“Almost every day in Pitt County and Greenville, we have lots of people crossing and no crashes.”
medical director Eastern Carolina Injury Prevention Program
By Kristin Zachary
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Safety experts and the mother of a woman killed crossing Stantonsburg Road on Monday are urging pedestrians to utilize crosswalks when traversing Greenville’s busy roadways, even if it means walking a little out of their way.
A traffic-controlled crosswalk at Stantonsburg’s intersection with Moye Boulevard was 150 feet east of where Lotasha Bond was struck on Monday. It offers greater protection than the center turn lane where she stood waiting for traffic to clear, experts said.
The 40-year-old certified nursing assistant was crossing the five-lane roadway after dark, about 6:30 p.m., to begin her shift at Vidant Medical Center when she was struck twice and killed.
It is imperative pedestrians use designated crossing areas when available, Rosaline Bond, Lotasha’s mother said on Thursday.
Bond said she wants other hospital employees and pedestrians to use crosswalks at Moye and W.H. Smith Boulevard if they are parking across Stantonsburg instead of designated hospital lots.
“That is a dangerous road,” Bond said.
She does not want other families to experience the same heartbreak she feels now, she said.
As Greenville and Pitt County grow, traffic is increasing, officials with the Eastern Carolina Injury Prevention Program said. More protected crossings are needed, but many city roads where foot traffic has increased do have designated walk zones and signals at intersections, Herb Garrison, the program’s medical director, said.
The safe zones are much less dangerous than crossing streets in unprotected area, so pedestrians should take the extra steps to use them, Garrison said.
The injury prevention program is a joint effort established in 1995 between Vidant HealthTrauma Center and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University’s Department of Emergency Medicine.
Garrison, a professor of emergency medicine at ECU and vice president of medical affairs for quality and patient safety at Vidant, said the first intersection in the city to see a “ped head” was Fifth and Evans streets.
Since then, 45 additional intersections have gained the crossing signals, according to the city’s Public Works Engineering Division.
At least half are located near the university and downtown, where heavy foot traffic is expected.
“Are there enough? I think the pedestrian experts would argue you can’t have too many,” Garrison said.
He said the increase in ped heads and focus on walking safety are steps in the right direction, and the county has seen fewer pedestrian deaths than in years past.
“Even though traffic is increasing, injuries are staying the same,” Garrison said. “The fact is there’s the potential to have many pedestrian crashes and injuries every day.
“Almost every day in Pitt County and Greenville, we have lots of people crossing and no crashes,” he said. “I think that tells us most of the time that the system works.”
Crashes involving pedestrians average between one and two a month in the city and county, Garrison said. Pitt County saw three pedestrian deaths last year, one in 2011 and none in 2010.
In the past 10 years, there has been an average of three pedestrian deaths a year in the city and county, with 2005 seeing the greatest at six, the state Department of Transportation’s Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation reports.
“I think the numbers say we’re making progress,” Garrison said. “Is there more to be done? Absolutely. The work never stops.”
Pedestrians and motorists have a large role to play in safety, he said.
“We think walking is one of the best things you can do for your health,” Garrison said. But walking increases vulnerability, especially with the average car weighing thousands of pounds, and it is essential pedestrians take steps toward their own safety.
Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip, according to the CDC.
“The pedestrian loses every time,” Garrison said. “When you’re walking, you need to make sure you’re maximally alert and minimally distracted.”
Jennifer Smith, manager of the injury prevention program, said education is a large component of increasing safety and decreasing crashes.
“I think in this community, as we have grown, there is a learning curve for people to understand how to walk and drive safely,” she said.
A video created locally by the Safe Communities Coalition of Pitt County and available on the group’s YouTube channel is an important tool for local pedestrians and drivers, Smith said.
“There is a strong need for education on the part of the motorist and their responsibility to yield to pedestrians,” she said.
Garrison said motorists should be defensive and always on the lookout, especially since not all pedestrians follow the rules of the road and many are distracted while walking.
“As a driver, you are not the only person you have to worry about,” he said. “You must be aware of and take into consideration every other person on the roadway and adjust your own actions,” Garrison said.
Pedestrians often have a false sense of security, assume drivers automatically see them and fail to take steps to protect themselves.
The Safe Communities video shows the largest number of police-reported crashes involving pedestrians in eastern North Carolina from 1999-2009 were determined to be the fault of the pedestrian.
Garrison advises pedestrians to be cautious, especially at intersections, and to wear clothing that provides the greatest visibility, particularly at night. Utilizing designated crosswalks is a must, he said.
Smith said that she always catches the eye of an oncoming driver to make sure the motorist is aware she intends to cross, even at marked and signal crossings.
North Carolina General Statutes indicate pedestrians crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
In the video, Greenville Police Department Traffic Safety Unit Officer Jodie Cobb details a 2007 incident near the Greenville Convention Center on Greenville Boulevard.
A group of three people attending a Marine Corps Ball at the center walked to the Hooters across the boulevard, he said.
During their return trip about 2 a.m., the group walked across the road instead of using a traffic-controlled pedestrian crosswalk that was within sight at the boulevard’s intersection with Hooker Road.
A woman in the group was struck and later died from her injuries, Cobb said.
Bond crossed within site of the crosswalk at Moye Boulevard on Monday. She was going to work a few hours early Monday night because the hospital was short-handed, her mother said.
Her scheduled shift was 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., but she was beginning work at 7 that night to help a co-worker.
She parked at the corner of Stantonsburg and Moye in the Rite Aid parking lot, where Bond said night-shift hospital employees have permission to leave their vehicles.
She was standing in the center lane when an eastbound Chevrolet SUV merged to turn left and hit her, a crash report shows.
The impact pushed her into the inside westbound lane of Stantonsburg and she was stuck again by a Ford truck, the report said. She was taken to the hospital, where she died later Monday night.
On Tuesday, several hospital employees and others were seen crossing Stantonsburg between Moye and W.H. Smith boulevards in spite of the Monday incident and state statutes that say pedestrians can cross only in marked crosswalks when traffic-control signals are in operation at adjacent intersections.
Bond said this happens “all the time.” Her daughter was one of many who have crossed Stantonsburg in non-designated areas.
All hospital employees have access to free, designated parking spaces on Vidant’s campus, according to Reggie Pearson, vice president for clinical and ancillary support services.
Although day-shift employees are limited to specific areas, workers beginning after 4 p.m. see more “relaxed parking” and are able to park in additional areas, he said.
A bus service also is provided from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday for employees and visitors.
“It is there to ensure employees don’t have to walk unless they choose to, and it ensures they can cross streets safely by riding the bus as opposed to walking,” Pearson said.
Vidant’s website encourages employees to use pedestrian sidewalks and crosswalks, noting safety is a main concern.
“We encourage employees to park on campus and use the hospital transportation system that we provide,” Pearson said. “That’s the safest way for anyone to travel on campus.”
Bond’s mother and family hopes others make safe choices.
“She was a very loving, caring person,” her mother said. “She would do anything she could for you. Just like on Monday, they were short. She jumped in and said, ‘I’m on my way.’
“She was such a high-spirited, happy person,” Bond said. “To me, it’s like an angel has gone away.”
Contact Kristin Zachary at firstname.lastname@example.org and 252-329-9566 and follow her on Twitter @kzacharygdr.
via The Daily Reflector.