CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Ohio has seen an increase in child pedestrian deaths over the last several years -- it's the highest since 2012.
Cuyahoga County ranks second for the most pedestrian crashes involving those under the age of 18. In Cuyahoga County, Cleveland -- followed by Cleveland Heights -- reported the most traffic incidents involving young pedestrians.
Why are more and more juveniles being struck each year? You may or may not be surprised by our findings.
Take a look at our map of juvenile pedestrian crashes reported in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina and Summit counties for 2016.
When 16-year-old Cole Less heads for school each day, he heads down a perilous path.
"You get scared of walking. Anywhere you go, you're a little nervous about the road" said Less, who's been struck twice by a car.
Most recently, the junior at North Olmsted High School was struck at a high-volume intersection near Great Northern Mall.
"I was like 'Snap!' I didn't know what was happening. It was, like, so fast and I didn't know what to do. I was just hurt on the ground," recalled Less.
According to the police report, Cole was struck by a vehicle driven by a woman making a right-hand turn from Lorain Road onto Country Club Boulevard.
"The lady was turning too fast, and she wasn't able to see me," explained Cole.
Turns out, turning right or left at an intersection was the second leading cause of accidents involving underage pedestrians last year. Our investigative team reviewed accident reports from the Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Department of Public Safety.
In 2016, 102 accidents involving juvenile pedestrians were recorded in Cuyahoga County including one fatality. Cuyahoga County ranks second highest in all of Ohio for most juveniles struck by vehicles. Second to Hamilton County. Of Cuyahoga County's 102 reports, our analysis shows a right or left-hand turn was involved in nearly a quarter of the incidents.
More often than not, distracted kids are to blame.
No surprise to us, as we recently watched Lakewood students on their way from school wearing headphones, and their eyes glued to their phones -- seemingly oblivious to their surroundings.
Cuyahoga County accident records show inattentive youngsters were the leading cause of juvenile pedestrian accidents last year, showing up as the cause in more than twenty five percent of the reports viewed.
One juvenile, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and headphones, was hit while walking his dog. Another was struck while chasing a groundhog and ran into traffic.
Tanisha Gillon's 14-year-old son was struck by a car near his school on East 93rd Street in Cleveland.
The street was torn up by construction. Cleveland Police's accident report shows the driver failed to see the boy, as he darted out in traffic.
"Sometimes, I think kids can just run across and think they are faster, maybe than a car. That's a good lesson to learn" said Gillon.
Our breakdown of state records confirms what you might already expect. Most accidents involving juvenile pedestrians occur around 7 a.m., when most students are walking headed to school.
Then again between 3 and 5 p.m. – when headed home.
We're not sure there's an explanation, but nearly a third of the accidents last year in Cuyahoga County happened on a Monday.
Fortunately for Cole Less, injuries suffered in the two accidents he was involved in were not life -threatening.
With 45 juveniles fatally struck in Ohio over the past five years, and last year being the deadliest since 2012, Cole knows pedestrian safety is not a laughing matter.
"I tell them it's no joke. I could have been in a more serious accident than what's already occurred," said Less.
Living to tell an important lesson for all of us, Cole said to "keep on the lookout for drivers and for drivers to keep on the lookout for pedestrians at all times."
Tips for juvenile pedestrians from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Whenever possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk or intersection.
- Increase your visibility at night by carrying a flashlight and wearing retro-reflective clothing.
- It's safest to walk on a sidewalk, but if one is not available, walk on the shoulder and face traffic.
- Avoid distractions such as electronic devices that take your attention off the road.
For more information on how to help keep pedestrians safe, click here