Vehicle-pedestrian collisions increase in Austin

Mikaela Cannizzo

Incidents involving pedestrians being hit by cars on the streets of Austin have increased within the past few years, according to the Austin Police Department.

Operations Lt. Blake Johnson with the Austin Police Department said there were 30 reported pedestrian fatalities in 2015. He said 26 of those incidents were the result of a pedestrian being in a prohibited location or crossing the street without a “walk” signal.

“About 90 percent of pedestrian fatalities involve people who were somewhere they shouldn’t have been when they got hit,” Johnson said. “A very small number of total pedestrian fatalities involve somebody who was doing what they should’ve been.”

In instances where the pedestrian was not at fault, Johnson said collisions typically occur because of the driver’s failure to yield to pedestrians.

Sgt. Brian Dillenberger with the University of Texas Police Department said instances of vehicles hitting pedestrians get have been reported on campus, but not as frequently as in the city because of lower speed limits and more traffic regulations, such as stop signs.

According to UTPD records, there have been 12 reported collisions around campus involving pedestrians and motor vehicles since 2011.

Dillenberger said none of the collisions reported to UTPD resulted in a fatality or serious injury.

Crowded intersections and areas with high traffic, such as 24th Street and Dean Keeton Street, are prime spots for collisions to occur in the campus area, according to Dillenberger. He said a lack of focus while pedestrians cross the street during congested times, or driver distractions such as navigation systems, typically cause crashes.

Johnson said the majority of collisions reported throughout the city occur on roadways with a speed limit of 45 mph or higher, rather than on local streets. He said there is not a specific location that is more problematic than others, but these collisions largely depend on pedestrians’ behaviors.

Dillenberger said runners are not necessarily at a higher risk for being hit by vehicles, but warns runners to travel against traffic, in order to view vehicles coming toward them and make adjustments if needed.

“The jogger is going to be in the intersection a less amount of time compared to a walker,” Dillenberger said. “It adds to their safety, but because of their speed and the vehicles entering, the vehicle may not see the jogger running into the intersection so it kind of increases their chances of not being seen or noticing the vehicle as well.”

Finance junior Lauren James said a Ford Escape traveling at about 30 mph hit her while she was out for a run at the intersection of Eighth Street and Congress Avenue. She said a bus blocked her view of traffic and the traffic signal flashed, but she decided to sprint across after two pedestrians in front of her proceeded to walk through
the intersection.

“I, like most other runners, never expected or thought a car would hit me while running,” James said. “Since the accident, I never cross the street if the red hand cautions me not to. I wait at the light regardless of whether I can tell that people are coming or not.”