Pedestrians killed locally, nationally on interstates despite laws

It's illegal to cross a freeway in Louisiana; pedestrians still do it, and at their own peril

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - They are tragic accidents that often happen in the blink of an eye - pedestrians struck and killed on interstates and freeways.

There have been two deaths locally just this month, including an incident that occurred just two days ago.

The most recent incident was Tuesday, Sept. 22, on Interstate-20 at Spring Street in Shreveport, claiming the life of a 60-year-old man.

Just three weeks earlier, on Sept. 3, a fatal pedestrian accident happened on Interstate-49 at East 70th Street in southwest Shreveport.

Research released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows more than 800 pedestrians die every year on interstates and large highways in the U.S.

Longtime traffic safety officer with the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Mike Vaitkus, pointed to other research revealing the response times for drivers travelling at interstate speeds.

“They took an average of, I don’t remember how many people. But an average time is 1-point-7 seconds to receive it and react to it. So, you have to hone in on it, raise that foot off the accelerator and put your foot on the brake," said Vaitkus.

Sgt. Vaitkus says that delay translates into dozens of feet forward before a driver can begin responding to what’s ahead of them and begin to brake.

As for the law in Louisiana, Sgt. Vaitkus explained that a pedestrian cannot cross an interstate highway unless in the case of an emergency.

“Don’t think you can just step out in front of traffic and they’re gonna stop for you because you’re taking a serious gamble with your own life," said Vaitkus.

Many pedestrian deaths happen on dark and unlit interstates or other freeways.

A majority of the incidents involve men between the ages of 20 and 44.

It turns out crossing the freeway causes the most deaths, followed by disabled-vehicle-related crashes, despite all the warnings and the law.

The legal penalty for a pedestrian crossing an interstate includes three 38-hour days of community service activities, with at least half of the time including taking part in a litter abatement or collection program.

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