Pedestrian deaths on the rise in Utah

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - Pedestrian deaths have gone up 25 percent over the last five years according to the Utah Department of Transportation. New research is showing just how difficult it is for drivers to see pedestrians at night even with lights and reflective gear on.

Thursday evening UDOT and Unified Police teamed up to give a live demonstration on a closed course to show how hard it is to see pedestrians. Their goal is to focus on education not just for drivers, but also pedestrians.

Detective Mike Anderson showed how headlights are not effective at revealing someone with enough time to react when going more than 35 miles per hour.

"Proving to us firsthand that the human body just isn't recognizable at night," said Det. Anderson.

Det. Anderson notes it's not about being seen, but actually being recognized. Research has shown there are misconceptions about what makes people noticed including their clothing.

"If you're wearing white you might as well be wearing black, it absolutely doesn't do anything for you," said Det. Anderson. "What we now know is what works is to be in retro reflective clothing."

UDOT spokesperson John Gleason said studies have shown even those wearing lights or reflective gear can still be hard to spot.

"They see so many lights that are off in the distance and they get confused, they're not actually recognizing human beings as people," said Gleason.

Experts note the key is to put reflective gear or lights on moving parts of the body such as wrists or legs. That gets the attention of drivers because they notice it as human movement.

During his presentation Det. Anderson gave an example most drivers have experienced including passing a pedestrian on the side of the road they may not have seen.

"At night and driving past a pedestrian, and as you pass the pedestrian you realize the pedestrian was there. The same phenomenon goes on if the pedestrian is in the road. There is not enough time to see it."

Trends have also shown most drivers only expect to see pedestrians in major cities late at night, and many accidents can occur in rural areas or neighborhoods further from downtown.

Police note many pedestrians from crashes who survive often tell officers they assumed drivers could see them because they could see the headlights of the car.

Officials hope to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities during the summer which is when more tend to happen.


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