Charges: Driver accused of killing Duluth father had taken heroin

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Authorities in Duluth have formally charged the man accused of running down a father of four in his van and killing him over the weekend.

Charges against 27-year-old David Andrew Smithson say he told investigators he'd recently taken heroin and had fallen asleep behind the wheel when the accident occurred, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

The paper says the vehicle was seen rolling across a parking lot and striking West Duluth resident Brian Respler, a 37-year-old who had overcome learning disabilities and worked at a local Goodwill for a decade. He was pronounced dead at the scene and is survived by four young children.

Now, Smithson is facing counts of criminal vehicular homicide and second-degree driving while impaired, WDIO reports.

The station says he admitted to having a "drug problem" and has past convictions for DWI and drug offenses. He'll appear in court next month.

A dangerous year for pedestrians

The collision that killed Respler is part of an recent surge in pedestrian-involved car accidents in Minnesota.

St. Paul saw seven such incidents last week, including one that left a mother and her child hospitalized with life-threatning injuries; in Rochester, a man was reported in critical condition on Monday after he wandered into traffic and was hit by a pickup.

The whole year has been a particularly dangerous one for pedestrians in the state.

According to the Star Tribune, there have been 38 pedestrian fatalities in the state this year – that's more than twice the amount of last year's death toll.

So why the spike? The paper says many of these incidents are attributed by safety officials to distracted walking (i.e. strolling while thumbing through your smart phone or listening to music), as well as distracted driving.

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