By Kimberly Eiten

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Cell phones and dropping gas prices may be to blame for an alarming increase in pedestrian deaths.

2016 brought a spike in the number of walkers killed.

Before you step out, watch out.

“This is an alarming problem and we need to address it head on,” said Kara Macek of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

A new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows U.S. streets are increasingly dangerous for pedestrians.

Preliminary data for 2016 estimates an 11 percent spike in pedestrian deaths over the year before.

“We could be at 6,000 pedestrian fatalities, which would be the first time we hit that number in two decades. We’re really moving the needle in the wrong direction here,” Macek said.

Macek says the economy could be partially to blame. Low gas prices mean more drivers on the road.
Combined with technology, like smart phones, distract both drivers and walkers, it’s a deadly equation.

But, the fight for fewer fatalities doesn’t stop at your smart phone. Maryland agencies are trying to combat the problem on local streets through enforcement and education.

“Walk that extra 150 feet to the crosswalks. Use the crosswalk signals. Push the button. Let it cycle the lights. Do everything that’s safe,” said officer Cynthia Spriggs of the Baltimore County police.

Baltimore County police and fire both respond to crash scenes involving pedestrian deaths. But, now, they’re working together behind the scenes to stop disaster before it happens.

“When they see someone who has been struck by a vehicle, it’s a very gruesome sight,” said assistant Baltimore County fire chief Jennifer Aubert-Utz.

While the national numbers have spiked, pedestrian deaths in Maryland dropped. Down an estimated 6 percent from 2015 to 2016.

“This is totally preventable,” Aubert-Utz said.

Most of the deaths happen at night and in urban areas. Police and fire say both drivers and pedestrians need to stay alert.

The report says there is a silver lining to all this. More people than ever are choosing to walk as their primary form of transportation.

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