GREAT FALLS — A recent report from the Governors' Highway Safety Association shows that, nationwide, pedestrian death totals in 2019 were higher than they've been in three decades.
The report said, “6,590 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2019, the highest number in more than 30 years."
However, in the state of Montana, pedestrian deaths only accounted for a small fraction of crash fatalities. The Montana Highway Patrol's annual report from 2018, of the 227 fatal crashes in 2018, only 14 (6.17%) of those who died were pedestrians.
Great Falls Police Department Lieutenant Doug Otto explained that both pedestrians and drivers can be at fault in pedestrian deaths and crashes.
“Some is [caused by] pedestrians themselves violating the pedestrian laws that are out there, that are set up. Whether it be walking not in crosswalks or we’ve had a couple where they’ve been in motorized chairs or carts and violated a traffic law with that. The other piece of it is the actual drivers in the motor vehicle piece of it. They are violating laws,” Otto said.
He stressed that pedestrians and drivers have an equal responsibility in preventing pedestrian deaths and crashes.
“As a pedestrian you obviously -- you're on foot. So, things are a little bit, they're slower. But you have to maintain a little bit of awareness of what's going on around you on the streets,” Otto said.
“But drivers also have to be very cognizant of watching for pedestrians, because when you get in congested areas where you have parked cars, things of that such, people will step out of there,” he added. “If you're not paying attention, that's when those accidents and those crashes occur.”
Otto said several factors contribute to pedestrian deaths including distracted driving and disobeying traffic laws.
In order to avoid pedestrian deaths and crashes, he suggested Montanans heed the following advice:
- Be cautious when driving in heavily trafficked areas
- Drive hands-free (Use hands-free devices)
- Avoid distracted driving (eating while driving, changing the radio, checking phone)
- Only cross at designed crosswalks and when it is legal to do so