Drinking Behind New Mexico's High Pedestrian Fatality Rate

New Mexico had the nation's highest pedestrian fatality rate in 2014. Alcohol was a factor in over half the pedestrian fatalities in New Mexico, while nationally it's a third. According to the Albuquerque PD, drunk pedestrians are primarily to blame.
June 5, 2016, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The Merry Homecoming, by Jan Steen, 1670-79, Dutch painting, oil on canvas.
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"New Mexico racked up 74 pedestrian fatalities in 2014, or a rate of 3.55 per 100,000 residents, according to a report issued in May by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)," writes Olivier Uyttebrouck for the Albuquerque Journal. "That was more than twice the U.S. rate of 1.53 per 100,000."

“Pedestrian impairment” is the key factor in fatal pedestrian crashes in Albuquerque, said Tanner Tixier, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department. “The majority of our pedestrian fatalities are a result of intoxicated pedestrians walking outside of safety areas, and not the result of drivers being at fault,” he said.

"Outside of safety areas" is another way of saying the pedestrians were jaywalking.

Only 21 percent of pedestrians, or about one in five, were killed at intersections in 2014, it said. Most were killed crossing streets away from intersections, and a small number were killed on medians, sidewalks and roadsides.

Nexus with homelessness?

Many of Albuquerque’s homeless population “are perpetually intoxicated and aren’t looking out for cars in the middle of the night,” Tixier said. Too often, pedestrians meet their end crossing streets outside of crosswalks in dimly lit areas, he said

Whether jaywalking, intoxicated, or distracted by cell phones (which the article did not discuss), there are still ways to reduce pedestrian fatalities, e.g., street design improvement, adding lighting, and reducing speed limits, which the New Mexico Department of Transportation (DOT) is doing.

DOT incorporates safety features into its roadway designs, including sidewalks, lighting and pedestrian refuge islands, the statement said. The agency also sponsors an advertising and media campaign to encourage pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists to stay vigilant on the road.

Fatalities occurred mostly in urban and Native American areas

Two counties accounted for 59 percent of the states pedestrian fatalities: Bernalillo County, the most populous where Albuquerque, the state's largest city is located, and McKinley County, in the northwest, with 75.5% Native American population.

Of all traffic deaths in Bernalillo County that year, 40 percent were pedestrians. Statewide, pedestrians comprised 17 percent of all traffic deaths in 2013.

Of the 38 Bernalillo County pedestrians killed from 2008 to 2011, half were intoxicated, according to a 2014 study by the Mid-Region Council of Governments.

New Mexico was followed by Florida, Delaware, Nevada, and Louisiana in pedestrian fatality rates (see chart for 2014 rates).

2015 preliminary data: Pedestrian deaths up, motorists deaths down

See Planetizen post last March based on Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, "Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State." "2015 saw a 10 percent increase in pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes compared to a four percent decline in overall traffic deaths during the same period." Note different figures reported by the National Safety Council.

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Published on Friday, June 3, 2016 in Albuquerque Journal
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