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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona transportation safety efforts rise as pedestrian fatalities persist

Amy Bailey
Cars move down Speedway Boulevard next to the University of Arizona campus in March 2019. This busy road is almost always full of cars during rush hour.

The first thing Barbara Runyan noticed was that her glasses were missing. It was her first day into retirement, and Runyan, a life-long runner, was out for a jog. 

As Runyan jogged down her usual path, she would have never imagined what was about to hit her. She turned the corner at the Wendy’s at 1602 W. Saint Marys Road and noticed a moving car in the restaurant’s parking lot. 

Runyan came to a brief stop, and the next thing she knew she was hurled into the air and fell to the ground. She remembered touching her head and feeling a knot the size of a baseball.

“How can you not see me?” Runyan yelled at the driver. After rummaging along the hot concrete sidewalk looking for her eyeglasses, she fell to the floor unconscious. 

According to the nurses at Saint Mary’s Hospital, the unidentified driver picked up Runyan’s unconscious body from the side of the road, dropped her off at the entrance of the hospital and left. 

There were 73 pedestrian fatalities in 2020 according to the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, but Runyan survived.

“Distracted driving has become the DUI of our generation. The number of fatalities across the state and nation are on the rise,” said Brendan Lyons, executive director of LOOK! Save a Life.

Lyons had been hit twice by a car on two separate occasions. After the second accident left him in the hospital in a wheelchair, he decided to start sharing his message with Tucson. LOOK! Save a Life hopes to “educate and bring awareness to the dangers of unsafe and distracted driving, and to foster an environment of safety for all who utilize our public roadways,” according to the group’s website.

After being admitted and having a CT scan, Runyan found out she had sustained a brain bleed. 

“Later that night my whole left side was hurting and I was kind of fuzzy. The only other injury I had was a broken finger,” Runyan said. 

An accident that lasted one minute turned a decade-old passion into merely a memory. Runyan no longer jogs because of the physical injuries she sustained, and the emotional damage has scared her away from even walking on the sidewalk. 

The Arizona Department of Transportation began to make transportation safety more of a priority in 2013 by launching “Driving Safety Home,” a driving campaign that encouraged safe driving with any form of transportation. 

Despite ADOT’s efforts to promote safe driving and discourage the use of cellphones, pedestrian fatalities continue to be a major issue in Arizona. In 2022 alone, ADOT reported that 302 pedestrians were killed and 1,669 were injured by a motor vehicle

Pedestrian fatalities have grown into a community crisis, and in response, the City of Tucson made the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, a plan that highlights strategies and solutions in order to prevent any future pedestrian deaths. 

The plan categorized elements of its nine key strategies into the following groups: engineering, evaluation, policy, enforcement, education and outreach. According to the PSAP, the Tucson Police Department takes part in both strategic deployment missions and the high-injury network.

In an emailed statement, TPD officials mentioned that the department has been “proactively working” on reducing collisions and fatalities including analyzing high-collision intersections “to focus our enforcement efforts.”

Reflective clothing has been distributed to vulnerable pedestrians that are outside for long periods of time. TPD has also simplified the process to report dangerous driving activity through Traffic Watch. 

Most pedestrian collisions TPD has seen have been caused by mid-block crossings and jaywalking. They recommend pedestrians follow this set of rules: 

– Wear reflective clothing, especially during the night. 

– Make sure to look both ways before crossing. 

– Never assume that you are seen by a driver. 

– Avoid using your phone while walking or riding a bike. 

– Be aware of your surroundings.  

– Use sidewalks when they are provided.

– Educate children on how to read and use sidewalk signs. Children under 10 need to be accompanied by an adult. 

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