Report: Texting blamed for increase in pedestrian deaths on KC roads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Car crashes are decreasing overall in Kansas City, but an increasing number of pedestrians are getting injured or killed in collisions with cars, according to a report released Wednesday by the Mid America Regional Council.

The organization analyzed 119 pedestrian deaths and 420 serious injuries from crashes between 2008 and 2012.

Two of the leading causes for the crash were drivers talking and using their cell phone while driving and walkers playing with their phones or listening to music while crossing the street. The study found between 2008 and 2012, 36 percent of drivers were texting or talking on their cell phone when they hit a person who was crossing the street. Of the walkers, 22 percent were distracted while crossing a street.

The study also looked at the most common areas for pedestrian crashes. Those dangerous areas include Independence Avenue between Woodland Avenue and Winner Road, Grand Boulevard between 10th Street and 14th Street, Main Street between 31st Street and 47th Street, 47th Street through the Country Club Plaza and 39th Street around the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The study also boiled down the data to the average time a person crossing the street would be most likely to be hit. The data indicated Friday was the most common weekday. The average time of crashes was between 6 p.m., when the conditions were dry and clear. The most common months for pedestrian crashes were between May and September.

The report indicated drivers who walked in the crosswalk and obeyed all pedestrian signals accounted for only 5 percent of crashes that resulted in death or serious injury. However, the report also points to millions of dollars in possible improvements that could be made to keep walkers safe.

Those include enhancing crosswalks to make them brighter and bolder for drivers to see, eliminating driver's ability to make left hand turns at select intersections and reducing speed limits. Kansas City's Public Works Department could give the green light to some of those safety improvements in the future. Most of them would require tax dollars and a vote from city council members.

Sarah Shipley with Kansas City's Bike, Walk, KC Organization said while the data in the report is disappointing, it emphasizes the need for safety upgrades and awareness.

"Things like slowing down traffic speeds, creating better marked pedestrian crosswalks, those things can make all the difference when it comes to pedestrian's lives being saved," she said. "I want people to get off their phones while driving and I want pedestrians to come out in droves and feel assured that they live in a safe and walkable city."

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