Spike in pedestrian deaths linked to alcohol, drugs


by SHELTON GREEN / KVUE News and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheltonG_KVUE


Posted on March 8, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Updated Friday, Mar 8 at 8:21 AM

AUSTIN -- New statistics show a big spike in the number of fatal crashes in which alcohol or drugs were involved. There were 27 in 2012, compared to 14 a year earlier -- a 93 percent jump.

Austin police told KVUE of all the pedestrians killed in traffic accidents last year, almost half of them were under the influence.

Last April on East Riverside, a 22-year-old University of Texas at Austin student, who witnesses say was drunk, lost his balance at a bus stop and stumbled falling underneath a moving, Capital Metro bus. He was killed when the bus rolled over his torso.

The tragedy was one of a record number of Austin traffic fatalities, 78 fatalities in all.

Just two months into 2013, a man was killed trying to cross MoPac back in February.

"I think that people are in too much of a rush and the cars are trying to get where they're trying to go in such a hurry that they're not thinking about something that could happen," said Vicki Solis.

This week, the City released data on the most dangerous intersections in Austin for pedestrians. Parmer and Lamar topped the list as the most problematic.

"More pedestrians get hit in crosswalks because they think there are force fields on either side of the cross walks," said Robert Spillar from the City of Austin Transportation Department.

Pedestrians meandering through moving traffic is so bad near UT that a picture of Jim Lehrer looks out reminding people to use the crosswalk and save their lives.

In just 10 minutes of standing at Guadalupe and Dean Keaton, KVUE witnessed at least a dozen people darting in and out of traffic.

"That's student behavior. That's youth, they don't think they can die," said UT professor George Sylvie.

"You've probably seen some of the people who try to walk by a lot of people don't pay attention to the signs. So they just go on through and get close to getting hit," said Erica Holmes, who works at UT.

Austin police say they will continue putting more officers at problem intersections, meanwhile, they're hoping drivers and pedestrians practice common sense.

"The fact that we're taking note that we've had a spike and we're going to do something about it goes a long way I think to helping us maintain the safety of our transportation system," Spillar said.

A final report and recommendation from transportation officials will be presented to the Austin City Council next month.