the freeway to the other without having to go all the way around or down to the town roads, and unfortunately people get hit.” 

In Texas, it’s against the law to cross highways by foot, and Aguilar said the department always works on strictly enforcing the law. 

“They’re not meant for pedestrian traffic — there’s no reason for a pedestrian to do it unless someone needs help, or you’re trying to get off a freeway if your car breaks down,” Aguilar said.

While Aguilar said officers have found pedestrians are often walking negligently when they are hit and that drivers aren’t at fault, civil engineering senior Christine Wait said she feels drivers in traffic should be more aware of pedestrians.

“I don’t feel like it’s dangerous to cross the light if you’re smart about it, but I feel like most of the time traffic is pretty good about when they’re slowing down and stopping,” Wait said.

In order to ensure their safety, Aguilar said people need to avoid distractions. 

“The most important thing is to be alert, and pay attention,” Aguilar said. “A lot of times people are distracted — they either have their headphones in, so they can’t hear, they’re texting or on the phone and not paying attention to the area around them, crossing midblock when they shouldn’t be, not looking both ways when they cross the street. Things like that are common errors that contribute to vehicle-pedestrian collisions.”