LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When you think of the deadliest streets in the country, do you think of Louisville? The Department of Transportation does. Louisville ranked 19 on the list of top 20 cities with pedestrian deaths higher than the national average. The DOT found most deaths happen when people don't use crosswalks.
Tuesday, a car hit a 13-year-old who darted across Bardstown Road near Saint Gabriel Church. Louisville Metro Police say the boy wasn't in a crosswalk. The teen managed to escape with only a broken arm, but scenes like these are becoming more common.
Why are our streets more deadly for pedestrians than say Indianapolis, Cincinnati or even bigger cities? WAVE 3 News went to state and city officials to find out what the problem is and what's being done to fix it.
"We have 404 pedestrian crashes annually," said Rolf Eisinger, the Pedestrian and Bike Coordinator for the City of Louisville. Eisinger said from 2006 to 2010, 82 people died and even when the victim survived, nearly 90 percent of those crashes lead to injuries.
Louisville has several problem streets: Dixie Highway, Bardstown Road, Hikes Lane and most streets downtown.
After just 30 minutes on Broadway, we quickly found out why we're in the national spotlight. With four lanes of traffic flying by us, the sheer number of people ignoring traffic safety laws was eye opening. We spotted about 20 people walking in the middle of the busy street. We found a few people using the crosswalks, but not obeying traffic signs.
The second issue seemed to be distracted drivers whether they were eating , texting or talking on the phone, 40 percent of drivers involved in pedestrian crashes are speeding.
Near his job at 6th and Market Streets, Republic Bank employee Tim Poole was nearly taken out in crosswalk by a driver running a red light.
"I've learned just from three years of working downtown, you can't assume that people see you," he said, "And you can't assume people are going to stop even if they see you when you're in a crosswalk."
"We still have a lot of work to do obviously, to help get us off that list," Eisinger said of the ranking. Eisinger said coming in at 19th worst may be misleading because our numbers include the whole county from merged government. Still, he admits an average of 404 pedestrian crashes a year is not acceptable.
He's applied for a federal grant from the Department of Transportation to help curb the problem and his research shows some trends.
"Most crashes happen in October from Friday to Saturday," he said, "And during the afternoon peak period from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m."
Most victims are ages 41 to 64 and the most common way pedestrians cause the crash? Darting into the road.
"Yeah, I am a little surprised," said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Highway Safety Executive Director Bill Bell said of the ranking.
Bell said the list is disappointing considering how many improvements have been made at Louisville crosswalks in the past five years.
We asked Bell about critics who blame state transportation cabinets for not spending enough time and money on the problem. "I think that's somewhat fair," Bell replied. But he believes everyone plays, "We need law enforcement to be there and we need citizens to use common sense."
Eisinger agreed, "It's sad that we're on the list, but if that's what it is then let's not brush it under the rug," he said, "Let's expose it and let's deal with it head on and try and curb these numbers."
The City of Louisville has requested just over $300,000 in grant money for education programs and law enforcement. The city said the Louisville Metro Police Department and Jefferson County Public Schools are on board with the plan.
Don't expect to see police ticketing jaywalkers anytime soon as LMPD admits they rarely hand out citations. The funding would be used for police stings to target distracted drivers and pedestrians.