AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) ­– Texas has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people killed walking and biking on roadways — this despite a decrease in traffic crashes in 2020.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), last year 731 people died in pedestrian-related crashes, an increase of 9% from 2019. Crashes involving bicyclists claimed the lives of 82 people, up from 68 deaths the previous year.

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During 2020, 25% of fatalities in pedestrian and bicyclist-related crashes involved alcohol. The numbers reflect a trend of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities increasing over the last five years.

Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths account for one in five of all traffic fatalities in the state. Safety officials attribute the growing problem to people’s widespread failure to follow state laws designed to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. To that end, TxDOT is kicking off a public awareness campaign this month that urges all Texans to walk smart, bike smart and drive smart.

“Whether you’re behind the wheel, on foot or riding a bicycle, we’re reminding all Texans that they need to be safe and smart, and that starts with obeying traffic laws,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams.

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Drivers are required to take specific steps to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. State laws mandate stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks, yielding the right of way to pedestrians and bicyclists when turning, and passing bicyclists at a safe distance and giving them room to ride.

Like drivers, bicyclists are required to obey all traffic signs and signals, including stopping at red lights and stop signs. State laws also dictate that those who ride bicycles must use hand signals when turning or stopping, ride with traffic, use bike lanes or ride as near as possible to the right-hand curb, and when riding at night, make sure their bikes have a white light on the front and a red light or reflector on the back.

Pedestrians must cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks, obey all traffic and crosswalk signals and always use sidewalks. If there isn’t a sidewalk, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the street or road, facing oncoming traffic.

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TxDOT’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign and pedestrian and bicycle safety initiative are key components of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel such as wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit, never texting and driving and never driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

CBSDFW.com Staff