Pedestrians account for 12 percent of crash deaths

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Many Louisianians understand that driving while intoxicated is dangerous and against the law, but few realize that walking while intoxicated can also be unsafe. Pedestrian fatalities in 2008 in Louisiana made up 12 percent of all traffic fatalities, and more than one third of those pedestrian deaths involved alcohol.

Crash data for 2008 – the most recent year for which complete traffic data is available – shows that 110 pedestrians were killed in Louisiana, with 34 percent of those fatalities involving alcohol. The total may be higher because not all pedestrian deaths were tested for alcohol involvement and results of some tests are pending. On top of these deaths, 1,174 pedestrians were injured in 2008 in Louisiana.

“Pedestrian deaths and injuries can be the fault of a driver or the victim. Many are the result of intoxicated pedestrians walking into the path of oncoming vehicles,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “Alcohol plays a major role in pedestrian deaths because it impairs a person’s judgment whether he or she is driving or walking.”

LeBlanc said darkness also plays a role in pedestrian fatalities with nearly half of such deaths in 2008 occurring between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight. Males accounted for 73 percent of the pedestrian fatalities in Louisiana in 2008.

In 2008, Louisiana ranked third highest in the nation in pedestrian deaths when such fatalities were compared to states’ populations. While Louisiana’s pedestrian fatality rate is above average, such fatalities are a national problem, resulting in one death every 113 minutes and one injury every eight minutes.

A common image of a pedestrian death is of a child darting into a street and getting struck by a vehicle. However, in Louisiana 61 percent of pedestrians killed in 2008 were between the ages of 25 and 54, while only seven percent were 14 years old or younger.

Pedestrians and parents can take a number of measures to ensure their own safety and the safety of others:

• Walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk and you are forced to walk down the road, be sure and walk facing traffic, where oncoming cars are visible.

• Use caution crossing or entering the street. Crossing or entering a street can be one of the most dangerous times for pedestrians. Pedestrians should cross only at a crosswalk, curb or traffic light.

•Make sure you are visible to drivers. Avoid walking on the road at night, but if you do, be sure to wear light-colored clothing or reflective materials.

• Supervise children. Small children should not be allowed to cross the street by themselves, or to walk or ride their bikes near roads with heavy traffic. Children often do not pay attention, cannot accurately judge vehicle speeds and distances, and may make unpredictable movements.