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Basics of pedestrian safety

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    A pedestrian crosses Washington Street near Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo.

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    THE BLADE
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There’s a killer in our community that we can stop fairly easily.

We need to do so.

Thaddeus Lee Wegrzynowski, 49, of Whitehouse died after being hit by a driver on Airport Highway on March 12. He was the fourth pedestrian killed after being struck by a vehicle in Lucas County this year. There were eight such deaths in the area in 2016.

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His death came just weeks after 21-year-old Airman Sebastian R. Guerrero was struck by a tractor-trailer and killed along I-75 while he was changing a tire.

Any pedestrian death is tragic, but it seems unconscionable that a motorist would drive off after hitting someone. But that happened not only in the death of Mr. Wegrzynowski, but also in the case of 88-year-old Rose Marie Birr, who died after being struck crossing Lagrange Street last November. Authorities have not found the driver who hit Mrs. Birr near the Zablocki Senior Center, where she was a beloved volunteer.

Statewide, pedestrian deaths have been on the rise. According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, there were 118 pedestrian deaths in 2015, the last year for which data is available, up from 93 in 2014. 

The spike in pedestrian deaths this year has prompted the Lucas County Traffic Safety Committee and Mercy Health to ramp up a public education campaign to reinforce basic safety practices for drivers and pedestrians alike. The groups are particularly concerned as the Glass City Marathon approaches next month and motorists are likely to encounter runners training for the event.

Runner and Mercy Health Trauma Education, Outreach, and Prevention Coordinator Nicole Knepper said modern technology, including cell phones and ear buds, has made it even easier to be distracted on the road. “There were always distractions,” she said. “But there are just so many distractions out there right now.”

The committee wants to remind both pedestrians and drivers of the basic safety measures everyone should already know well — don’t drink and drive, don’t let yourself be distracted by phones or other digital devices when you’re driving or walking along a road, dress in light or reflective clothing if you are a pedestrian, look out for pedestrians when you’re driving, and definitely look out for vehicles when you’re a pedestrian.

These are all common sense, and it’s shocking that we need to be reminded of them, but we do.

“We just need to stop and go back to basics,” Ms. Knepper said.

Nearly all pedestrian deaths should be easily preventable. It’s time to slow down and focus on basic safety that will prevent them.

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