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Andrew Traub
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Pedestrian deaths reached record levels in 2018

Pedestrians made up 42 percent of all traffic deaths in Austin last year — the largest proportion in recent years, according to available police data — and more pedestrians died on Interstate 35 than on any other road in the city according to an analysis by the American-Statesman.

In 2018, the city saw 74 traffic deaths, including 31 pedestrians hit and killed by vehicles, making it the deadliest year for pedestrians since 2008. The rate is the highest since 2011, when pedestrians made up 41 percent of 54 total traffic deaths. In 2017, pedestrians made up about 30 percent of 76 deaths.

Fifteen of the pedestrian deaths happened on major highways, including 11 on I-35 or one of its service roads, the data show. Four of the crashes involved an 18-wheeler.

Road deaths persist despite the city’s efforts to improve traffic safety through its Vision Zero action plan adopted more than two years ago.

Two pedestrians have already been killed this year in Austin. David Hillburn Sell, 31, was hit and killed by an 18-wheeler the morning of Jan. 15. The truck’s driver said he could not see Sell walking in the center southbound lane of I-35 in North Austin. A little after midnight on Jan. 26, Laura Wray was fatally struck by a pickup as she was walking along North I-35 near Middle Fiskville Road.

Pedestrian deaths steadily dropped from 29 in 2015, then 28 in 2016, and 23 in 2017, police data show. But what caused the small spike in pedestrian deaths in 2018 hasn’t been determined, officials with Austin’s Transportation Department said.

Typically, pedestrian deaths can involve drunken driving, drivers failing to yield to walkers, speeding, distracted driving and people walking where they’re not supposed to.

Speed is a factor in pedestrian deaths. Of the 121 people who were killed on Austin roads between 2010 and 2015, 64 percent of them were struck by vehicles on roads with speed limits of 45 mph or more, according to the city’s pedestrian safety action plan for 2018.

Three pedestrians were killed in one week last July, and the incidents highlight the number of ways a person could be fatally struck by a vehicle in Austin.

• Scott Gerald Whiting, 37, did not have a sidewalk to use when he was hit by a vehicle in the 5700 block of Parmer Lane on the morning of July 23. Police do not know if he was using a bike lane or was walking on a grassy shoulder when he was hit.

• On the morning of July 26, Luis Cristobal Landeros, 50, was using a sidewalk in the westbound service road in the 1100 block of East Anderson Lane when a driver lost control of a 2018 black Mitsubishi Mirage and hit Landeros.

• David O’Beirne was trying to cross the 500 block of North Interstate 35 the morning of July 27 when he was hit by a 2007 Mack truck tractor.

More money is being put toward ridding the city of traffic deaths, pedestrian or otherwise. Proposition G was passed in November and will funnel $160 million toward improving and building intersections, streets and sidewalks and upgrading signals.

While 2018 brought an increase in pedestrian deaths, the number of total traffic deaths that Austin sees in a year has only incrementally decreased since the city adopted the Vision Zero action plan in 2016.

Total traffic deaths dropped from 102 in 2015 to 79 in 2016, then from 76 in 2017 to 74 in 2018, police data show.

Vision Zero aims to eliminate all traffic deaths in Austin by 2025 by focusing on distracted driving, speeding, alcohol and drug impairment, unsafe driving maneuvers, and failure to stop or field right of way.

Bus driver who fatally struck cyclist possibly impaired

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