The Deadliest Road

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has analyzed all 105 pedestrian deaths on Connecticut streets from 2007-09.

In Fairfield County over those 3 years, 20 pedestrians were killed by drivers.

The most dangerous road — the deadliest in the entire state, in fact — was the Post Road.  It accounted for 6 deaths.

The statewide figures for 2010 are not yet in.  But at the end of last year, 2 people were killed in Westport within a month.  That makes 3 over the past 2 years.

All were killed on the Post Road.

Last month, another woman was struck on the same road.  Luckily, she lived.

The figures are clear.  The Post Road is deadly.

We drive too fast, too recklessly, too distractedly.  We are not deterred by law enforcement.  Our culture reveres cars and discourages walking; our community takes that to an extreme.

That’s the problem.

So what’s the solution?

Recently, the family of Billy Ford — the 1st victim of the recent carnage — donated $7,000 to cover the cost of solar-powered, button-activated pedestrian crosswalk lights.  They’re now operational at 1655 Post Road East, the site of Billy’s death.

That’s one answer.  There must be more.

“06880” readers have opinions about donut shops, dogs on beaches, and countless other quality of life issues.

Now it’s time to speak up on a matter of — literally — life and death.

Crossing the Post Road can be deadly.

15 responses to “The Deadliest Road

  1. THANK YOU DAN!!!!!!
    Westport and Weston drivers need to wake up or there will be many more
    of these unnecessary accidents. The town also needs to do a better job in re-educating the drivers. I do not think people realize that crosswalks mean the
    walker has the right way and cars are suppose to stop. People are in La La land. North Ave has a crosswalk at the bottom of the Bedford School entrance. I am a walker and I have challenged cars by stepping onto the crosswalk. I have gotten yelled at and almost hit. By the way, this is the same
    location that I believe two maybe three children got hit waiting for a school bus in the late 70’s. I would hate to see something like that happen again to make people wake up. The texting, the hand held phones, or just fiddling with stuff in the car is a distraction and WILL cause more accidents in this town. We have a wonderful town that our driving habits should be as important as the band on plastic bags. I will volunteer 3 hours or more a week to sit on North Ave. with a speed gun and camera. If I need to get certified to do this, I will do that as well. If anyone knows if that is possible please let me know.
    People need to slowdown. Life is more important than getting somewhere
    a few minutes faster. People need to think more about the repercusions of their actions. PEOPLE WAKE UP!!!!!!!

  2. David Abrams

    My Mother, Dorothy, was hit by a car on the Post Road near the Post Office about 18 years ago. She’s fine. It was a scary few hours. But things haven’t changed.

  3. John McCarthy

    The picture of the Main Street and Post Road intersection is quite telling. Faced with a perceived pedestrian Safety problem at that intersection, the chief of police and first selectman and DOT decided that the solution was to make the intersection less pedestrian friendly while making it easier for cars to speed through the downtown area. Such an uncreative and auto-focused solution should not be surprising. Sad, but not surprising.
    BTW, how many people still cross at the old intersection? Quite a few. The way that the town/DOT just tried to erase the cross walk is quite dangerous in that it simply looks like the cross walk needs a fresh coat of paint. People still cross there and someone will die there unless this is fixed.

  4. This is more important than Starbucks and DD.
    Does Westport only wake up when things get out of hand.
    Look at Westport’s death count on Post Rd. in the last couple of year
    North Ave is even more important, it does not have the lights to slowdown the traffic. Commuters, parents, and students are always speeding.
    At 6 AM people on their way to the train or to 95 pass other cars. Someday someone will hit a student or runner. Come on Bloggers do not let this opportunity slip by. MAKE A STINK !!!!!

  5. Pedestrians also have to realize that they only have the Right of Way in a crosswalk that is NOT controlled by a traffic control device (i.e.: a traffic light).

    If the light is green for traffic, pedestrians should not step out into traffic thinking they have the right of Way and vehicles are supposed to stop for them.

    I can’t tell you how many times this has happend to me.

    CT STATE LAW:

    CHAPTER 249
    TRAFFIC CONTROL AND HIGHWAY SAFETY

    Sec. 14-300. Crosswalks. Pedestrian-control signals.
    Regulation of pedestrians and motor vehicles at crosswalks. Pedestrians who are blind or have guide dogs.

    (b) At any intersection where special pedestrian-control signals bearing the words “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” are placed, pedestrians may cross the highway only as indicated by the signal. At any intersection where traffic is controlled by other traffic control signals or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the highway against a red or “Stop” signal and shall not cross at any place not a marked or unmarked crosswalk. A pedestrian started or starting across the highway on a “Walk” signal or on any such crosswalk on a green or “Go” signal shall have the right-of-way over all vehicles, including those making turns, until such pedestrian has reached the opposite curb or safety zone.

    (c) Except as provided in subsection (c) of section 14-300c, at any crosswalk marked as provided in subsection (a) of this section or any unmarked crosswalk, provided such crosswalks are not controlled by police officers or traffic control signals, each operator of a vehicle shall grant the right-of-way, and slow or stop such vehicle if necessary to so grant the right-of-way, to any pedestrian crossing the roadway within such crosswalk, provided such pedestrian steps off the curb or into the crosswalk at the entrance to a crosswalk or is within that half of the roadway upon which such operator of a vehicle is traveling, or such pedestrian steps off the curb or into the crosswalk at the entrance to a crosswalk or is crossing the roadway within such crosswalk from that half of the roadway upon which such operator is not traveling. No operator of a vehicle approaching from the rear shall overtake and pass any vehicle, the operator of which has stopped at any crosswalk marked as provided in subsection (a) of this section or any unmarked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway. The operator of any vehicle crossing a sidewalk shall yield the right-of-way to each pedestrian and all other traffic upon such sidewalk.

