Nevada’s Washoe County had the highest number of pedestrian deaths on record last year.
The increasing number of people getting hit by cars is a problem across the nation. Now Reno, like many cities, is searching for solutions.
Central Reno streets are a dangerous place for walkers. Between 2010 and 2015, 177 people were hit according to Reno Police.
Resident Erik Sawyer says he has been three times by cars, noting that every time he has been hit is in a crosswalk. He says 4th Street is a hot spot for cars vs. people.
“'Cause people don’t pay attention, still using that damn cell phone and texting and talking while driving or they are getting distracted by the radio or something,” Sawyer says.
His solution to the problem — at least at night: wearing a reflective vest to become more noticeable in lower visibility.
Last year, 16 pedestrians died in Washoe County — the highest on record according to the state. Reno Police say most fatal accidents happen on Friday nights when pedestrians run out on the road without a crosswalk.
University of Nevada Reno Student Tsedenya Haile, who jaywalks on the street, knows why that's the case.
“I usually use crosswalks," Haile says. "It’s just around here there are no crosswalks nearby.”
At an April 5 City Council workshop on pedestrian fatalities, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno Police, Highway Patrol and the state explained what they are trying to do to curb deaths.
Putting in crosswalks with flashing lights overhead was one idea. A new idea is called Bollard Lighting, bright beams of light that create virtual crosswalks.
“The weak point in all of this is they have to push the button and they don’t always do that,” P.D. Kieser, assistant chief safety engineer for the Nevada Department of Transportation, says.
He says contrary to popular belief, most fatal accidents happen on major arterials where drivers don’t expect to see people run out on the road. He says they try to anticipate where someone would cross, but engineers often don’t know where to put a crosswalk until it’s too late and there is an accident.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Kieser says.
He says the best solution might be what he calls “smart cars,” sensors in a car that see a pedestrian and stop the car when someone is suddenly in the way.
“That might have the biggest improvement over everything else that we can do," Kieser says. "And it’s coming in a few years; I think you are going to see a lot more of that.”
For now, he says there are two factors at work increasing fatalities across the nation: more pedestrians and drivers are using cell phones and, as the economy improves, more people are walking to work, putting more people in danger.