'Distracted walking' may be partly to blame for increase in fatal car-pedestrian crashes

Most pedestrian-vehicle crashes happen as people cross the street.

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Officer Tom Speldrich has seen 3 crashes involving pedestrians and cars so far this year that caused signficant injuries.

All too often, the Springfield Police officer says, pedestrians aren't paying attention.

"It doesn't matter who's at fault - the pedestrian, the bicyclist, the motorcyclist - they always lose," he said. "You can't expect those around you to look out for you more than you look out for you."

Speldrich said one of the reasons behind Oregon's increase in fatal pedestrian crashes is distraction - as in, distracted walking.

Because when a pedestrian is looking down at a phone with earphones in, they can't see or hear what's going on around them.

"Your chances of not perceiving danger when it's coming your direction is increased," Speldrich said.

Most pedestrian-vehicle crashes happen as people cross the street.

That's one thing the City of Eugene is working on as part of its Vision Zero action plan.

"How good are the street lights in the cooridor, are you able to see people crossing the street? Or is it too dark?" said Rob Inerfeld, transportation planning manager. "How are the traffic signals timed? Are there things we can do to make it safer for somebody crossing the street?"

The City also looks at redesiging streets to reduce speed.

That's because a pedestrian has a good chance of surviving if hit by a car going 20 mph.

At 40 mph and up, the likelihood of a fatal crash increase.

Bottom line:

Traffic safety hinges on sober drivers who remain alert and go the speed limit - and pedestrians who do their part to be in charge of their own safety.