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Safety reminders amid pedestrian crash increase

The life of Diana M. St. Julian, of Cortland, just 31 years old, was snuffed out last week when she was struck by a passing vehicle as she walked at night near East Federal Street in Niles.

The driver has been charged in the Oct. 10 death, but that likely will bring little solace to the family and friends who have lost their loved one.

Sadly, St. Julian is just one in a series of vehicle-pedestrian accidents to strike our Valley in passing days. While statistics show that generally car-pedestrian accidents are known to occur more often in mid-summer, we’ve seen an uptick in recent days.

Also on Oct. 10, a man was struck by a vehicle in Brookfield. That victim was transported to an area hospital.

One day later, another person was struck and injured critically on state Route 45 in Columbiana County. Witnesses told police that victim, a 30-year-old woman, had been attempting to dart through traffic when she was hit by a passing pickup truck.

Both the Brookfield and Columbiana County incidents occurred during daylight hours.

According to staggering figures, an average of 17 pedestrians are killed each day, with 74 percent of fatal incidents happening at night, according to the Pedestrian Safety Institute.

Last year, pedestrian fatalities spiked, even despite less traffic on the roads due to the pandemic. The Governors Highway Safety Association estimates overall, pedestrian death rates rose 20 percent during that period. Nearly 3,000 pedestrians were killed, despite a 16.5 percent decrease in traffic.

Not surprisingly, more than 70 percent of fatalities happen at night or at dusk or dawn hours.

To be clear, responsibility for safety on the streets is shared by all — drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

We believe the greatest strides in safety can come through changing our mindsets and habits. Often, not paying attention is the biggest trigger — along with just not following traffic laws.

Speeding raises the risk for all motorists and pedestrians. Jaywalking is illegal and jeopardizes lives.

And all of these things are compounded because no one seems to want to put down their cellphones and pay attention.

To help make make the roads safer, particularly for pedestrians, here is some advice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for those walking on area thoroughfares:

• Be predictable. Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals;

• Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available;

• If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible;

• Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road;

• Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right;

• If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross;

• Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen;

• Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night;

• Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots; and

• Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and your judgment.

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