Walking gets increasingly deadly for pedestrians in Pa.

| Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, 11:12 p.m.

Pennsylvania is getting more dangerous for pedestrians, according to a study released Thursday that reports the state's fatalities soared by 40 percent in the first half of 2014.

The Governors Highway Safety Association released the 21-page report tallying pedestrian deaths by state. The data compared pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2013 with the first six months of 2014.

Pennsylvania's total rose from 53 to 74. During that period, the number of deaths nationwide dropped 3 percent, from 2,141 to 2,082. Final numbers for 2014 are not available.

“The bad news is that we're not making much progress. It's a tiny drop,” said Kara Macek, spokeswoman for the governors association. “The (nationwide number) is still 15 percent higher than five years ago.”

Macek said association officials don't know for sure why some states showed increases.

“We suspect it has to do with a push to get more people out walking,” Macek said. “Also, there's a lot more people paying attention to their phones. That goes for drivers as well as pedestrians.”

The study found that, since 1975, males have consistently represented about 70 percent of fatalities. The deaths typically occur in evening or late-night hours. In 2013, about 70 percent of the deaths occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The number of pedestrian fatalities statewide has varied over the past decade, according to PennDOT. In 2003, there were 175, compared with 136 in 2009. In 2013, there were 151.

The numbers didn't surprise local police officers. Mt. Lebanon Deputy Chief Aaron Lauth said his community recorded 11 pedestrian-vehicle accidents in 2014. The last fatality was in 2010.

“To be honest, it's 50/50 as far as fault goes between drivers and pedestrians. If the pedestrian is at fault, it's because they're not crossing properly. If the vehicle is at fault, it's usually turning at intersections,” Lauth said. “We tend to have a lot in our business district (on Washington Road). A lot of people think it's speed, but it's not really. It's failure to obey crosswalks and turning vehicles not paying attention.”

The last pedestrian who died in Mt. Lebanon was Lisa Clay Styles, who was struck as she pushed her children in a stroller while jogging.

Ross Detective Brian Kohlhepp said pedestrian accidents aren't common in Ross because there aren't as many walking areas, with the exception of Perrysville.

“It's good to get awareness out there, especially in these months with little sunlight,” Kohlhepp said.

“It's usually a combination of driver and pedestrian carelessness. Unfortunately, in Pittsburgh, jaywalking is more of a sport than hobby.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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