Impatient, sometimes impaired walkers.
It's a dangerous combination, law enforcement officials say.
Six pedestrians have been killed in the Wichita metropolitan area in the past 10 months — the highest rate in at least four years.
The most recent death was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time: A 56-year-old man was walking on a sidewalk along Maize Road near the Panera Bread at NewMarket Square on Friday afternoon when he was struck by a pickup that careered off the street following a collision. He died Saturday.
Other recent victims, however, put themselves in harm's way.
Steve Wittrig, 24, was killed when he and a buddy tried to cross I-235 on foot just north of the Kellogg interchange shortly after 2 a.m. Feb. 19.
A driver coming from westbound Kellogg onto northbound I-235 hit Wittrig just north of the ramp.
Six pedestrian deaths in that amount of time isn't unusual. Wichita recorded five in 2009, one in 2008 and five in 2007.
Statistics reflect a decline in pedestrian deaths in Kansas — from 33 in 1998 to 19 in 2008, the most recent year for which numbers are available.
But authorities say they are still concerned about the prevalence of risky behavior.
"A lot of it is inattention — and a lot of that is on the part of pedestrians," said Lt. Joe Schroeder, head of the accident follow-up unit.
Wittrig was intoxicated, as was William L. Jones, who stepped off the curb and into the path of an SUV last May 1 in the 1000 block of West Central, Schroeder said.
Other pedestrians who survived being hit were drunk as well — among them a 38-year-old man struck in the 1800 block of North Hillside on the night of Feb. 15.
Alcohol or drug use by pedestrians was a factor in six of the 11 fatalities between 2007 and 2009, Schroeder said.
Alcohol "impairs your judgment, period," he said. "Even if you're not driving, you could be stumbling into traffic. You're a serious hazard to yourself."
There have been at least 16 accidents involving pedestrians so far this year in Wichita, police officials say, which is not an unusually high number. That number does not include people struck in parking lots or on private property.
"The rule of thumb is, the pedestrian maintains the right of way," Schroeder said. "But there's no reason for somebody to expect somebody to step off the curb in the middle of the block."
It's as if people are simply too impatient to cross at the crosswalk and traffic signal.
"We live in a society where we stay so busy all the time," Schroeder said. "We try to cram everything in a day that used to take a couple of days."
Even if a crosswalk is not marked on a street, he said, it's safer to cross at a corner because motorists will be watching for traffic lights or signs — and more readily see pedestrians.
But not always.
Erica Smith said she was walking south on Meridian to catch a bus when she was struck by a pickup turning left from Meridian onto the ramp for I-235 at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
She had a green light and was in the crosswalk, she said.
"It was quite a wake-up call" for her, she said.
Smith said she and her boyfriend walk a lot in that area, and they have seen many a close call between vehicles and pedestrians.
"They're not paying attention," she said of drivers.
With spring almost here, children will be outside playing again. That increases the chances of kids dashing into the street after errant balls.
"When we were growing up, we were taught to look both ways before crossing the street," Schroeder said. "I don't think we teach kids that anymore, which is bad."
All too often, he said, he's seen kids dart into the street and then look surprised when they see a vehicle coming.
Ignoring the law cost two pedestrians their lives in the past three months, authorities said.
It's against the law for pedestrians to walk next to the interstate, yet that's just what Wittrig and Avione Jawei Piccard Tolbert did.
Tolbert, 28, was killed shortly before dawn on Dec. 19 when he was hit by a car on southbound I-135 next to Exit 14, which connects motorists to 61st Street North. Investigators said Tolbert was walking toward the median when he was hit.
"If it's in a period of darkness, it's really difficult to prepare for," Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Warner said. "Especially when it's a pedestrian in an area where they're not supposed to be."
Authorities aren't sure why Tolbert parked his car in a parking lot next to 61st Street North and then walked up onto the interstate.
Wittrig and a friend decided to walk home from Denim & Diamonds in the 4600 block of West Kellogg rather than wait for a party bus.
They climbed over a security fence and tried to run across I-235. The driver had no time to react, police said, particularly given the time of the collision.
"You add alcohol to the mix, and their judgment is impaired," Schroeder said. "They're not thinking, and they go stumbling into traffic, it's going to have deadly consequences."