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Drinking puts NM pedestrians in peril

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Alcohol is a key reason New Mexico consistently ranks among the deadliest states for pedestrians – proof that drinking and walking on city streets is a deadly mix.

Half of the 38 pedestrians who lost their lives in traffic accidents from 2008 to 2011 in Bernalillo County were intoxicated, an analysis by the Mid-Region Council of Governments shows. Drunken drivers were involved in another four fatal pedestrian crashes, or 12 percent of the total.

And the entire Central Avenue corridor is Bernalillo County’s most dangerous for people on foot and bicycles.

“In general, crashes involving alcohol are much more likely to be fatal,” the report’s authors wrote. Also, crashes involving motor vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists are more likely to result in death and injury than those involving only vehicles.

New Mexico reported 41 pedestrian fatalities statewide in 2011, making it the nation’s fifth most deadly state per capita for pedestrians that year, the report said.

The study generally lists “top contributing factors” to the crashes, with 28 percent listed as “pedestrian error.”

A cyclist crosses Central at San Mateo on Monday, the intersection with the highest number of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes in the years 2008 to 2011, according to a crash analysis by the Mid-Region Council of Governments. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

A cyclist crosses Central at San Mateo on Monday, the intersection with the highest number of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes in the years 2008 to 2011, according to a crash analysis by the Mid-Region Council of Governments. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Pedestrian fatalities comprise a high percentage of all fatalities on Bernalillo County roadways. Pedestrian deaths ranged from 23 percent of all crash deaths in 2009 to 43 percent in 2008.

Nationally, pedestrian fatalities make up about 14 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Seven fatal bicycle crashes were reported in Bernalillo County from 2008 to 2011. Of those, one involved a drunken bicyclist, and another, a drunken driver.

Bernalillo County racked up a total of 744 pedestrian crashes from 2008 to 2011, including 135 that involved serious injuries, according to the report issued last week.

The county had 690 bicyclist crashes in the same period, of which 67 involved serious injuries.

Bernalillo County claims a disproportionate share of pedestrian and bicycle crashes in the metro area, which includes Sandoval, Valencia and Torrance counties. Bernalillo County, which has 75 percent of the metro area’s population, had 94 percent of both pedestrian and bicyclist crashes in the region.

The analysis focused on Bernalillo County and made few comparisons with other cities or states. The data were drawn from the state’s Uniform Crash Report, which tallies cashes reported on public roadways that result in personal injury or damages of $500 or more.

A ghost bike in the median on Osuna near Jefferson commemorates Scott Dwane Lane, a bicycle accident fatality in 2012. Bike crashes are more likely to be fatal than those involving motor vehicles alone. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

A ghost bike in the median on Osuna near Jefferson commemorates Scott Dwane Lane, a bicycle accident fatality in 2012. Bike crashes are more likely to be fatal than those involving motor vehicles alone. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Dangerous corridor

The bustling Central Avenue corridor was Bernalillo County’s most dangerous for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

The single most dangerous intersection was Central and San Mateo, which was the site of 12 pedestrian crashes and eight bicyclist crashes, none of which was fatal, the analysis found.

“In terms of corridors, Central Avenue experienced the most crashes overall, with five intersections having four or more crashes,” the authors wrote.

Other dangerous Central Avenue intersections include those at Louisiana, Eubank and Rio Grande.

The analysis did not make specific recommendations about how to improve pedestrian or bicyclist safety.

Julie Luna, transportation planner at MRCOG, said factors that many dangerous intersections have in common include high-density housing, a concentration of stores and busy streets.

An example is the intersection of Montgomery and San Mateo NE, the site of 10 pedestrian accidents from 2008 to 2011. Del Norte High School is located there, along with a grocery store and other retail businesses, bus stops and several large apartment complexes, she said.

“It’s a very urban center with very fast, high-volume roadways,” Luna said.

pedestrianThe analysis includes several maps that show the locations of fatal and non-fatal crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the county.

The maps reveal a dense concentration of pedestrian accidents in the Downtown area between Mountain NW and Silver SW, which has a variety of services for homeless people. The intersection at Third and Lomas NW had four non-fatal accidents in 2009 and 2011.

“A couple guys I walk with ignore the (traffic) lights,” Michael Moyna, 60, who sleeps on the sidewalks most nights, said in an interview Monday. “I ask them if they want to get hit and they don’t answer. I’ve talked to them several times and they ignore me.”

The maps also reveal dangerous intersections along the Lomas, Montgomery and Coors corridors.

One map shows the top corridors for bicyclist crashes, including Montgomery, Menaul, Indian School, Tramway, San Mateo, Wyoming, Lomas and Central.

Enforcement of traffic laws needs to be more of a priority in Albuquerque, said Jennifer Buntz, president of the Duke City Wheelmen, a bicycling advocacy group.

“We need to make drivers more aware in general,” Buntz said. “We just don’t have the enforcement level right now that promotes a safe roadway use for every kind of use.”

Below is an interactive map of pedestrian and bicycle crash data. Click on the content icon under “Details” to view different layers.

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