Related: Houston Pedestrian Accident Attorney
71 Houston Pedestrians Killed
As of October 31, 2016, at least 71 pedestrians were killed, and the year isn’t yet complete. Local police say they are investigating the rising death toll for walkers, but that itself may be problematic. Houston police chief Charles McClelland was suspended in 2013 by Mayor Annise Parker after video showed him running over pedestrian James Harris. Mr. McClelland was driving a city-owned Jeep Cherokee at the intersection of Travis and Clay when a walking man got in his way.
Mr. Harris was six steps into the crosswalk when the chief smashed into him. He was lucky to survive. Houston police, meanwhile, have determined that many of the walker deaths in the city occurred when pedestrians did not use crosswalks while attempting to cross local streets or roads. The police chief’s own walker smash up, however, undercuts that conclusion. Many experienced walkers have learned to fear crossing at a crosswalk for good reason, including (no doubt, now) the hapless Mr. Harris. Other studies have shown crosswalks can be more dangerous places for pedestrians to cross a street than jaywalking places.
Not using the crosswalks is clearly not the only reason for the dramatic increase in pedestrian deaths in Houston. Houston’s urban planners guess that the mortality increase for walkers is due to more and more people walking. Many people do walk to improve their health, which in Houston clearly may not be a “healthy” choice.
The solution may lie in narrowing car lanes (which Houston has done in some cases, as on Drexel Lane in Greenway), strongly emphasizing safe speeds, building more sidewalks, adding more crosswalks. Much of Houston’s urban design may well be flawed; it could certainly use some improvements. In addition to distracted driving such as the Houston police chief’s, distracted walking with a cell phone may be a factor in some accidents. (We’ve all been annoyed by a dawdling walker texter not paying attention to the 3-D world we all need to abide.) Distracted driving combined with distracted walking can clearly be a perfect storm, a deadly combination.
Related: Most Dangerous Cities for Walking
U.S. Pedestrian Deaths Increase in 2016
Texas is not the only state to see an increase in pedestrian deaths. In October 2016, U.S. Department of Transport figures show that January to June saw an increase of 10.4 percent more traffic deaths in the United States compared to the same period in 2015.
The constant pull of texting and the internet have allowed us to imagine that life is more abstract than it is. It’s a terrible wakeup call for the Houston chief of police or some other distracted driver to smash into and injure or kill a pedestrian. Let’s hope the rest of us Houston drivers and walkers wake up before it’s too late.
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