TxDOT, local doctors urge drivers, pedestrians to be safe on road

By Max Massey - Reporter/Anchor, Luis Cienfuegos - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Traffic crashes involving people walking or biking are a serious problem in San Antonio. 

The Texas Department of Transportation hopes to combat these wrecks by launching a pedestrian safety campaign. 

Shaun Aukland, who walks or rides her bicycle to work often, says she frequently deals with dangerous drivers on her morning commute.

According to TxDOT, there were 5,694 crashes involving pedestrians last year and those wrecks ended with 632 people dying and 1,205 serious injuries. 

The top factors in the crashes were people failing to yield the right of way, drivers not paying attention and speeding. 

In San Antonio,  there were 712 traffic wrecks involving pedestrians last year, including 65 deaths and more than 130 serious injuries. 

"We see all the patients who are severely injured, pedestrians who are hit by cars," a trauma surgeon with University Health Services, Dr. Lillian Liao, said.

Liao is one of the trauma doctors who know the problem all too well. They see up to 500 vehicle versus pedestrian crashes a year, and many of the victims are children. 

"Those are some of the more memorable cases in terms of both just managing the injuries of the child and consoling the family. It really is not just an injury to one person. It becomes an injury to an entire family," Liao said. 

Emergency room doctors see a lot of high-speed wrecks, but some of these crashes can happen very close to home. 

"Most scary and most memorable are the children who are hit in the back of a driveway by someone backing out or at a parking lot backing out, and they don't see the child," Liao said.

TxDOT's campaign urges drivers not to speed, especially around crosswalks, and to put their phones away and stay alert. 

If you're walking or biking, TxDOT wants to remind you to stay on sidewalks whenever they're available; look left, right and left again; and don't be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road. 

Liao had a very important message for parents and kids. 

"Be sure to be crossing with an adult before the age of 7. It really has to do with their ability to have the proper perception of how far and how fast a car is coming at them," Liao said.

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