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How can pedestrian safety improve in Denver?

Accidents involving pedestrians are tragic. Walkers and bicyclists tend to suffer serious or fatal injuries when they are struck by a moving vehicle.

Unfortunately, pedestrian deaths were up in 2015, according to recently released data. The Governors Highway Safety Association recently reported that pedestrian deaths across the U.S. were up 10 percent for the first part of 2015. That is the largest year-to-year increase on modern record.

Colorado is no exception to skyrocketing pedestrian accidents. In the second half of 2015, Denver police began monitoring certain at-risk locations and intersections in response to hundreds of pedestrian accidents in the first part of 2015. Denver police used plainclothes police officers to walk across sidewalks to catch drivers who were failing to yield to pedestrians or otherwise violating traffic laws. In addition to attempting to catch drivers who were violating traffic laws, Denver police also began handing out brochures and printed safety tips to walkers and bicyclists.

What drivers and pedestrians can do to improve safety

We previously wrote about the rise in traffic fatalities overall last year. As with that increase, some of the pedestrian fatalities may a natural consequence of more Denver residents being out driving and walking than in previous years. An improving economy and lower gas prices means more people on the road. More people means more accidents. Yet that may not fully explain the increase.

Citywide, Denver may consider adopting "Project Zero." Project Zero initiatives around the country are aimed at eliminating pedestrian deaths through a multifaceted approach involving police, firefighters, public education initiatives and street redesigns. Several large cities around the U.S. have adopted Project Zero and have seen a reduction in pedestrian fatalities.

While certainly citywide initiatives can help, some common-sense behaviors can also go a long way toward reducing the risk of getting into a pedestrian accident. Drivers and pedestrians alike should put down all mobile devices. Drivers should be aware of pedestrian walkways. Drivers must also be careful making left-hand turns at busy intersections, which is the cause of many pedestrian accidents.

The possibility of zero pedestrian deaths in the near future is unlikely. However, with the increased number of pedestrian accidents, we may see more proactive approaches to curbing risk to pedestrians, such as those used by the Denver police last year.

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