Rise in pedestrian deaths sparks call for improved crosswalk safety

Average of three people hit by vehicles every two days

Calgary has a five-year plan aiming to completely eliminate all transportation fatalities and injuries in Calgary. There have already been three pedestrian deaths this year, after nine in 2013.

The deaths of two pedestrians in less than a week — and a steady growth in the number of pedestrian collisions — has reignited calls for improved crosswalk safety in Calgary.

Statistics reveal that an average of three pedestrians are hit by a vehicle in Calgary every two days, and data released by city police show a steady increase in the total number of pedestrian collisions. There were 548 pedestrian collisions in 2013, compared to 537 in 2012 and 511 in 2011.

City data indicates most vehicle collisions involving pedestrians occur from July to December, but with three pedestrian fatalities already in 2014, Calgarians are concerned.

Habib Qureshi said in the past month and a half he’s had three close calls while walking in the same Beltline crosswalk where a woman was struck and killed last week.

“I don’t feel safe walking in Calgary. The drivers are not paying attention,” said Qureshi.

“It’s people rushing through, they don’t see the pedestrians.”

To date in 2014, there have been three pedestrian fatalities and two serious injury pedestrian collisions on city streets.

Vladimir Kaitman, 92, died after he was struck and dragged by a truck reversing out of a driveway while walking near his home in Bowness on Jan. 18.

On Wednesday, police said Jacoba Jean Davidson, 26, of Calgary has been charged with unsafe backing in connection with the fatal collision.

The city’s second pedestrian fatality of 2014 occurred Feb. 13, when Shelly Pauletto was struck and killed while crossing the street at the intersection of 10th Avenue and 5th Street S.W.

Days later, on Feb. 17, 26-year-old Moises Morales was killed when a Honda Accord struck and dragged him in the 4000 block of Centre Street N.

Dilan Ursan, 25, who has previously been convicted of drinking and driving, was charged with hit-and-run causing death in connection to Morales’ death.

In 2011 there were six pedestrian fatalities in Calgary and 11 in 2012. There were nine pedestrian fatalities in 2013, including the death of a woman who was struck by two vehicles. That incident sparked an urgent notice of motion from then alderman Gael MacLeod for a city study to help prevent pedestrian-auto collisions.

The motion resulted in the Calgary Safer Mobility Plan, a five-year plan that has a mission to completely eliminate all transportation fatalities and injuries in Calgary.

Former alderman MacLeod said she’s pleased something has resulted from her March 2013 motion, but said the recent fatalities emphasize that pedestrian safety is still an issue.

“As we become a bigger city and as we try to encourage different modes of transportation, pedestrian safety is going to increase as a priority. It’s part of growing up as a city,” she said.

Alex de Barros, an associate professor at the Schulich School of Engineering, whose expertise is in transportation safety, said that while all municipalities should be striving for zero fatalities, in principle it’s just not achievable.

“As long as you have human pedestrians and human drivers, someone is bound to make a mistake, and every once in awhile there will be a fatality,” de Barros said.

“Humans make mistakes. It is our duty as designers and engineers to design the facilities to be forgiving. It’s our duty to take into account the fact that humans make mistakes.”

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