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DIGGING DEEPER: What’s behind Tucson’s record number of Pedestrian Fatalities

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TUCSON - It has become an enforcement priority for the Tucson Police Department and others who are working to make our streets safer for everyone.

Tucson Police tell News 4 Tucson, pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise since 2014.

"It's a really a tragic statistic," said Evren Sonmez, program manager with Living Streets Alliance.

However, Tucson is not the only place that is experiencing this tragic trend.

"It's a nationwide issue here in the States, overseas, and in Europe," said Tucson Police Captain Diana Duffy.

According to Tucson Police, 80 people died in traffic fatalities in 2018. Here is the breakdown:

39 pedestrians
6 bicyclists
15 motorcyclists
20 in vehicle collisions

So what could be behind the deadly increase?

"More people have started to walk, bike, and use different types of transportation, and the streets were not changed along with the increase in population," Captain Duffy told News 4 Tucson.

Sonmez pointed to the protected bike lane in a section of downtown Tucson as one example of a safe street.

"A protected bike lane actually separates out the people on bikes from the people driving cars - an actual physical separation. In this case, we have a curb and also a line of parked cars," Sonmez told the Digging Deeper team.

Tucson Police have identified hot spots, and are targeting those areas. But it is not only about writing tickets.

"It's also about increasing the education and the enforcement, and seeing if that changes any of the statistics in the area, " said Sgt. Mike Dietsch, traffic safety supervisor for the Tucson Police Department's Westside division.

Sgt. Dietsch tells News 4 Tucson, he wants people to look out for each other and be safe.

"Put your cell phones down if you are driving. Put your cell phones away if you are a pedestrian. Pay attention to your environment." Sgt. Dietsch advised.

The city is also working to improve safety by planning, designing and maintaining so-called 'complete streets' which include lighting, sidewalks and other roadway improvements.

You can hear more about a 20-year long-range plan at an upcoming free event called Move Tucson.

The event takes place on Feb. 2 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the TEP building at 88 E. Broadway Blvd.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Investigative Producer for KVOA News 4 Tucson. He is a three time Edward R. Murrow award winner, native Tucsonan, and a proud Arizona Wildcat.

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