Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Dark roads and distracted drivers make for a dangerous, even deadly combination on Tucson roadways. Pedestrians are struck on what seems like a regular basis. Some survive. Most don't. But who's to blame. Drivers say they never saw the victim. Pedestrians say they never saw the car.
"We have had a lot of people struck recently, let alone over the last several years," said Sgt. Costaki Manoleas, with the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
Twenty-five killed or seriously hurt in 2011. Arizona comes in as the third worst state when it comes to pedestrians killed. History's proven it can happen to anyone.
"How do you guys feel responding to these incidents all the time?" asked 9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito. "It's really rough, especially for one of our recent wrecks," replied Manoleas.
Ruby Martinez, still fresh on the minds of traffic detectives. Just 17, she became the third pedestrian accident in the first three weeks of the new year. She died walking down a dark road.
"The girl was really young," said Manoleas. "It's really hard to see a young person die when they have so much life in front of them."
But deputies say these accidents can be prevented. First deputies say keep your rear-view mirror clear of clutter. 9OYS put it to the test. Our own KGUN9 lanyard posed a deadly risk in our vehicle. It created a blind spot on our windshield. Looks like the road is clear, but by the time the person comes into view, it could be too late.
"Are things more hazardous at night?" asked Benito. "Oh yeah, you have less view, it's dark, people don't wear reflective clothing," replied Sgt. Manoleas.
Deputies say flashing police lights down a dark road have become all too common. One in three pedestrian deaths happen at night, so we wanted to see what drivers see when they're driving down a dark road. Does what the pedestrian wears make a real difference? The answer is yes and the proof is startling. By the time the car gets close enough to spot a pedestrian dressed in black, there's little reaction time to hit the brakes and avoid a collision.
"You're going to assume they see you, but that doesn't mean the driver see you," Manoleas said.
Never walk with your back to traffic say deputies and always wear light colored clothing.
"You can make up your mind, you can plan, you can move," Manoleas said. "It gives you a fighting chance."
Driving and walking shouldn't be deadly, but it is. At the end of the day deputies believe it's because we just don't pay attention.
"They're talking on their phone, some are still texting," said Manoleas. "They're worrying about what they're going to do next. They're late for work. They're eating."
So put down the food and stay alert. So no matter how you choose to get home, whether by car, or by foot, you make it home tonight.
The Sheriff's Department says even if both pedestrians and drivers do everything right, accidents can happen. They say if you're ever involved in a pedestrian accident, the best thing to do is stay put. Don't flee the scene. Wait for law enforcement to show up.