SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise across the nation. In Springfield alone, crashes have killed four pedestrians in 2023, including 60-year-old Karen Williamson.

Williamson was hit by a driver on Nov. 14. Her neighbors in the West Central area said she was a nice woman who will be missed by her community.

“A lot of them, they don’t even watch where they’re driving or not,” said Larry Crouch, who lived next door to Williamson. “And they’re a hundred percent on their cell phones.”

Crouch said Williamson was not only a neighbor, but a friend for eight years. “A lot of time I say, ‘Karen, you got to really be careful crossing that street because traffic be zooming up on Grand,'” he said.

In wake of the increase in pedestrian deaths, the City of Springfield has been taking steps to reduce the number of crashes involving pedestrians.

“Locally making a lot of strides to get those fatalities down and overall crashes due to our program,” said Mindy Büttgen-Quinn, a traffic safety specialist with the City of Springfield. “There’s a lot of education involved as well as crosswalk enforcement to make sure drivers understand they have to yield at crosswalks.”

Since it was started in 2017, the SGF Yields program has seen success in changing driver habits.

“When we started our program in 2017, only one in four drivers would yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk,” Büttgen-Quinn said. “Now, through all of our program, now about 50%. So every second driver will yield to a pedestrian.”

In addition to yield checks, the City is also using some new crosswalk signals that stop traffic when pedestrians interact with them.

Kristi Bachman, a transportation manager with the Missouri Department of Transportation said it is up to both drivers and pedestrians to watch out for each other on roadways.

“If you’re driving there could be pedestrians and other bicyclists in the area, so be aware and watch for them,” Bachman said. “Pedestrians use the crosswalks if they’re marked. Use the pedestrian push buttons if they’re available, pay attention, make eye contact with the drivers. Don’t assume that they see you or that they will stop.”