She was just walking her dog. Seconds later she became the latest statistic in a growing list of pedestrians killed or maimed this year in Connecticut by motor vehicles.
Donna Joy Berry, age 63, wasn’t on the road or even the sidewalk as she walked her dog in the Glenville neighborhood of Greenwich. She was on a grassy area away from the road. Seconds later a Lexus traveling north on Weaver Street crossed the yellow line, jumped the curb and struck her. Days later she died. Neither the dog, nor the driver (who remained on the scene), was injured.
In another case, a Greenwich man may now face manslaughter charges after striking and killing two restaurant workers walking in Stamford. He was driving a 2022 Mercedes at 86 mph when the December accident happened at 2 a.m. Arrested in Florida and extradited to Connecticut, 24-year-old Michael Talbot could get 20 years in jail.
Last year 75 pedestrians in this state died when struck by vehicles, a 50% increase from just five years ago. But why the sudden increase in such fatalities?
One reason is that people are walking more. But more importantly, both drivers and pedestrians are increasingly distracted, listening to their phones or texting. And motorists are driving faster.
Our vehicles are also getting bigger and more lethal. If you get hit by a car you might just roll up and off of the hood. But trucks and SUV’s strike pedestrians chest-high, causing much more trauma. And those larger vehicles often block their drivers’ view, especially when making a turn, because of their roof pillars.
In many Connecticut neighborhoods there are no sidewalks, reducing the distance between pedestrians and vehicles. Our roads seem only designed for those vehicles, hence the call by many for what are known as “complete streets.”
“We have a great partnership with CDOT (in redesigning our roads),” says Sandy Fry, chair of the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Board, an advocacy group established in 2009 by the legislature. But when one of their members walked the entire distance of Route 1, it was clear there’s much work to be done.
In many cases there are no marked crosswalks or if there are they aren’t well signed or lit. Fry says pedestrians and bikers need to be physically separated from traffic.
Frequently these collisions happen mid-block, often when pedestrians are jaywalking. Sometimes they’re crossing a busy roadway mid-block to get to or from a bus stop.
As of last year, pedestrians at crosswalks (even if unmarked) have the right of way. All they have to do is wave their hand or point, indicating they want to cross, and vehicles must stop. Drivers who don’t stop face a $500 fine.
But there are other common sense things pedestrians can do to stay safe: always walk facing the traffic, cross only at crosswalks, wear light colored clothing or carry a light at night, obey traffic signals and constantly be aware of your surroundings… especially cars turning right on red.