Report: Distractions could be culprit for increasing traffic fatalities

SEATTLE – Could the cellphone you’re carrying be causing more fatal crashes for people crossing busy streets?

That’s what a recent study suggests, citing nearly 6,000 deaths across the country in the first half of 2016.

That study says pedestrians, not drivers, are being killed far more often than police have seen in the past 25 years.

The city of Seattle says it has lowered speed limits on some roadways in an attempt to drive down fatalities, but the study suggests we could be distracting ourselves to death.

Either in a car or walking down the street, most people seem to be multi-tasking all the time.

Elise Dejesus sees it every day in downtown Seattle.

“I’ve had friends in accidents because of cellphone usage and things like that,” she said.

The report from the Governors Highway Safety Association suggests when people’s eyes are stuck to a screen, it could lead them walk into their own deathtrap.

“Both drivers and pedestrians need to watch out for each other,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Rick Johnson.

Washington state has fared much better than most of America. From January through June 2015, 40 pedestrians died in car crashes – that number is projected to be down by 10 percent in 2016.

But the dangers are everywhere and police say distractions are by far the biggest reason for wrecks on the road.

“Distractions whether food, phone, or kids in the vehicle, are a cause of the majority of collisions we have out here,” said Johnson.

“It scares the crap out of me so I just try to avoid it,” said Dejesus.

She said she has seen friends get into so many close calls that she no longer walks and texts at the same time.

“My boyfriend, for instance, is really bad about that and tends to walk into people,” she said. “It actually really makes me anxious.”

Earlier this month, 73-year-old April Fait from Burien was killed when a hit-and-run driver crashed into her.

While police don’t know if distraction played a part the result is the same. A 2,000-pound car insulates riders and drivers from serious injury, say police, but a pedestrian’s safety is in the hands of drivers since someone on foot will lose nearly every time.

“If you’re a pedestrian, you don’t have anything protecting you. It’s probably more important that the car sees you first, of all, and that you’re legally in a cross walk second of all,” said Johnson.