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'People aren't looking out.' Michigan's rising pedestrian fatalities prompts calls for safer roads

Posted at 1:41 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 17:14:51-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Michigan’s pedestrian safety continues to take a hit as last year’s fatalities increased by 10% compared to 2020. That’s according to the Governors Highway Safety Association’s latest study.

In fact last week, 7 Action News covered the story of 12-year-old Julia Grace Wallace, who was rushed to the hospital after she was hit by a car outside her school in Roseville.

The city’s deputy chief says that police are meeting Wednesday with city engineers, the Department of Public Works and the city manager to look at how they can enhance pedestrian safety near all schools.

The metro Detroit community is calling for a change.

Julianne Deblauwe's niece remains in critical condition after being hit by a car while walking to school. Deblauwe says the tragic incident could have been avoided.

“This happens everywhere. There are so many of these street crossings and everyone is driving faster. People aren't looking out, they aren't paying attention. I'm not saying everybody, but there are a lot,” Deblauwe said.

According to Todd Scott from Detroit Greenways Coalition, Michigan on average has 1,000 road fatalities per year.

According to Scott, Detroit has seen a rise in pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan introduced a plan to install more speed humps.

“Talking to residents, they do believe it has slowed down cars quite a bit,” Scott said.

But Scott says that's a short-term solution, just like reducing the speed limit or installing more stop signs, which most of the time doesn't work.

To get a sense of how some roads are not pedestrian friendly, 7 Action News showed Scott the intersection where Julie was seriously injured.

“It is good that they have high visibility safety crosswalk marking. It is a good thing but again, the road being so straight, it encourages cars to go above the speed limit,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, [these incidents are] very common.”

So, what is the solution? Scott says more than education or enforcement, the answer is building “Complete Streets.” The initiative re-thinks the design of roads to make sure they work for all users. The initiative not only considers drivers but pedestrians and bicyclists as well.

The Complete Street project initiative has already been implemented in some of the areas across metro Detroit.

At 8 Mile and Livernois, for example, you'll find bigger sidewalks, crosswalks and dedicated bike paths.

Residents like Janet Jackson say it's making streets safer.

“I appreciate this, and I appreciate the seats and everything. I appreciate all of this,” Jackson said.

The initiative is also helping local businesses.

“Drivers, slow down. It's not a speedway anymore, and they start to look around and they notice a new restaurant here, there is a new store, and there are more likely to stop and shop,” Scott said.

While Deblauwe continues to pray for her niece Julie, she is also pleading with drivers to pay attention to the roads and slow down because most pedestrian injuries and fatalities are avoidable if traffic regulations are followed.