Distractions Often Cause Pedestrian Accidents

There have been three fatal accidents in Ross in the past half-year. PennDOT, along with township officials, admit that there are some things they can do to increase the safety of pedestrians. However, the behavior or drivers and pedestrians can be the best and most effective method.

Todd Kravits, a PennDOT traffic engineer, says that 90% of accidents are caused by distracted, aggressive, or drunk/drugged drivers. In the case of pedestrian accidents, those have increased due to cell phones. The pedestrians have their eyes glued to their phones and fail to pay attention when they cross streets.

Pedestrians and drivers are the biggest players in the game of accident prevention, according to Kravits.

The most recent of the three victims was a former professional wrestler who was in the WWE Hall of Fame. Thomas M. Sullivan, age 71, went by the name “Luscious” Johnny Valiant. He was struck yesterday morning by a pickup truck as he crossed McKnight Road near the Siebert Road intersection. He died from his injuries.

This past December, Shaler resident Michael Menner, age 50, was killed crossing Babcock Boulevard. He was struck by a woman who did not stop, because it was so dark and rainy that she thought she hit a deer. She was charged with driving without a license, causing an accident involving death or personal injury, and endangering the welfare of children, because there was a child in her car.

Three months before that, an 86-year-old woman was killed in a crosswalk along Sixth Avenue as she walked to church. The driver in that case was not charged. He was an elderly man whose vision was so poor that he was unable to see Miller, despite it being daylight.

Ross Township officials have taken steps to increase pedestrian safety, but there was little they could have done to prevent these three fatalities.

Steve Korbel, president of the Ross board of commissioners, stated that drivers and pedestrians need to help the township and PennDOT make things safer.

Korbel said that Sullivan’s death is still under investigation, but it looks like the man was walking across seven lanes of traffic, and that the driver of the truck that hit him had a green light.

It is unknown at this time if the driver will face charges in the case.

After the incident on Sixth Avenue, a sign was placed near the crosswalk where the accident happened to warn motorists, though Korbel noted that if a driver can’t see someone walking across the street, he’s not likely to see the sign.

The township has begun repainting crosswalks with designs that make them easier to see, and has added permanent pedestrian crosswalk signs, but they have not added stop signs or traffic signals.

In areas where speeding is an issue, the township has ordered three systems that flash a vehicle’s speed at it, to try to slow the drivers down.

A driver who hits and kills someone with their vehicle is looking at some very serious consequences. I can almost guarantee the elderly man mentioned will lose his driving privileges. If you can’t see, you can’t drive. Vehicular homicide convictions come with prison sentences of up to seven years and fines of up to $15,000. It’s a third-degree felony, the most serious of crimes. While these are harsh penalties, I’m one hundred percent positive that elderly driver will be haunted forever by the accident.

As always, there are defenses available for those who do find themselves in a similar situation. They’re dependent on the specific facts of the case, of course, but certainly, poorly marked pedestrian crossings can be used as one defense. The attorney would need to prove the driver was not distracted by his cell phone or radio or anything else, as well. Difficult, to be sure, but possible.

My advice to everyone, driver and pedestrian alike, is to pay attention out there.

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