PORTLAND(WGME)–Pedestrian deaths in Maine increased by 200% last year compared to the year prior according to a new report.
It found there were nine deaths in the just the first six months of 2021, and some advocates say this underscores the need for long term solutions.
The report from the Governors Highways Safety Association says pedestrian deaths went up by 200% in the first half of 2021 compared to the year before.
“That’s shocking to see right off the bat,” said Highway Safety Director Lauren Stewart.
Maine and Vermont have the highest percent increase in the U.S but digging deeper into the numbers the state has a lower rate when adjusted for population, but is still concerning.
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“It’s not just a number it’s a person and so we take that seriously,” said Stewart. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This report just looked at January through June of last year. Advocates say there were 20 pedestrian crashes in the entire year.
Jean Sideris executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine said, “So that’s an upsetting and disturbing trend that we’ve seen.”
Experts aren’t sure what’s behind the troubling trend, and some believe the pandemic is to blame.
“Lots of reckless driving, illegal speeds- people are going faster than they should be,” said Stewart.
“We know there is always a concern about distracted driving,” stated Sideris.
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The state says it will be working on increasing awareness and education about how to stay safe this summer, but there are things you can do right now.
“If you’re a pedestrian you want to make sure you’re wearing your bright clothing and carrying a flashlight if its dark,” stated Stewart.
Be aware of your surroundings and be predictable, signal where you’re headed.
“Sort of be able to help ensure drivers can see you and know where you’re going, Always expect to see people on the road,” said Sideris.
For those behind the wheel never drive under the influence, slow down and keep your eyes peeled.
But for Sideris, it’s not just what individuals can do, but a much bigger issue.
“We also know our roads are designed for vehicles– for cars, for drivers– and less so for people walking and biking,” Sideris said.
She says state and local officials are looking into what can be done about this. And right now, you can have your voice heard.
Maine DOT is working on a ‘Statewide Active Transportation Plan.’
And Portland has a ‘Better Bikeways Initiative’ that’s also looking for input.
“So this is a really exciting opportunity right now for us to engage in that process. And really help design a future here in Maine that really does think about all road users,” Sideris said.