Walking is great for your health, but there’s one important risk to watch out for when you’re walking.

Arizona pedestrians are some of the most at-risk pedestrians in the country when it comes to traffic fatalities.

If you’re walking in Arizona, you’re at least twice as likely to be killed by a car than in 30 other states.

A few tragic examples occurred in the Phoenix area in recent weeks.

On Saturday, Paul Hernandez, 43, died in Glendale after he was hit by a truck.

On Sunday, Eduardo Catano, 57, died after he was hit by a car while crossing a street in south Phoenix.

On Nov. 30,  Westin L’Heureux, 22, died crossing a busy Scottsdale street.

At least two other pedestrian traffic fatalities occurred earlier in November in the Valley, both in Phoenix, one involving a 75-year-old man, another with a 43-year-old woman.

Numerous other accidents in which people were injured walking along or crossing streets routinely occur each week in Valley cities.

Arizona ranks third out of all 50 states and Washington D.C. in pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people for traffic accidents involving pedestrians, according to a study of 2016 accidents issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association.  


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1.4 people per 100,000 residents die as a result of pedestrian-involved car crashes in Arizona, the study found.

Oregon, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin were among states with rates significantly lower. In most cases, these fatalities rates are half as much as Arizona’s. 

There were 1,637 crashes involving pedestrians in Arizona in 2016, according to data compiled by the Arizona Department of Transportation. Those 1,637 crashes resulted in 1,448 injured and 197 killed pedestrians. Some accidents involved more than one pedestrian struck.

Some takeaways from the 2016 study include:

  • 121 killed and 923 injured while crossing the road. 
  • 23 people were killed when walking with or against traffic, and 191 were injured. The study did not mention whether the pedestrians were walking on the road or sidewalk.
  • 37.5 percent of fatal crashes involved alcohol, but 68 percent of non-fatal crashes showed no apparent influence of alcohol. 
  • The vast majority of fatal crashes happened at night — 154 compared to just 42 when it was light out. 
  • Weather isn’t always a factor: There were no fatal crashes involving pedestrians in Arizona when it was snowing last year.
  • Maricopa County, the most population-dense county in Arizona, had the most crashes involving pedestrians, with 137 fatal crashes and 1,030 non-fatal crashes. 

Fatal crashes on the rise

Between 2006 and 2015, the number of pedestrian deaths as a percent of total traffic fatalities throughout the country has risen from 11 to 15 percent,  according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. 

Arizona’s population has grown in that time, which typically means more people driving. Out of town visitors in their vehicles that stay for extended periods each year add to the traffic.

Phoenix police and the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said the numbers demonstrate why drivers and pedestrians need to remain hyper-aware when in any area where people might cross the street. 

“There’s got to be a mutual respect there,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. 

Sgt. Alan Pfohl of the Phoenix Police Department noted it’s easy to get distracted, not only as a driver but as a pedestrian.

“One of the message I try to get out there is that you need to keep your head on a swivel,” he said. “The one thing pedestrians always do is stop paying attention once they realize they have the right-of-way and enter a marked crosswalk.”

Pfohl said that it’s not uncommon to see people enter the crosswalk and instantly turn their attention away from the road and back towards their cellphone. 

“Look into each lane you cross to see if you have a stopped car to protect you or if a car is slowing down to stop,” he said. 

Avoid crossing if you don’t have a green light

One of the biggest tips that Phoenix police had was to avoid crossing the street if you don’t have a green light or white pedestrian cross signal.

“By law you aren’t allowed to enter the crosswalk when the red hand starts flashing,” said Pfohl. “That time is means to allow drivers in the left lane to make a turn before cross-traffic gets a green light.”

The Phoenix Police Department conducts a community engagement campaign every year near the end of winter. 

Pfohl mentioned that 2018 should be no different, and a pedestrian safety campaign will be in the works. 

“You may have the right-of-way when crossing the road, but that doesn’t change the fact that if you don’t pay attention you could get hit and end up dead-right,” said Pfohl. 


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