WAITE PARK -- With pedestrian road deaths at a 25-year high in Minnesota, MnDOT is partnering with local communities to teach drivers and walkers how to handle crosswalks.

At District 742's Discovery School Tuesday, MnDOT along with the district, BLEND, and Waite Park Police held a local crosswalk event. These crosswalk events take local groups of students or concerned citizens and use them to teach people the proper use of crosswalks.

Michelle Pooler is a State Program Coordinator for MnDOT. She says MnDOT has found that neither side is generally at greater blame in pedestrian and car incidents.

"We've found that it's a shared responsibility, so motorists are 50% at fault, and pedestrians are 50% at fault. So it's about changing behaviors [on both sides]."

Sixty pedestrians died on Minnesota roads in 2016, which set the 25-year high, with 1991 being the last time the state saw a comparable number. Pooler adds the state is still trying to pinpoint a few of the reasons behind the spike in pedestrian deaths on Minnesota roads.

"We know who's dying and where they're dying, but the mystery is trying to figure out why. Some people think it's the increase in distracted driving and walking. More cell phones and not paying attention, but it's hard to know [in each case]."

As part of the crosswalk events, MnDOT spreads the word about the state's Crosswalk Law. Some of the key parts to the law are:

  • Drivers must stop for crossing pedestrians at marked crosswalks and at all intersections without lines, signs or stop lights.
  • Pedestrians must obey traffic signs and signals at all intersections that have them.
  • Vehicles stopped for pedestrians can proceed once the pedestrian has completely crossed the lane in front of the stopped vehicle.
  • Pedestrians must not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is approaching and it's impossible for the driver to yield, on a 30 mph road, MnDOT says it's roughly 193 feet.

According to MnDOT, to-date we've had 34 pedestrian deaths statewide, and on average, 10 - 15% of Minnesota's traffic deaths are pedestrians.

Photo: Richard Leguil, WJON

Just late last month in St. Cloud 71-year-old Adow Abdi was struck and killed while at the University Drive roundabout at 5th Avenue South.