The Investigators

Feb 10, 2014 8:02 PM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

N4T Investigators: Police say many 2013 pedestrian deaths were preventable

Tucsonans may look at some city streets as a kind of asphalt killing field. That's because of a big jump in the number of pedestrians killed on Tucson streets last year.

But, as the News 4 Tucson Investigators discovered, many of those deaths could have been prevented.

It's no secret that more traffic and faster driving pose a greater hazard on city streets. That is especially true along dark roads. But, some pedestrians may have played a major part in their own tragic ending. Which is why authorities tell the News 4 Tucson Investigators, many of those deaths didn't have to happen.

Tucson Police say a total of 20 people lost their lives after they were hit by cars last year. That was a sharp increase from 2012 when the number was seven.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators pored over police reports and detective supplements, and some disturbing trends seemed to emerge: more than half of these deadly crashes happened after dark, and about half of the deaths involved alcohol. In only one case was the use of alcohol on the part of the driver. In eight of the cases, investigators determined it was the pedestrian who had been drinking.

Which leads to the question: could the deaths have been prevented?

"Oh, absolutely. Absolutely," says Tucson Police Sergeant Mary Kay Slyter.

Slyter has seen first-hand the devastating impact of the deadly mix of alcohol and Tucson roadways, when it comes to people who may have had too much to drink before setting out on foot.

"With alcohol being involved with pedestrians, just like with drivers, the judgment is impaired, along with your motor skills, your reaction. You may think you have enough time to get across the street, and in reality, you don't," Slyter says.

In response to the increase in pedestrian deaths, the city formed the Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The 13 members were appointed by city staff, and come from all different backgrounds. They're working with the city and other organizations to ensure pedestrians know their responsibilities. For example, as the News 4 Tucson Investigators also uncovered, seven of last year's 20 deaths involved jaywalking.

"To a certain extent, we do have to work on the community education, the infrastructure. But, we do also have to have some level of enforcement, both for vehicles and pedestrians to follow the appropriate laws. And, if there are issues like that, they need to be taken care of a little more proactively," committee co-chair BJ Cordova says.

"Sometimes just looking up. Looking both ways before you cross the road, that thing that you learned when you were a little kid. I think could save some lives out there," Slyter says.

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip line, at 955-4444.

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