For the first time in three years, the number of pedestrian deaths declined.

Fatalities involving motor vehicles and those on foot fell nearly 9 percent during the first six months of 2013 when compared same period of the previous year. Nationwide 1,985 pedestrians died on the roads between January and June last year down from the 2,175 recorded during the same six-month period in 2012, according to a report analyzing preliminary data released Wednesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Minnesota recorded 12 deaths from January to June 2013 and finished with 40 for the entire year, according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety's 2012 Crash Facts Report. Minnesota also had 40 deaths reported in 2011.

The decline ended a three-year stretch in which pedestrian deaths nationwide rose 15 percent between 2009 and 2012 while overall motor vehicle deaths during the same period fell three percent during the same time period, the nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico said.

"The preliminary findings are good news, but it's too soon to celebrate," said Kendell Poole, the GSHA's chairman and director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety. "We must remain focused on pushing the number down in all 50 states. With distraction an increasing issue for both pedestrians and motorists, pedestrian safety continues to be a priority in many areas of the country."

States with the highest numbers of pedestrian fatalities in 2012 were California (612), Texas (478) and Florida (476), which accounted for one-third of the 4,743 deaths reported nationwide. South Dakota had the fewest with two followed by Rhode Island with five, Wyoming with six and North Dakota with seven.

Overall, fatalities decreased in 25 states, increased in 20 and the District of Columbia and remained flat in five.

The report found that pedestrian deaths were largely an urban phenomenon and were most likely to occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The highest frequency was at twilight and the first hour after darkness with 25 percent occurring between 6 and 9 p.m.

Pedestrian deaths hit a 12-year low of 4,109 in 2009, then rose for three consecutive years. Allan Williams, former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said it was not immediately known why there was an uptick but it was likely that more people were walking to cut transportation costs during the economic recession. There also was more emphasis put on waling for health.

As for last year's decline, Williams said engineering innovations such as complete streets designed to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, midblock crossings, median refuge islands and crossing signals at intersections may be factors.

Here are some Minnesota laws regarding motorists and crosswalks from the Minnesota Safety Council.

Where traffic control signals are not in place or in operation, a driver must stop for a pedestrian crossing within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. A vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk can proceed once the pedestrian has completely crossed the lane in front of the stopped vehicle.

A pedestrian must not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is approaching. There is no defined distance that a pedestrian must abide by before entering the crosswalk, but common sense should prevail. The law states: "No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield."

When a vehicle is stopped at an intersection to allow pedestrians to cross the roadway, drivers of other vehicles approaching from the rear must not pass the other vehicle.

It's unlawful for the driver of a motor vehicle to proceed through a group of school children crossing a street or highway, or past a member of a school safety patrol or adult crossing guard who is directing children across the roadway and who is holding an official signal in the stop position.

Failure to obey the law is a misdemeanor. A second violation within one year is a gross misdemeanor.

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