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Pedestrian killed in Duluth by suspected drunk driver

Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise lately.

A woman died after being hit by an SUV in Duluth Tuesday.

The Duluth Police Department says the 49-year-old woman driving the SUV may have been impaired when she hit the 62-year-old pedestrian near 40th Avenue East and London Road around 12:40 p.m.

The driver's blood alcohol content was tested, and she was booked into the St. Louis County Jail pending charges of criminal vehicle homicide, police said.

Police haven't released any other details about the crash, but a witness told the Duluth News Tribune she saw the SUV parked on the grass near the intersection, and when the driver was preparing to back up, the vehicle lurched forward and rammed the pedestrian into an electrical box.

It's not clear how the car got onto the grass initially, but the paper says there were skid marks in the road.

The victim and the driver have not yet been identified.

Pedestrian fatalities

Minnesota roads have been deadly for pedestrians lately. Last year, 60 pedestrians were killed – the most in 25 years. In 2015, there were 41 pedestrian fatalities on roads in Minnesota.

This trend is mirrored nationally. In 2016, an estimated 5,997 pedestrians were killed in crashes in the U.S., up 11 percent on 2015 when 5,376 pedestrians died on roads, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report released in March.

Pedestrian deaths have gone up 25 percent from 2010-2015, significantly outpacing other traffic-related fatalities during that time (overall traffic deaths went up by 6 percent between 2010-2015), the report shows.

There are a lot of things that go into the rise of pedestrian deaths, like economic conditions, demographics, weather, fuel prices, vehicle miles traveled, and the amount of time people spend walking, the GHSA says. But a new contributing factor in the rise in pedestrian deaths is people – both pedestrians and drivers – being distracted by their cellphones, the report notes.

Here are some other findings from the GHSA report:

– Alcohol was involved in about half of all fatal pedestrian crashes. The driver was legally intoxicated in about 15 percent of the crashes, while an estimated 34 percent of these crashes involved a pedestrian who was drunk.

– About 74 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in 2015 happened when it was dark outside, meanwhile 23 percent of these fatal crashes happened during the day, and 4 percent at dusk.

– Roughly 72 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2015 happened in actual traffic lanes, while 18 percent happened at intersections and 10 happened in non-travel lanes, like shoulders or driveways.

– Minnesota's pedestrian fatality rate based on population is one of the lowest in the country at 0.75 per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 1.75.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an initiative aimed at increasing pedestrian safety across the U.S., including tips for pedestrians and drivers to reduce the number of people killed on roads. You can read more about it here.

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