TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Between 2017 and 2021, pedestrian and cyclist traffic crash deaths were up 34% and 58%, respectively, in Texas.

In 2021 alone, 935 people died in pedestrian and bicyclist-related crashes in Texas. They accounted for one out of every five fatalities on Texas roadways.

The Texas Department of Transportation has been working to raise awareness of deaths on Texas roadways.

“We have a shared responsibility to every member of our community – to every family and every individual – to help reverse these trends and reduce traffic fatalities in Texas,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “We’re asking all Texans to watch out for one another whether you’re behind the wheel, on foot, or on a bike. Obeying traffic safety laws is a critical first step.”

What’s driving the increase in pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities?

TxDOT’s top factors contributing to the rise in deaths all have to do with not following traffic laws:

  • Pedestrians failing to yield the right-of-way to vehicles
  • Drivers failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians
  • Driver inattention
  • Speeding

The Governors Highway Safety Association takes a slightly different approach in explaining the increasing deaths of pedestrians and cyclists. They cite the following factors as contributing to the increase in pedestrian fatalities:

  • A surge in dangerous driving that began at the start of the pandemic
  • Usage of larger, heavier vehicles that are more likely to seriously injure or kill pedestrians in a crash
  • Roads designed to prioritize fast-moving traffic over slower speeds
  • Inadequate infrastructure (sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting)

Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that engineering measures that keep cars away from pedestrians like sidewalks, refuge islands, overpasses, underpasses and barriers are effective in reducing pedestrian deaths.

IIHS added that “increased illumination, improved signal timing at intersections and beacons that alert drivers to stop at crosswalks when pedestrians are present also can be effective. Because traffic speeds affect the risk and severity of pedestrian crashes, reducing speeds can lower pedestrian deaths.”

To improve pedestrian safety, TxDOT has launched the “Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign. The campaign gives various tips for drivers and pedestrians such as:

  • Crossing the street only at intersections or crosswalks
  • Making eye contact with drivers before crossing
  • Putting away electronic devices
  • Yielding for pedestrians at crosswalks
  • Following the posted speed limit

“While improvements to infrastructure are essential, educational campaigns and law enforcement have crucial roles to play in supporting and bolstering pedestrian safety,” GSHA concluded. “Together, we can implement proven countermeasures to achieve our shared goals.”