HOUSTON - Another Houstonian was hit and killed on Sunday night. This time it happened on South Kirkwood near High Star.
Investigators say a man, driving with his wife and kids around 10:20 p.m., crashed into the man as he crossed the road in the middle of the block and not at an intersection or a crosswalk. The family called police and waited for officers to arrive.
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths are on the rise across the country, with Texas, Florida, and California having the highest increase. So what’s being done to change that?
TXDOT is assessing what changes to infrastructure need to be made to make roads safer, such as a footbridge that the Texas Department of Transportation built over the South Loop, so pedestrians can safely cross.
"We’re also making sure we have sidewalks for some of our roads that don’t already have existing sidewalks. When it comes to bicycles, having our bike lanes there, either being painted or protected with our markers, as well as better lighting," said TXDOT Traffic Safety Specialist Matthew DeLeon.
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Many people view roadways as being built for vehicles, but pedestrians cross lanes of traffic all the time. Lately, simply crossing the street has turned deadly for dozens of Houstonians.
"Ever since the pandemic hit, there’s been an increase in pedestrian fatalities and crashes on Texas roads and here in Houston," DeLeon adds, and he says 100 Houstonians lost their lives in 2021. That’s compared to 86 pedestrian deaths in Houston in 2020 and 83 in 2019.
Numbers haven’t been released yet for 2022, but a number of Houstonians have been killed.
"This is a devastating loss to us and there’s nothing that can change it. I’m still in shock. I know I’m going to have to get counseling to be able to process it.," says Dawn Esparza Gonzalez, who was there two weeks ago when her best friend, Ann Barrett and Barrett’s husband, Sederick, were killed while crossing Westheimer near Greenridge.
"I don’t know why they haven’t put speed bumps or something up before that happened to them," Gonzalez says.
The city and state's High Injury Network Vision Zero initiative identifies that stretch of Westheimer as having a high number of crashes and deaths. So I’m told the initiative includes a commitment to ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by the year 2030.
In addition to speaking out about making roads safer, Gonzalez has collected nearly 1,000 signatures to have the option for bond taken away for Donovan Harris, the man charged with running over and killing the Barretts.
"He was already out on bond for aggravated assault. Somebody like this doesn’t deserve to be out. He took two lives." Gonzalez says.
RELATED: Couple crossing Westheimer Road fatally struck by speeding, intoxicated driver: police
Meanwhile, TXDOT is working on a new campaign to make streets safer for pedestrians, which is expected to roll out this summer.
So what can you do today to help reverse the increasing number of pedestrian deaths? TXDOT suggests don’t drive distracted and don’t speed.
"High speeds make it harder for a vehicle to stop," DeLeon points out, and he also says, "As for pedestrians, look both ways. Please walk the extra 50 feet to go to an intersection (and cross at the light). Do not be distracted as well, on your phone, don't be impaired. Be highly visible and make eye contact with the driver to make sure they see you before you step into the roadway," says DeLeon.
Monday is also the start of National Work Zone Awareness week. Traffic deaths in Texas work zones increased by 33% last year, killing 244 people. TXDOT El Paso maintenance crews made a giant snake sculpture using orange traffic barrels that were hit by drivers who weren’t paying attention.