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DIGGING DEEPER: TPD working to reverse deadly trend of pedestrian deaths

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TUCSON - With the Tucson, Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase in full swing, Tucson Police are concerned about the thousands of pedestrians going from one show to another, as well as extra traffic in the downtown area.

The year 2019 in Tucson was the deadliest for pedestrians when 39 people died on our roads crossing the street.

Tucson Police created a special program working directly with the Tucson Department of Transportation to coordinate a city-wide effort on enforcement and education.

Of those killed last year, numbers showed 90% of them were not in crosswalks. 

Tucson Police is spending time in "hot spots" placing and handing out reflective gear like back packs, vests and even shoe laces as part of the newly formed traffic safety program.

Grant and Oracle roads is one of those hot spots. That's where Sgt. Bethany Cavell stopped a woman who wasn't using a crosswalk to get across the street.

Anna, who declined to give her last name, told news 4 Tucson she knows jaywalking is dangerous.

"To cross like I did was wrong, I shouldn't have done it, I won't do it again," she said.

Anna admitted she was in a hurry. That's what most people tell the officers. 

Sgt. Cavell told Anna she needed to be more careful and explained why.

Cavell then gave her a reflective backpack. That's part of the traffic safety program.

"To help pedestrians be seen a little more and educate them on where to be crossing so the vehicles can see them," Cavell told News 4 Tucson.

On Jan. 21, near the intersection of Stone Avenue and Grant Road, was the scene of a pedestrian fatality.

Anna said she was nearby when the collision occurred.

“I thought it could've been me, it could've been a friend," she said.

Tucson Police Cpt. Diana Duffy heads the traffic safety program.

She tells News 4 Tucson, since 2014 pedestrians fatalities have been on rise.

That's why they are focusing on education and enforcement efforts, but there also needs to be personal accountability.

"In drivers, pedestrians, everyone needs to obey the law," Sgt. Duffy told the Digging Deeper team.

Charlie Holt’s bike is his only means of transportation. He said he always plays it safe.

He's even safer now that he was given a reflective vest to wear.

“I appreciate them stopping me and giving me a little more security on my safety, I respect them for that," Hold told News 4 Tucson.

The message from police is simple: put down the cell phone, and pay attention to what you are doing.

The program began just a few weeks ago; they’ve spent $2,000 so far in handing out the reflective gear.

The money came from the JAG Byrne grant.

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

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