WTVM Editorial 6/12/18: See and be seen

(WTVM) - If you think you're hearing about more fatal pedestrian accidents lately than ever before, it's because there has been a sharp increase in deadly vehicle-pedestrian incidents.

One of the latest tragedies occurred on Buena Vista in Columbus, when a 30-year-old man was killed when a driver struck him late at night. That driver is now facing vehicular homicide charges.

Georgia and Alabama are both in the top 13 of states with the fastest growing percentage of pedestrian accidents.

A sudden rise in pedestrian deaths began in 2015, when 193 pedestrians in Georgia lost their lives, a whopping 18 percent higher than the year before.

Nationally in 2016 – the last full year for those statistics, almost 6,000 pedestrians died on roadways, a 9% increase over the prior year.

This trend is alarming and it's worth shining a brighter light on this issue to encourage pedestrians to "see and be seen" and drivers to pay more attention.

In fact, the Governor's Office of Traffic Safety cites distracted driving – texting, talking on the phone – as the key to why pedestrians are dying at a rate not seen in 25 years.

Yes, alcohol, and increasingly marijuana, play a major role in pedestrian deaths, too.

So, does poor street lighting and pedestrians who refuse to wear light clothing, or fail to use the proper crosswalks or to carry a flashlight.

Slowing the pedestrian death rate on our local roads begins with each of us.

As a pedestrian, you simply must show safe behavior by following traffic rules, especially in the dark – when 75 percent of all pedestrian-vehicle accidents happen.

Never dart across traffic, or race to cross the street as an oncoming car speeds toward you.

Walkers need to stay to the far left of the roadway, facing oncoming traffic.

And, if you can't dress in light colors or with some reflective gear, at least carry a flashlight so drivers have a chance to see you before it's too late.

Drivers always need to stay alert – and we hope the new Georgia distracted driving law will help.

You can no longer hold a cell-phone while driving. Police will be out looking for offenders.

We think it's just as important to police ourselves. Put down the phone. Obey speed limits. Don't even drive if you've been drinking.

Anticipate there might be pedestrians along the road. Give them space when you see them.

If all of us stay aware of pedestrians and bicyclists every time we're in a car, we might just be able to slow down the rise in deadly pedestrian accidents.

General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to hsteuart@wtvm.com or write to:

WTVM Editorial Committee

1909 Wynnton Road

Columbus, GA 31906

Copyright 2018 WTVM. All rights reserved.