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Fatal auto-pedestrian wrecks rise in Texas, officials give advice on crossing streets safely

The Texas Department of Transportation released pedestrian fatality statistics for 2021. With over 841 deaths, it's important to know how to stay safe on the street.

TYLER, Texas — The Texas Department of Transportation said the state has seen a dramatic increase in the number of pedestrians killed by cars within a year's time. 

On Thursday, the agency launched “Be safe. Drive smart” pedestrian safety campaign. 

"It's important to be on the lookout for pedestrians at all times," said Daniel Armbruster, an AAA Texas spokesperson. 

According to TxDOT, one in five traffic fatalities involved a pedestrian. Last year alone 841 people were killed, and that’s a 15% increase compared to 2020. 

"When you're operating a vehicle you must have a heightened responsibility for other people on the road," Armbruster said. "One issue we have is texting and driving and distracted driving. That's probably part of the reason why we're seeing an increase in these pedestrian fatalities in Texas."

If you’re driving it’s important to leave enough space between your car and the crosswalk.

"In a 10-year study that was done by AAA, drivers are more likely to flee the scene when it involves a crash with a pedestrian," Armbruster said. "That's also concerning, so it's not just taking steps before the crash but if you are involved in a crash. It's also doing the right thing, staying on the scene, and calling for help."

The Tyler Police Department said seven pedestrians died in crashes inside city limits last year. In a city full of stoplights, there are many crosswalks available to the public. 

"Those are the safest places to cross," said Andy Erbaugh, public information officer for Tyler police. "Tyler's growing by about 1,000 people a year. More and more people are going to be walking, and more and more people are living downtown. So what you have to do as drivers, anytime you're turning right onto Broadway Street or right onto a street, pedestrians are going to have the right of way a lot of the time. You have to yield to them."

There are also many flashing red lights in the downtown area. Erbaugh said some drivers need to be reminded that pedestrians still have the right of way. 

"Most of our traffic fatalities happen on busy streets, when people are just trying to, for better or worse, just make it across," Erbaugh said. "When they know there's a lot of traffic coming in, it doesn't end well. Make sure you pay attention."

Erbaugh also mentioned how easy it is for both drivers and pedestrians to get distracted by their phones. He said it’s important to be aware no matter what position you’re in. 

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