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Pedestrian fatality rates remain low in Platte County

October 3, 2018

Pedestrian fatality rates in Platte County remain low as statewide rates have officially surpassed the 18-year average of 11 annual pedestrian deaths on Nebraska roadways.

“We always urge people to be cautious,” said Columbus Police Capt. Todd Thalken.

With three months left in the year, there have been 16 pedestrian fatalities on Nebraska roadways in 2018, according to American Automobile Association Nebraska. The average rate of pedestrian fatalities from 2000-2017 was 11 and the number of individuals injured on Nebraska roadways was 390.

Statistics provided by the Nebraska Department of Transportation show that pedestrian fatality rates have risen in Nebraska by 33 percent since 2017.

Rose White, director of public relations at AAA Nebraska, said there are a number of contributing factors relating to pedestrians being struck, including the driver or pedestrian being distracted and children laying in the street.

White said it’s important for pedestrians, drivers and motorists to all remain alert and vigilant.

Despite the increase, the number does not reflect the rates in Platte County. White said there was one reported fatality in 2016 and 2017 and zero reports of pedestrian fatalities this year.

Thalken said the numbers are a good representation of the rates in Columbus, as well. Thalken said pedestrian fatalities are not common in the area and throughout his years with the department, he said he recalls responding to one pedestrian-related fatality.

Thalken said that pedestrian-related accidents often involve those riding their bicycles from one place to another.

The overall Nebraska traffic fatality rate this year decreased by 3 percent from 2017 with a total of 166 incidences so far. Up to 44 of the total were reported in urban roadways and 122 in rural areas.

White said the disparity between rural and urban areas are due to the higher percentage of roadways in rural regions.

Thalken said the City of Columbus has a committee that emphasizes road safety. He said members actively check traffic lights and road signs to make sure they are working and up-to-date.

“As a community, I think drivers and pedestrians are safe,” he said.

Officials at AAA said drivers and pedestrians share an equal responsibility of keeping themselves and others safe on the road. When crossing streets, they said pedestrians should always be on the lookout for approaching vehicles in all directions, including those turning right on a red light.

“It takes two people to cause an accident,” Thalken said.

Thalken said he’s witnessed drivers exceeding speed limits and blowing through stop signs. He said it’s important for people to follow the rules, look both ways and to always be on alert when driving and crossing the road.

“We just need to be aware of our surroundings, and pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings when crossing streets,” he said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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