- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The number of pedestrians struck and killed is on the rise in Minnesota a year after it had dropped, and officials say distracted walking appears to be a big factor.

As of mid-December, the number of pedestrian deaths this year had risen to 38. That’s after pedestrian deaths in the state had dropped to a six-year low of 17 in 2014, the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1TY1S6m ) reported Sunday.

Hundreds more walkers are landing in the emergency room. In the past two weeks, three pedestrians have been hit by light-rail trains in the Twin Cities, with one of them dying.

Safety experts want everyone - drivers and pedestrians - to put down their cellphones and start looking.

This year, the National Safety Council added cellphone-distracted walking to its data of unintentional deaths and injuries. And while distracted driving gets a lot of attention, new research shows pedestrians are increasingly putting themselves in danger by using cellphones, headphones and tablets.

Pedestrians who are distracted can trip, cross roads unsafely or walk into street signs, according to a National Safety Council report.

Lisa Kons, continuing education coordinator for the Minnesota Safety Council, said cellphone use “reduces situational awareness. You are unaware that you are unaware.”

Kons said peripheral vision drops by 10 percent when someone uses a mobile device, and that’s enough to miss a traffic light or an oncoming car.

Figures from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety show that failure to follow the rules of the road was the most commonly cited factor - 24 percent - in pedestrian crashes in which the person walking was at fault. When drivers were at fault, 31 percent failed to yield the right of way and 20 percent were distracted, according to the data.

Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis has admitted 133 pedestrians due to falls and fractures so far this year. Of that number, 96 were hit in a crosswalk. That’s up from 108 pedestrians admitted last year and 88 in 2011.

Kons said the “biggest myth” is that people can multitask.

“We all think we are the best multitasker there is. When you are out there, you need to be focused on the task at hand, and that is getting from Point A to Point B safely,” she said.

Ian Futterer, 22, walks to his job in downtown Minneapolis. He said at least twice a month he has had to jump out of the way in a crosswalk as a motorist sped by - and once he was clipped by a driver’s side mirror.

“I do feel it’s more dangerous out there,” Futterer said. “I put my phone away. I act appropriately. I don’t want to be blood on the sidewalk or a statistic.”

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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