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Increase in pedestrian accidents concerns Colorado officials

Under the laws of most states, including Colorado, pedestrians have the right of way whether in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. The vast majority of Denver's motorists know and respect this right, but some do not. The results are pedestrian accidents that often lead to seriously injured or dead pedestrians. Sadly, such accidents are almost entirely preventable, which is why city officials are concerned about the recent rise accidents.

Are pedestrian accidents increasing in Denver? Yes, according to the most recent data. In the first 8 weeks of 2013 alone, the city's auto-pedestrian accident figures rose by 46 percent. Fatal hit-and-run accidents also rose. In 2012, 13 fatalities were reported, more than the combined totals of the preceding 3 years. Denver police say the recent historical average was about 31 pedestrian accidents per month, but in the first two months of 2013, the average increased to 44.

What causes this type of accident? According to safety experts, drugs and alcohol as well as distractions such as smartphones all play large parts. For both drivers and walkers, checking smartphones for text messages and email means not paying attention for several seconds at a time, long enough to hit someone or be hit.

What are city officials doing to prevent these accidents? Authorities are taking a three-pronged approach to curbing pedestrian accidents: education, engineering and enforcement. Education works with children but less well with adults. Engineering means physical changes such as lights in dimly lit crosswalks. For enforcement, police now routinely use the Medina Alert to automatically and instantly alert the public to hit-and-run suspects. The alert is named for a hit-and-run victim who died in 2011.

What can Denver residents do if they become pedestrian accident victims? Police will likely charge negligent drivers, but victims can also pursue legal action against drivers.

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