Deadly year of pedestrian fatalities leads to road improvement partnership

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, August 6, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It's a dangerous race where each step could be your last.

"Yep there she goes, see? See how dangerous that is?" said Richmond County Road Patrol Supervisor Lt. Ramone Lamkin as he watches a woman try to cross all five lanes of Wrightsboro Rd.

There are 270 signals in the city of Augusta, with crosswalks at each one, but more and more often people are trying to blaze their own path and it's creating a problem on some of our busiest streets.

"Last year we noticed that we were starting to get a lot of pedestrian fatalities. There was a spike. We normally are in the 8 range, and we were getting thirteen, fourteen," Traffic Engineering Assistant Director Steve Cassell said.

Last year 12 of the 44 fatalities were pedestrians. That's 27 percent of total deaths that deputies say could have been prevented.

"It's five lanes of traffic and you got cars coming 45-50 mph. Makes for a deadly recipe," Lt. Lamkin said.

So, experts are thinking of throwing some new ingredients into the mix to make it safer. One idea is to put some island medians along parts of the road, giving crossers a halfway point across a busy street.

"The advantages of a median is a pedestrian only has to look one way. They look one way, go to the median, look the other way, go across the street," Cassell said.

But until those can be installed, the Sheriff's Office is on a mission to educate. They plan to have deputies stationed at the problem areas stopping and talking and passing out fliers to people crossing illegally.

"We'll be passing out literature to them. If it's younger children that should have been supervised, we're going to take them back to their parents, talk to their parents about crossing the roadway, and hand them literature so they can be more aware of the problems we're having," Lt. Lamkin explained.

Besides the medians, engineers also looking at new technology called HAWK (High-intensity Activated crossWalK) signals. They're pedestrian activated lights that stop traffic so people can cross mid-block.

Experts say this is a tricky problem to fix since pedestrians are so unpredictable, but they're facing the problem one step at a time.

The improvements will be done in conjunction with other roadway improvements. The plan is to have them ready for the next SPLOST which should be in the next couple years.

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