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Despite drop in fatal crashes, I-35 sees spike in pedestrian deaths

Though the total number of fatal crashes in Austin has dropped in 2016, twice as many pedestrians have been killed on Interstate 35 and its frontage roads this year compared with 2015.

Four of the eight pedestrian deaths on I-35 this year have occurred in the past three weeks.

On Tuesday around noon, a man ran across the highway near Oltorf Street in South Austin and was hit by a pickup that was pulling a utility trailer, police said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

The pickup’s driver and several witnesses stayed at the scene after the man was struck, and police don’t plan to file charges against the driver.

The segment of highway where he attempted to cross had a bridge with a sidewalk nearby. Police said they were unsure why the man, estimated to have been in his 40s, ran onto the interstate.

WATCH: Police talk about pedestrian who died while trying to cross highway

Chris Arnold, who is homeless and sleeps near Oltorf and I-35, said he believes the man who died was a homeless friend of his who camped nearby. Arnold didn’t see the crash but believes the victim was his friend based on the accounts of others who witnessed the incident.

Arnold said his friend was acting erratically a couple of hours before the crash. The two occasionally would sit on the slope under the bridge, but they would never cross the highway, Arnold said.

On Thanksgiving Day, a woman died after she tried to cross I-35 near Rundberg Lane around 6:45 p.m., police said.

“Do not cross I-35. It’s not safe,” Austin police officer Demitri Hobbs told the American-Statesman at the time. With speed limits on the highway from 55 to 70 mph in Austin, he said, “you just can’t win against that.”

On Nov. 23, around 3:30 a.m., a person was hit and killed while trying to cross I-35 near Slaughter Lane.

And on Nov. 16, a man died after he was hit by a vehicle around 6 a.m. on southbound I-35 near U.S. 290 in Northeast Austin, police said.

RELATED: View a photo gallery from scene of crash near U.S. 290

On Nov. 21, a group of people marched through downtown and South Austin to memorialize those who were killed in traffic crashes.

“If we considered traffic deaths as a type of cancer, it would be the fifth-deadliest cancer,” said Jay Crossley, who was previously the executive director of the urban planning nonprofit Houston Tomorrow and now lives in Austin.

Crossley attended the walk and spoke about how streets need to be better designed to protect people.

“Every single day in Texas, two families have to learn how to cope with the death of a loved one because of a speed-related crash,” Crossley said.

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