Pedestrian deaths spike 22 percent nationwide in 2 years

New study cites improved economy and distractions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new study shows an alarming increase in pedestrian deaths.

According to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association released Thursday, pedestrian deaths nationwide are up 22 percent in the last two years. 

Abishek Tulysan was standing at a crosswalk on Christmas Eve in Miami's South Beach when a camera captured video of a car as it hit him.

"I had no clue, I didn't see that car and it just hit me," Tulysan said.

On Wednesday a female driver hit 16-year-old Olathe Northwest High School student Owen Thompson as he was crossing 110th Street.

His parents say Owen is recovering.

Not everyone is so lucky.

In February, a pedestrian was struck and killed near 71 Highway.

According to the study nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed nationwide in 2016, a 20-year high.

That number is an 11 percent increase in one year and up 22 percent from 2014.

"That's a humongous increase for over two years; it's just really tragic," said Kara Macek of the Governors Highway Safety Administration.

The study ranked Missouri 20th per capita in pedestrian deaths and Kansas 37th.

While Missouri's rate is higher, the numbers show a 16 percent decline in the Show Me State from 43 to 36 deaths for the first six months of 2016 compared to 2015.

Kansas in that same time period had a 54.5 percent increase from 11 deaths to 17.

Experts say the reasons for the spike include more cars on the road thanks to a growing economy and lower gas prices.

More people walking for their health and the environment is also noted as a factor.

Additionally, experts say there are more distracted pedestrians and drivers because of increased smart phone use.

On a grey, drizzly day at Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, the 41 Action News Investigators had no trouble finding drivers talking on their cellphones while driving as well as several pedestrians with their smart phones out.

"People need to not be looking at their phones all the time. They need to be aware of their surroundings," said Assistant Chief Jeff Levy of the Lauderhill, Florida Fire Department.

Traffic engineers are designing solutions.

They include fences in medians to cut down on jay-walking, traffic circles to make drivers slow down instead of stop signs they may miss, and speed bumps to force drivers to slow down.

The study shows people are much more likely to be hit at night than during the day.

It also shows alcohol was found to be a factor with either the driver or pedestrian in more than a third of the deadly crashes.

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