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Study finds that pedestrian deaths are up in Michigan

wikipedia/National Park Service

The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. highways last year is expected to remain largely unchanged from 2013, based on preliminary data.

But a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association says Michigan's pedestrian deaths rose significantly.

In the first six months of 2013, 47 pedestrians lost their lives on a Michigan road.  That number was 66 for the same time period in 2014.

Researcher Allan Williams says it's not clear why, although in general, the risk factors are well known. 

Nearly 40% of pedestrians who are killed on a road are inebriated. Distracted walking is on the rise, as more and more people walk while texting or reading emails on their smartphones.

And, ironically, the push to get people to be more active could be playing a role.

"We are of course encouraging people to walk for health and environmental benefits," says Williams, "but pedestrians are vulnerable when they're out there on the road, so we've got to figure out better ways to protect them."

Williams says Michigan officials should take a hard look at the numbers and consider infrastructure changes designed to protect pedestrians, such as raised medians, pedestrian refuge islands, more places to legally cross, and special pedestrian signals.

He says public safety campaigns can also help, because there's a lot pedestrians can do to protect themselves, by staying aware of vehicles, staying sober, and obeying traffic rules.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.