AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The Texas Department of Transportation announced the launch of its “Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign focused on pedestrian safety, with the arrival of National Pedestrian Safety Month in October.

TxDOT officials noted that as the days grow shorter due to the change in season, the lack of light will make it more difficult for drivers to see and safely avoid pedestrians. October, said officials, had the highest number of pedestrian crashes in 2022. Pedestrian crashes also make up 19% of traffic deaths in Texas despite being only 1% of crashes that occur.

Over the last five years, TxDOT said that Texas has reflected nationwide trends and seen a 29.6% increase in pedestrian traffic deaths. Just in 2022, Texas saw 5,764 crashes involving pedestrians, which resulted in the deaths of 829 people and 1,526 serious injuries.

“As we shift to fewer hours of daylight, it’s up to drivers and pedestrians to adapt and help keep our roads safe,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “Motorists need to stay alert and look for people walking, and pedestrians can take measures to be seen by drivers who may be inattentive behind the wheel.”

As part of the October safety campaign, TxDOT highlighted the experience of Misael Rico and his family. When Rico was six years old he was struck by a car while walking to school with his mother and seriously injured; his parents were told at the time he might not be able to walk or talk again. Rico endured numerous surgeries and years of physical therapy, said TxDOT, and both started college in 2023 as well as joined the campaign to urge drivers to pay attention.

Officials with TxDOT published tips for both drivers and pedestrians as part of the safety campaign, intended to help those traveling in and out of vehicles avoid fatal crashes.

Tips for drivers included:

  • Stop and yield for pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • When turning, yield the right of way to pedestrians.
  • Be cautious when passing stopped buses or other vehicles that can block your view of pedestrians.
  • Pay attention and put your phone away so you’re prepared if pedestrians enter your path.
  • Follow the posted speed limit and drive to conditions.

Tips for people walking included:

  • Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks. Look left, right, then left again before crossing.
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing. Don’t assume traffic will stop for you.
  • Follow all traffic and crosswalk signals.
  • When walking, put away electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
  • Stay visible. Wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.

The most recent “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign was described by TxDOT as another part of its ongoing efforts to end the streak of daily traffic deaths in Texas. The last day without a fatality on a Texas roadway, noted TxDOT, was Nov. 7, 2000.

For the latest Amarillo news and regional updates, check with MyHighPlains.com and tune in to KAMR Local 4 News at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 p.m. and Fox 14 News at 9:00 p.m. CST.