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Just when you thought it was safe to cross the street

The La Crosse area has experienced a number of pedestrian involved crashes lately. In mid-September, five people were injured in a collision that involved three pedestrians. Around 9:30 p.m. on a Friday, a car with two passengers, traveling along south Losey Boulevard, veered off the road, hit a speed limit sign, hopped a curb and crashed into a brick support. News reports were unclear if the crash was alcohol or drug related. Two people were in critical condition while another sustained life-threatening injuries.

Prior to that, a visually impaired pedestrian was killed after being hit by a truck on Mormon Coulee Road around 5:30 p.m., and a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student died from injuries sustained when she was struck on La Crosse Street around 8:30 p.m.

Nationally, 6,500 pedestrians are killed every year while 92,000 are injured. This equates to approximately 250 per day. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin averaged approximately 1,885 collisions that involved pedestrians with 58 fatalities annually from 1994 to 1998.

While this data is currently outdated, the Department has stated the number of incidents involving pedestrians has decreased in the past five years. However, they are uncertain whether the decline is related to fewer pedestrians rather than improved safety. The most common reasons for the collisions were the pedestrian's age, how fast the vehicle traveled and alcohol.

Factors that increase risks for pedestrians

Among studies conducted around road design, the following situations indicate an increased risk for pedestrian accidents:

· Higher speed limits. Not only are pedestrians at a higher risk to be involved in a crash, but they are also more likely to sustain severe injuries.

· More car lanes and a longer distance for pedestrians to cross, as well as crossings without a median island.

· Permitted right-turn on red, as well as dedicated right-turn lanes.

· Portions of street where no sidewalks are available.

· Low lighting or darkened intersections, which are also associated with a higher risk for fatalities.

These are just some of the risk factors that increase the chance of an accident.

Wisconsin Pedestrian Policy Plan 2020

Given the need for pedestrian safety, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has rolled out a new program they hope to have completed by 2020. Their vision is to increase the number of pedestrians and improve their experience throughout the State of Wisconsin, as well as reduce pedestrian collisions or deaths. With this, they hope to increase pedestrian planning and provide guidance to local officials.

To achieve their goals, the Department plans to work in conjunction with other local governments and stakeholders to increase practical accommodations for pedestrians along the State Trunk Highways. The Department also hopes to design and implement new transportation facilities or revamp older ones in effort to encourage pedestrian use. Pedestrian safety education will also be an initiative.

The Department also plans to work towards improving the enforcement of laws in order to prevent dangerous or illegal infractions committed by drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Until the project is fully complete, we will not know if it has reduced the number of pedestrian-related collisions. In the meantime, be safe out there, Wisconsin walkers!

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Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Associates, LLC
123 7th St S
La Crosse, WI 54601

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