Pedestrian deaths jump in Ohio

Weather, distracted drivers among reasons cited.

The number of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles soared in Ohio in the first six months of 2015, with Ohio leading all states in the percentage increase over the same period in 2014.

Fifty-six pedestrians between Jan. 1 and June 30 last year, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, an increase from 25 during the same span in 2014. The 124 percent jump was the highest percentage rise in the country.

The average percentage increase for all the states was 6 percent — from 2,232 to 2,368.

An increase in the number of vehicles on the road due to cheaper gas and an improved economy is one factor, but weather also played a large role in the deaths, an analysis of the Ohio data shows. Some of the fatalities also involved pedestrians standing outside stranded vehicles or walking in the roadway, according to the highway safety association report.

Brian Martin, executive director of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, said dark streets where visibility is low, distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians are also factors.

The commission in recent years has aimed funding at new bike lanes in city streets, sidewalk improvements and extending bike trails that are separated from traffic.

“We want to reduce these crashes and have upgraded infrastructure so it is safe to walk and bike,” Martin said.

The state too has tried to help. From 2010 to 2014, the Ohio Department of Transportation spent $36 million on sidewalks and $105 million on bikeways and paths for pedestrians. Millions more pay for countdown crossing displays, sign upgrades and other enhancements.

Lt. Craig S. Cvetan of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said pedestrians can help improve their safety by what they wear.

“When pedestrians are out at night, they don’t think of what color clothing they are wearing. If you are out at night, consider brighter and more reflective clothing,” Cventan said. “Be sure you are aware and watching for cars.”

People who break down while on the road should consider staying in their vehicles when calling for emergency help, he added. The Highway Patrol responds when drivers call #677. The call immediately routes to the closest Patrol station.

In a comparison of all 12 months of 2014 and 2015, Butler County was the local county with a large jump in pedestrian deaths, from two to five. Montgomery County saw a small decline from nine to eight.

The study projects a 10 percent rise nationwide in the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle wrecks. It’s part of a dangerous long-term trend that has pushed up the relative number of pedestrian deaths to a high that’s not been seen in 25 years.

In 2014, pedestrian deaths accounted for 15 percent of total traffic fatalities, the study said, the highest percentage of motor vehicle deaths since 1990.

The statistics hit home on Thursday afternoon when 29-year-old Devin Gregory of Dayton was killed on Interstate 75 near Ohio 725 after he parked his vehicle on the side of the road and ran onto the highway. The incident is under investigation and it’s unclear whether the death was a suicide.

It was the latest in a number of high-profile deaths of pedestrians in the past two years.

• In October, Raymone T. West, 26, of Springfield was indicted on multiple charges, including involuntary manslaughter in connection with an accident that led to the death of Shannon Gonzalez, 37, of Springfield. She was killed when West allegedly hit her while she was walking on the sidewalk.

• In July of 2014, a man fleeing police struck and killed Agyasi Ector of Trotwood as he walked on a sidewalk next to Shiloh Springs Road. Aaron T. Johnson later reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, weapons under disability and two counts of failure to comply with the order of a police officer.

• In January 2015, a woman died and a man was seriously injured after a pickup truck struck them in Fairfield near the intersection of Dixie Highway and Nilles Road. It was the second fatal traffic accident in Fairfield within weeks. The woman, identified as Danielle Halcomb, 38, of Fairfield was pronounced dead after being transported to Mercy Hospital. Police at the scene said the pedestrians were not walking in a crosswalk.

Ohio was among 21 states that had a percentage increase in pedestrian fatalities. California, Florida, Texas and New York made up 42 percent of all pedestrian deaths, but Arizona, Delaware and Florida had the highest rates of pedestrian deaths per resident population.

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