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St. Paul launches campaign to get drivers to pay attention to pedestrians

54 people have been hit by cars this year in St. Paul.

Watch for people in crosswalks.

That's the message from St. Paul officials this spring as the city brings back its "Stop for Me" campaign in an effort to increase safety for pedestrians, especially those with disabilities or limited mobility who may be hard to see or may need extra time to cross the street.

"As a person that lives and walks in this city every day ... I see too many times when people are just disregarding what's going on around them – on their phones, talking to people, not stopping for bikes or pedestrian. And it's an incredibly dangerous situation that we call all be part of stopping – this is absolutely preventable," St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said at a news conference Monday.

So far this year, 54 pedestrians have been hit by vehicles in St. Paul, killing one person, St. Paul police statistics show, which is on pace for a person being struck every other day, Axtell said. Last year, there were 188 crashes with pedestrians in St. Paul, with four proving fatal.

Axtell says more than 80 percent of the drivers who were cited for failing to stop simply said they didn't see the person they were supposed to stop for, which is "unacceptable" and not an excuse to get you out of a ticket.

In an effort to keep people safe, the "Stop for Me" campaign has launched PSAs (watch one below) to remind drivers to slow down, pay attention, and actively look for pedestrians.

Law enforcement officials in St. Paul and Ramsey County have also launched a crackdown to catch distracted drivers – officers will be working overtime from now until April 23 thanks to money from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Pedestrian fatalities in MN

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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