Stories behind the signs: Pedestrian deaths hit 30-year high

Stories behind the signs: Pedestrian deaths hit 30-year high

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -This year, 207 people have died on Ohio roadways. On Friday, March 15, Camilo Gabriel, a Cleveland father and husband, crossed the road with his wife, Vilma, to go to a medical appointment at Metro Health. That's when a white SUV headed toward the couple.

“My husband put both hands and he pushed me. Then he said, he’s coming to kill us, both of us,” said Vilma Gabriel, the wife of Camilo Gabriel.

Stories behind the signs: Pedestrian deaths hit 30-year high

Vilma Gabiel was pushed out of the way by her husband, but Camilo was hit by the vehicle, which sped away from the scene, leaving his horrified wife kneeling next to him on the ground.

"I saId, 'Camil, don't leave me, don't leave me, Camil'. I go run to his chest. I hear his heart, he was pumping so fast," said Vilma Gabriel.

Camilo Gabriel died on March 15.
Camilo Gabriel died on March 15. (Source: Gabriel Family)

Camilo Gabriel died shortly after the accident. The man who was driving the car was on the loose for nearly two weeks before turning himself into law enforcement.

Unfortunately, the family of Camilo Gabriel is not alone in their grief. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian fatalities hit a 30-year high last year. Ohio is no exception. Michelle May at the Ohio Department of Transportation says the number of people hit and killed by cars while walking is ticking upward, while overall, the number of fatal accidents is dipping or staying steady.

"We've seen out of the past five years, we've seen four years of consecutive rising deaths on Ohio roads," said May. "A lot of it's being driven by demographic changes. We know more people are walking and biking on Ohio roads, and when vehicles and pedestrians collide, pedestrians lose."

Data from Ohio shows that both drivers and pedestrians make mistakes that can lead to collisions. A recent report showed pedestrians at fault 46 percent of the time, drivers at fault 48 percent of the time, with 6 percent undetermined or unclear.

The Governors Highway Safety Association notes that the uptick in pedestrian fatalities is a shift in the overall direction of the data trends. From early 1990s until 2009, pedestrian deaths were falling. More cities increased safety precautions, putting in stop lights, crosswalks, and traffic safety measures. In fact, the number of walkers hit and killed on the nation’s roads hit an all-time low in 2009. After that, though, the trend reversed, with increasingly steeper climbs each year. 2018 was one of the deadliest years on record.

The report cites a number of factors that could be at play in the rising death toll, including larger vehicles, more pedestrian commuters, and higher rates of distracted traveling as more people bought and started using smart phones from 2009 and onward.

“It’s a combination of driver error and pedestrian error, and we find that a lot of the crashes are occurring at dusk or dark when maybe drivers aren’t looking for pedestrians like they should,” said May.

She says that ODOT is increasingly working on ways to make pedestrians more visible and highlight the dangers of distracted driving, both moves the department hopes will decrease the number of accidents that kill pedestrians on the state’s roads in 2019.

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