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Pedestrian safety in the spotlight as deaths rise in Indiana and nationwide

Posted at 5:00 AM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 12:48:42-04

INDIANAPOLIS — This month marks the first-ever National Pedestrian Safety Month, and it comes amid an alarming increase in pedestrian deaths nationwide.

In 2019, 6,205 pedestrian deaths were reported in the United States.

The message the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to get across to both drivers and pedestrians is to slow down and pay attention.

As a pedestrian, their No. 1 piece of advice advice is to wear something with a reflector on it and remove ear buds while walking so you can hear cars coming.

“It could have been a lot worse of a situation than it was,” Sarah Waskom said.

She was recently hit by a motorist in a truck while on vacation.

“I, luckily, was OK," Waskom said. "It just brushed up against the side of my body and I just kind of rolled down the side of the truck.”

34th and College.jpg
A pedestrian was struck and killed by a motorist at East 34th Street and North College Avenue in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2021.

She told me the incident happened in Asheville, North Carolina, when she was crossing in a crosswalk.

“I was about to cross the street in a very heavily walked, pedestrian heavy area, but there were some busy streets as well," Waskom said. "So I looked up, was about to cross the street, and saw that I still had a couple seconds left for the pedestrian right of way, so I started to cross the street, took one step and seemingly out of nowhere, a large truck rounded the corner and hit the side of me.”

Waskom is OK, but many others are not as lucky.

According to Michelle Anderson, director of the Operation National Road Safety Foundation, a pedestrian is killed on average every 85 minutes across the country.

“In the state of Indiana, 103 pedestrians were killed, and that is a staggering 37% (increase) from 2019,” Anderson said.

That is why, this month, everyone on the roadways is urged to pay attention whether you are driving or walking.

"We're asking pedestrians to make sure they're being very cautious, to be alert at all times, to put away that cell phone, to take those ear buds from your year, so you can hear when a vehicle is approaching," Anderson said.

And for drivers, Anderson said to always be aware of your surroundings.

“Look out for those pedestrians at all times and use caution when you're driving in hard-to-see conditions. Whether it's nighttime driving or bad weather, make sure you slow down and that you are driving at the speed limit,” Anderson said.

As for Waskom, she is thankful her incident wasn’t more serious and she said instead of just looking both ways, she’ll look all ways.

"Not just both ways up the street," she said. "You know, are there any bike lanes where you're at or are there any cars that are maybe not following the laws that they're supposed to. There's a lot of variations that can happen when you factor in human error."

Opportunity for teen drivers

Along with National Pedestrian Safety Month, this is National Teen Driver Safety Week.

Anderson told me about a cool opportunity for your teen to get involved with today.

There is a campaign called Drive Safe Chicago and people in neighboring states, including Indiana, can get involved.

In this campaign, they are asking for your idea for what would make a great commercial about being a safe driver that will get across to teens across the county.

“You can go to It's for students from the ages of 13-19," Anderson said. "You can win up to $2000 while giving your great idea about what it would take to get that message across to your peers and even to your parents, the other adults, and it will be aired nationally.”

An easy opportunity to get teens involved in the conversation on safe driving.

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