To put it simply: Slow down. Watch for others. Yield to your neighbor.

That’s the message shared by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Bike Fed through the Share and Be Aware program, a joint effort to reduce the number of people killed while walking and riding bikes in the state.

To prevent, and ideally, reduce the number of deaths of people walking to zero, people driving must drive in a manner that recognizes their potential to cause great harm — especially when they drive too fast, distracted or with a disregard for others.

A person hit by a car going 40 mph has little chance of survival, but when hit by a driver traveling at 20 mph the odds greatly improve. Keep in mind that faster speeds also make it take longer to slow down.

The idea that most pedestrian fatalities are caused by people dashing into the street simply doesn’t match the facts. In reality we often drive too fast and ignore laws we view as unnecessary.

Reviews of crashes that injured and killed people biking and walking show that driver error cause a significant percentage of these tragedies. Specifically, driver error caused 65 percent of deaths of people walking at intersections, according to a review of crash reports conducted by Robert Schneider, an assistant professor and traffic safety researcher at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Department of Urban Planning.

Schneider studied more than 8,000 crashes from 2011-2013. In that time span, 152 people walking and 33 people on bikes – children, grandparents, brothers and sisters – died after being hit by people driving. More than 40 were hit in crosswalks by people who did not yield the right of way.

In addition to the many fatalities, even more are hit and injured, about 1,200 people in Wisconsin each year. This results in lost wages, costly medical bills and hardship for Wisconsin families.

More than 40 people were killed in crosswalks by people driving who failed to yield the right away, as required by state law. That includes all crosswalks, or natural extensions of walkways, whether they are marked or not, or controlled by traffic signals.

People biking have also been affected, 15 were killed by people driving in 2015 alone. A review of those crash reports show people driving made mistakes and were responsible for 12 of those crashes.

Most often, the person driving reported that they failed to see the person riding ahead of them. What greater responsibility does one have behind the wheel than being watchful for people – whether on foot, a bicycle or in a car?

As a highly mobile society, we seem all too willing to accept the deaths of 70 neighbors each year as an acceptable price for our convenience, 70. And this year it seems to go by nearly unnoticed that the number of pedestrian deaths is much higher than the previous year. All it takes to help reduce this numbers is slowing down while driving, yielding to pedestrians and giving people on bikes space.

Please join your neighbors and the Wisconsin Bike Fed in making October a safe month. You can find the rules of the road and safety tips at the Wisconsin Bike Fed website ShareAndBeAware.org

Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin

WisconsinBikeFed.org

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Dorothy Robson is editor of the Westby Times. Contact her at 608-637-5625.

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