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Recent rash of pedestrians being struck by vehicles in and around St. John’s prompts conversations about safety

A man was taken to hospital with a serious leg injury after he was struck by a car in downtown St. John's. Keith Gosse/The Telegram
A recent upswing in pedestrian accidents in and around St. John's has prompted the RNC to urge drivers and walkers to be extra vigilant. File photo/ Keith Gosse/The Telegram

It’s been decades since it happened, but as the date approaches every year, the memories of what happened return and bring with it powerful emotions.

“For the full month I dread that date,” he said. “The day of, I drive and I try to do my normal things, but it’s not easy.”

Years ago, Joe struck a pedestrian with his car in the St. John’s metro area. The pedestrian died from their injuries. Joe asked The Telegram not to use his real name for fear of causing more pain to the family.

It was ruled an unpreventable accident, caused by a number of factors. It happened at night in the fog, the pedestrian was wearing dark clothes and walking on the road as he happened to be driving around a turn.

“I flashback on it every time I pass that area,” he said.

He spent many nights thinking about what happened, wondering what he could have done differently.

“I was six months before I went back to work after that accident,” he says.

He has since come to terms with it. But he says he wouldn’t be driving today if it wasn’t for a family member forcing him to get back in his vehicle.

“I didn’t even want to drive anymore and (they) made me drive and kept at it and kept making me drive until I actually got comfortable and confident enough in myself to go back driving,” he said.

The accident has made him think a lot about the roles that both drivers and pedestrians can play in making sure everyone is safe.

“When I hear about a vehicle-pedestrian accident, I read the stories and I think about it and I think about the driver and say, you poor bastard, I know what you’re going through,” he said. “Even if the driver is at fault, I still know what they’re going through because the day after is still the day after.”

He mentions a number of areas in St. John’s, particularly downtown, where pedestrians tend to jaywalk. He says people need to pay more attention and take extra time to walk to the crosswalk, instead of crossing anywhere.

“(People) will actually flip out if you don’t stop for them,” he says.

“Honestly, I don’t feel comfortable stopping for people (not on a crosswalk), because I don’t know when a car is going to coming up the road flying and come around the corner.”

Const. James Cadigan, media relations for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), says driving at this time of year requires extra attention.

“We are dealing with a peak time of traffic in the evening, which is essentially happening in darkness,” he said. “It really asks for an increased level of vigilance on both the part of the operators of vehicles and pedestrians.”

For pedestrians, Cadigan recommends wearing something bright and reflective in the evening to be as visible as possible and to ensure motorists see you when you’re on a crosswalk, through eye contact and by making sure they’re completely stopped. And drivers need to slow down this busy time of year, he says, so they have more time to take in their surroundings.

One busy spot in St. John’s is the Thorburn Road area near Mount Scio Road. Michaela Coombs works at the Orange Store there and says she sees people crossing illegally all the time.

“I’m stood here in the window now and can see someone darting out into traffic,” Coombs said. “Someone’s going to get killed if they don’t be careful. It’s frightening to see it …

“People come into the store all the time commenting on it. I think people are just lazy and just don’t want to walk to the corner to go the crosswalk.”

Keith Gosse, The Telegram’s breaking news photographer, has been at the scene of some of the metro area’s most serious accidents. He’s been to dozens this year alone and says while the onus is on the driver to be aware of their surroundings, pedestrians should think of their safety as well.

“You’re only helping yourself if you wear a bit of light clothing or a safety vest or even a couple of reflective arm bands,” Gosse said. “It gives the drivers a little bit of extra warning.”

He says he’s been accused of blaming the victim by making such a statement. Still, simple things like making yourself more visible could save you from getting hit.

“Don’t assume the drivers see you,” he said. “I’ve seen people hit by cars who basically started crossing the road and got hit because they assumed the driver had seen them.

“It’s basically just a self-protection thing.”

Just a couple weeks ago, Gosse went to the scene of an accident where a man had been hit near the Shoppers Drug Mart on LeMarchant Road in St. John’s.

“The guy had run out into traffic and was struck by a car, and the police actually ticketed him for doing it,” he said. “(He was) ticketed for failing to yield to an oncoming vehicle.”

As for Joe, he says knowing he was going to tell his story to The Telegram and thinking about what he was going to say wasn’t easy.

“(But) If it’s going to help somebody else, it’s worthwhile doing,” he says.

twitter: @andrewLwaterman


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