  6. The Dude Abides

    Thank you Wrecker for enlightening us on the current law but I was raised that the pedestrian always has the right of way. I shall continue to yield to the walker or runner regardless of traffic light(s).
    At the center of the issue is people are in a hurry. Many times, for reasons unknown to the common man. But I have been driving in this town since 1964 and they have always driven too fast. I guess it is “cool” to drive fast and Westporters so want to be “in.”
    There is only one way to stop it and that is police enforcement. There seems to be plenty of officers around late at night but I rarely see them during the day. One sometimes sits on the turnpike connector, by the dump, but seems more engrossed in what he has in his lap (Lord, don’t ask) than the speeders that run in front of him.

  7. Nat’l Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a li’l walking checklist and some suggestions on improving safety (like organizing a neighborhood speed watch program).
    http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/ped/walkingchecklist.pdf
    I would think that most of the problem with the Post Road, however, is structural. Folks tend to use the Post Road as an alternate route when there’s a backup on 95 – and that usage as a highway alternative is at best incompatible with the kind of strolling pedestrian traffic that exists downtown.

    It’s good to analyze where accidents occur, but it would be even better to anticipate high-risk areas. Washington State has a checklist to identify possible high-risk areas that includes housing density, existence of “pedestrian attractors” like schools, parks, etc. and at-risk groups (e.g. kids):
    http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/E23FB0A4-C77B-4024-9A74-158C22D16D97/0/RiskPaper.pdf
    If I were applying for federal/state DOT dollars to fix something, I’d concentrate on downtown while the Y was still there – you have day care and a park/public library on opposite sides of the Post Rd. The second project I’d pick would be Saugatuck – a train station, high-density housing (some existing and more going up) and a highway exit all within a stone’s throw of each other.

    • The fatal accidents happened up by Stop & Shop and Trader’s Joes. Not downtown. Money is not going to fix the problem. Enforcement might. Common cents (sic) would be most significant.

  8. There was a time when the “center” beat was a prized assignment and police officers like Joe McAleenan, Dick “Woody” Wood, George Nugent and others spent the hours of busy downtown traffic ensuring that everybody walked safely across those intersections. I’m not sure what the situation is today, but I seriously doubt there are officers specifically assigned to walking beats and regular traffic posts as they were in the quieter and safer days of the 60’s and 70’s.

  9. The Dude Abides

    Good point Mr. Alley, but I think the fatalities were up by Trader Joe’s and Stop & Shop. Smack downtown should not be a problem for conjestion slows down traffic. But I shop at Stop & Shop late at night and inevitably I see two or three patrol cars pulling someone over for Driving While Poor (DWP). I suggest the police administration take a careful look at their force’s allocated resources to areas that need attention. They are very proud of their Hummer but 3 deaths in two years indicates a serious issue.

  10. Pingback: Deadly Roads, Part II | 06880

  11. Wendy Crowther

    I’m sorry, but the law quoted in Wrecker’s comment is so wordy and confusing that I have no idea what any crosswalk means after reading it. In my opinion, the law needs to be made simple in order to be safe.

    There should be no crosswalk anywhere unless there is also a traffic signal (or a crossing guard) to protect it. Crosswalks without a signal are meaningless (particularly at night), and they are dangerous, especially on wide, multi-lane roads like the Post Road – a road that passes through town after town across the length of CT.

    Crosswalks without traffic signals are scary enough (especially at night), but the crosswalk by the Post Office in Westport is scarier. It’s marked by a stop sign in the middle of the road that says something like, “Stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk.” I’ve seen many near-accidents in this location because a driver, who is not in the habit of being on the lookout at this spot, suddenly confronts a pedestrian stepping out into the road.

    My suggestion for the crosswalk law would be this: “No crosswalk can be placed anywhere that is not also protected by a traffic signal or a crossing guard.” Blinking yellow lights don’t work. Stop signs that say, ” Stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk,” are not good enough. We need traffic lights that turn green and red. Our brains know what green and red mean – we know the meaning whether we’re driving or walking, and we know it even if we’re somewhat distracted. Unfortunately, in this day and age, yellow means nothing. It’s also naive to expect that signs that say “sometimes you must stop here and sometimes you don’t have to” will be safe ALL of the time.

    I’ve seen crosswalks in South Hampton, but the speed limit on Montauk Highway for this 3 or 4 block span is about 20 mph, and it is ENFORCED. However, I would bet there are plenty of accidents there too. I’ve also seen crosswalks work in Sun Valley, Idaho where pedestrians pick up a red flag at the corner and wave it overtly as they cross, then deposit the flag on the opposite side.

    Would flags work in Westport? I felt kind of stupid waving it in Sun Valley. I kept thinking only dorky tourists like me, and senior citizens were using them. Westporters…nah…I don’t think so!

    No light…no crosswalk. It’s the KISS principle. Keep it simple, stupid, and this case, safe.

  12. Thanks Wendy! Enforcement is the key.

  13. Pingback: Deadly Roads, Part II | Aaron Meyer

  14. Not sure what the drivers we’re doing, but distracted driving is a big problem. As far as I can tell: Hands free or not, if you are on the phone in the car, you are not driving well. I think cell phone use in cars should be outright banned in certain areas (like post road), hands free or not. Enforcement would not be as difficult as you think. There are a fews ways to tell if someone is/was on the phone.